As kids, we were taught to think big. First it was Disney’s Aladdin that inspired us, as we dreamt of flying away on a (polyurethane) magic carpet. Yes, a whole new world was promised to us. Despite being wildly disappointed that this only existed in the world of Disney, classic movies including Back to the Future inspired us to look forward, promising hoverboards by 2015 to get us to where ever we should wish to go. Though maybe our childhood dreams were not realised exactly as we would have hoped (we still have two years), there’s no need to despair! Alternative, energy efficient, and dare we say it, super cool, means of transportation are already out there, we promise you, and we’re about to fill you in!
Imagine an electric vehicle that can get you to work, or anywhere within a 10km radius, quickly, without traffic frustrations or petrol. Now imagine you can pick it up and carry it with you. This souped-up skateboard “with a boost” could change the face of morning commutes. It weighs less than a bicycle, can be charged off a normal wall outlet in 15 minutes, can run 1000km on only $1 and, as if that was not enough, it uses 20 times less energy for every kilometre that you travel than a car, thus dramatically reducing your energy footprint! Where does polyurethane come in here? Well Polyurethane elastomers are used in polyurethane skateboard wheels, essential for their light weight yet durable and abrasion resistant qualities. Find out more by checking out this video by creator Sanjay Dastoor on Ted Talks:
Electric cars, powered by, you guessed it, electricity, offer a “green” driving experience through being more energy efficient than traditional cars, being environmentally friendly with no tailpipe pollutants and, last but not least, by reducing energy dependence.
Polyurethane automotive applications play a huge role in electric cars, as their light weight, yet durable properties, are perfect for improving the overall environmental efficiency of the car without compromising on comfort and safety.
Asides from getting that warm fuzzy feeling that comes with being an eco-warrior, more and more people are joining the bandwagon because of the promise of lower costs and less maintenance among other performance benefits. With current grants schemes in support of “green” cars and talks of rewarding drivers with free parking, there are really enough incentives on the table to join the movement!
Zorbing is the recreation or sport of rolling downhill inside an orb made of two layers of polyurethane plastic. Alternative, check. Energy efficient, check. Inspired by hamster balls, zorbing is generally performed on a gentle slope, but can also be rolled on a level surface. It may not be the transport of the future but it’s another application of polyurethane which deserves a mention because it does get you somewhere!
In some cultures walking is the “alternative” thing to do, as demonstrated in the 2010 “National Bicycle and Walking Study” by the US Department of Transportation which found that 72% of trips that are less than three miles are made by vehicles. Short distances can be easily done by foot rather than by car, but only 25% of Americans choose walking as their means of transportation. So, put down the car keys, lace up your polyurethane walking shoes and prepare yourself for a cost free, carbon free and healthy commuting experience: walking.