2008 has been a year of innovation like no other. We have seen the world's fastest computer, aptly named Roadrunner, break the petaflop barrier, performing more than a quadrillion calculations per second. A new camera specially developed for the blind projects a raised tactile impression of its images to the user's forehead. For the first time, a new technology can bend light around three-dimensional objects, leaving behind not even a shadow. Even personal DNA testing can now easily be obtained on the retail shelves for a single low fee of $399 USD, offering genetic analysis of more than ninety traits and conditions with a simple saliva test.
The Chevrolet Volt has completed preliminary testing. Unlike hybrids, the Volt operates entirely off a battery power for the first 40 miles of driving, only then switching over to its 4-cylinder combustion engine to recharge the battery. Even then, the combustion engine does not directly power the car, since it is not connected to the wheels but to a 53-kilowatt generator. According to Times Magazine, 80% of us drive less than 40 miles at a stretch anyway, so all that time we would be using no gas at all. It will be rechargeable simply by plugging it into a regular household outlet. It is rumoured that a thermovoltaic solar panelled roof, capable of charging the battery simply by leaving the car in the sun, will be offered as an optional feature.
Outside the advertising campaign which began with its official unveiling in September 2008, the Volt will also feature in the 2009 Transformers sequel "Revenge of the Fallen." The Volt is due to arrive on the retail market by 2010.
In the meantime, a small Canadian automobile company has already quietly released its own electric car to the market. So far, every test driver who has driven it has fallen in love with it. The ZENN car (which stands for Zero Emission No Noise) runs on six 12-volt batteries and a 5.5 horsepower engine. "No noise" is a completely accurate description. It runs in utter silence, allowing you to enjoy the sounds of nature or of your favourite CD without having to overcrank the volume over the sounds of the engine. To recharge your little ZENN, you just plug it into a regular household outlet.
The ZENN technology does not end with the current model. The car's developer Ian Clifford envisions an entire ZENN line of small and mid-sized cars capable of distances of 400 kilometres after just a five-minute battery charge.
The current model of ZENN car is street-legal in 45 out of 50 states. Its retail price runs between $12,000 and $15,000 USD.