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5 Eco-Cars Taking the Industry by Storm

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When Henry Ford's assembly-line Model T debuted at the start of the 20th century, it completely revolutionized transportation as we knew it. But now—as we enter an era where we know burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change and renewable energy alternatives are working—transportation is clearly changing once again.

This $10,000 car is designed to run on compressed air and claims to have zero emissions. Photo Credit: AIRpod

Cars, from battery-powered to (Ford's own) solar-powered vehicle, now come in all shapes and sizes to save on fuel—and help preserve the environment. Here are five favorites:

1. Google’s Self-Driving Car

After years of anticipation, Google recently announced that it will roll out a handful self-driving car prototypes on the streets of Mountain View, California. Google touts that their cars could cut time in traffic and reduce time spent looking for parking, which uses up a lot of gasoline. And since these cars are fully electric, it means no gasoline needed and no emissions.

"When you start to think longer term about the impact on cities and the ability to reclaim space and reduce congestion and free up parking, this is something where we can have a huge impact,” said Google self-driving car project director Chris Urmson. Photo Credit: Google

2. LINDO Smart Vehicle

To help tackle Melbourne, Australia's traffic congestion problem, Kyle Armstrong developed the LINDO Smart, a tiny car that can zip through traffic like a rickshaw. The three-wheeled concept vehicle is extremely light yet durable, and can be controlled with a smartphone via its onboard computer system. In the same vein of Uber cars, LINDO users can download an app on their smartphones to order a pickup service from their current location. The ride is equipped with six lithium-ion batteries that are charged through a capacitor which is able to charge at a quarter of the time it takes for conventional battery systems. As Armstrong said in the video below, “With LINDO, Melbourne’s public transport will become faster, safer and more efficient.”

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3. Zero Pollution Motors air-powered car

Who needs gasoline or even a battery when you have air? Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM), the U.S. licensee for Luxembourg's MDI, is producing the AIRPod, described as the "first compressed air-powered car for sale in the United States." According to a news release, to power the vehicle, cold air compressed in tanks to 300 times atmospheric pressure is heated and fed into the cylinders of a piston engine, similar to popping an inflated balloon with a pin. The makers said that users can refuel the car in three minutes at compressed-air station and costs less than $3, MarketWatch reported. The $10,000, 600-pound car reportedly hits a top-speed of 50 mph and has an 80-mile range. If all this seems familiar, you might have seen AIRPod enthusiasts Ethan Tucker and Pat Boone (yes the musician) pick up a $5 million investment for the car from Robert Herjavec on ABC's Shark Tank. ZPM has attained rights to build the first of several modular plants in the U.S. to produce the AIRPod, and Hawaii is the anticipated location of the first production plant.

The idea of the AIRPod has been around for several years. Check out inventor and ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre show off the air-powered car in the video below.

4. The BMW i8

For something a little more stylish, BMW's futuristic i8 was recently presented with the 2015 World Green Car Award, for its plug-in hybrid drive technology, its lightweight construction as well as its avant-garde design. The car claims to go from 0 to 60 in about 4.5 seconds, achieves more than 56 mpg for everyday commuting when the battery is fully charged and has an overall fuel consumption that’s about 50 percent better than conventionally powered sports cars.

The i8 can be charged with a BMW i Wallbox Pure or Pro, which can be mounted on the house or garage wall. With the Wallbox Pro, the BMW i8 can be charged to 80 percent of its full capacity in less than two hours. Photo Credit: BMW

5. The "Affordable" Tesla

Of course, for those without a luxury budget (the i8 starts at $135,700) Tesla CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that his car company will start making a $35,000 ride. "We are hoping to show the Model 3 in March of next year," Musk told Tesla investors last month. According to The Verge, production of the Model 3, which drives 200 miles on a single charge, would start in mid or late 2017. "Late 2017 is probably more realistic," Musk added.

Tesla fans are already eagerly awaiting its debut, and some have created concept images of what the car might look like.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.