The British branch of the online automotive auctioneer eBay Motors is tackling one of the more curious potential problems of global warming: dirty cars. As England suffered through one of its hottest summers in more than a century-one in which draconian water-use restrictions went into place in drought-stricken areas-eBay decided to challenge a U.K.-based automotive think tank to find a way to keep cars squeaky-clean with less water. (A 15-minute rinse in the driveway can use up to 36 gallons of water, enough to keep a person alive for nearly four weeks.)
After some off-the-wall ideas, one of which involved firing polyester balls at the car, engineers at the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) hit upon a more practical concept: a car â€dishwasher.â€ The setup involves an inflatable structure that zips up like a tent around the car. Inside, a combination of steam and water cleans the vehicle in about an hour. Whereas a traditional dishwasher uses about 11 gallons of water during one run, the MIRA concept would drain and filter the water for reuse, using less than a gallon of water for a single wash. As a bonus, you could use the filtered water to hose down the lawn. MIRA has yet to announce plans to produce the device.r
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.