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Can you design a sustainable vehicle?

Car-shaped lake in a vast green forest

Car-shaped lake in a vast green forest (Petmal, iStockphoto)

Car-shaped lake in a vast green forest

Car-shaped lake in a vast green forest (Petmal, iStockphoto)

Grade
6 7 8 9
Format
Subjects

How does this align with my curriculum?

Design a transportation vehicle which can be made or powered sustainably.

Materials:

Feel free to use any materials that you can think of. Some suggested items could include:

  • a writing utensil
  • paper
  • scissors
  • glue and/or tape
  • recycled materials (bottles, caps, cardboard, cans, etc.)
  • something to allow your vehicle to move
  • elastic bands and/or string
  • aluminum foil
  • popsicle sticks and/or toothpicks

What to do!

Vehicles that burn fossil fuels cause air pollution and produce greenhouse gases that lead to climate change. Your task is to design a new kind of vehicle which can be made and/or powered in a sustainable way.

  1. Consider all aspects of your vehicle and how you can make each one more sustainable. Think about the materials you need and what is going to power your vehicle.
  2. Design your vehicle using paper and a writing utensil.
  3. Build your vehicle prototype, if you want to.
  4. Test your prototype. Is there anything that can be improved on your vehicle?
  5. Share your design and your results with others!

Energy exists all around us in different forms. The challenge is turning the different forms of energy into a form we can use. For example, in Fueling Internal Combustion Engines we learned that fuels contain potential energy between their bonds which is released as heat energy by a chemical reaction that breaks them apart. This heat energy can then be converted into mechanical energy by the engine to make the different parts of your vehicle move. When the parts move, it’s then called kinetic energy.

However, the traditional fuels that are used to power our vehicles are usually made from non-renewable fossil fuels which pollute our air and contribute to greenhouse gases. Biofuels are one way that humans are trying to use more sustainable materials for transportation, but these are still just using the potential energy stored in biological fuels. While this is better than using fossil fuels, it is not the only form of energy that we can harness. Can you think of any other forms of energy that we can harness?

Many of our current methods for powering our transportation vehicles are not sustainable, either because of limited non-renewable resources or because of their massive contributions to climate change. The combustion of fossil fuels is one of the leading contributors to the greenhouse gases that have been causing climate change. They’re also a non-renewable resource which will eventually run out. This is why it’s so important for humans to develop new methods of powering our technologies that can harness different forms of energy and don’t rely on these harmful and limited fuels. 

Put your vehicle to the test! Try measuring how far your vehicle can go with your chosen fuel source. Try measuring the speed of your vehicle. Can you make any changes to improve the distance and speed of your vehicle?

What’s happening?

Energy exists all around us in different forms. The challenge is turning the different forms of energy into a form we can use. For example, in Fueling Internal Combustion Engines we learned that fuels contain potential energy between their bonds which is released as heat energy by a chemical reaction that breaks them apart. This heat energy can then be converted into mechanical energy by the engine to make the different parts of your vehicle move. When the parts move, it’s then called kinetic energy.

However, the traditional fuels that are used to power our vehicles are usually made from non-renewable fossil fuels which pollute our air and contribute to greenhouse gases. Biofuels are one way that humans are trying to use more sustainable materials for transportation, but these are still just using the potential energy stored in biological fuels. While this is better than using fossil fuels, it is not the only form of energy that we can harness. Can you think of any other forms of energy that we can harness?

Why does it matter?

Many of our current methods for powering our transportation vehicles are not sustainable, either because of limited non-renewable resources or because of their massive contributions to climate change. The combustion of fossil fuels is one of the leading contributors to the greenhouse gases that have been causing climate change. They’re also a non-renewable resource which will eventually run out. This is why it’s so important for humans to develop new methods of powering our technologies that can harness different forms of energy and don’t rely on these harmful and limited fuels. 

Investigate further!

Put your vehicle to the test! Try measuring how far your vehicle can go with your chosen fuel source. Try measuring the speed of your vehicle. Can you make any changes to improve the distance and speed of your vehicle?