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London Tube uses excess heat to warm houses (plus five other cool eco-friendly transport initiatives)

By Rachel England Monday 03 February 2014

Anyone who’s ever been on the London Underground will know things can get a bit hot and sticky down there, but now that heat is being put to good use – as heating for London homes.

The project – the first of its kind in Europe – will see heat captured from a vent in a Northern Line station and delivered to 500 homes in the Islington area. Facilitated by Islington's Bunhill Heat and Power heat network (which already uses wasted heat to provide cheaper, greener energy for 700 homes in the borough), the initiative will lower energy bills for consumers in the area and save 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

The plan will certainly help London achieve targets to reduce the capital’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60% and produce 25% of London’s energy from local sources both by 2025, as set by Mayor Boris Johnson. If successful, the programme could be rolled out to other parts of the city, too.

While this project may be the first of its kind, it’s certainly not the first eco-friendly public transport initiative to capture the public’s imagination. Check out these projects from around the world.

Solar-powered buses

A lot of cities have experimented with hybrid and electric technology on their buses, but it’s the Australian city of Adelaide that can proudly say it first introduced the 100% solar-powered bus. Named Tindo after the Aboriginal word for ‘sun’, the bus doesn’t actually feature any solar panels. Instead, the vehicle receives electric power from solar panels in the city’s main bus station, providing enough power to run around the city while offering air-conditioning and WiFi. Best of all, it’s totally free to use!

Energy-generating pavements

Walking is the best type of transport – it’s free, it’s good for your health and it’s kind to the environment. But now it’s gotten a whole lot kinder thanks to the growing popularity of energy-generating pavements. These ‘kinetic pavements’ feature special tiles that flex when stood on, generating up to eight watts of energy per footstep, which is then stored in batteries to power streetlights and other electrical items.

Invisible bike storage

Cycling is another great way to get around without leaving an environmental footprint, but in some cities, parking is a serious problem. Tokyo has tackled its increasing space issue (or lack of it) with an unusual solution to space storage. Instead of the conventional bike racks, Tokyo cyclists can now store their bikes underground in subterranean cylinders, which can store up to 200 bikes. It takes just eight seconds to deposit your wheels!

Paying with plastic

While the London Tube scheme will be saving heat, one subway initiative in China aims to save plastic! Commuters in the capital Beijing are now able to receive money off their fare in exchange for unwanted plastic bottles. It’s hoped the programme will help clean up the city’s streets and save valuable resources.

Electric roads

One of the main issues with electric vehicles is that they can’t go too far without needing a charge, and charging stations are still rather few and far between. South Korea is taking steps to overcome this problem though, with electromagnetic roads that charge vehicles as they drive along. Charging plates beneath the road’s surface mean the technology is safe and wireless. Currently South Korea only has 15 miles of such road, but the technology is already popular in Utah, Germany and Italy – how long until we’re able to charge as we go?

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