Fresh ideas, inventions that I pass along to the world. Maybe they already exist. Maybe they’re useful. Maybe they’re fun. Maybe I don’t have the time, money, and resources to patent them, or develop them, or both. At least by writing about them here I am less likely to forget them. But really, a floating car barge? Well, have you seen footage of floods? There might be a use for something that lets the cars rise with the tide.
The idea is simple, so I’ll describe it before describing the design details and the benefits – and maybe some comical side effects.
Imagine a car or truck-sized barge that either sits in a recess in the ground, or is low enough to easily be driven onto. Sizes will vary, of course, but for every ton of vehicle weight the barge needs to displace about forty cubic feet of water. Many vehicles are less than eight feet wide and eighteen feet long. That’s 144 square feet, so a 1 foot deep shell could displace 3.6 tons of water, and hence that size vehicle. Size as appropriate. (Check my math.)
I call it a barge, but this wouldn’t have to be seaworthy, just able to float and remain stable. Maneuverability is not an issue. Anchorage is.
The barge also has to lift its own weight, and as an engineer I naturally want a safety margin.
Park on the pad/barge. Set the brakes and make sure it is in Park. And forget about it. Maybe make sure the windows are closed. Ideally, the barge will be ballasted to balance the vehicle.
Why do such a thing? Floods. Floods already happen regularly. Watch the news for footage and frequently there will be pictures of entire parking lots of flooded vehicles. Cars can be carried away, floating down streets and rivers. In neighborhoods, in addition to flooded houses, people also have to deal with repairing or replacing flooded vehicles. The flood water recedes, the clean up work begins, but the truck might not work well enough to make the trip to the hardware store or for getting back to work. Imagine the loss to car dealerships, or fleet owners.
Flooded cars are so common that Consumer Reports has reported on them for consumers’ protection.
On an individual basis, not having to replace a vehicle can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. Multiply that by the number of cars flooded after only one spring flood, flash flood, hurricane, or other drenching disaster. Ten cars, a hundred thousand dollars. A hundred cars, a million dollars. A thousand cars – hopefully you get the idea.
While it saves money, it also might look silly. Each barge would need to be anchored by an anchor chain or cable sufficiently long enough to exceed the depth of the tide. This is something to use outdoors. Inevitably someone would build one inside their garage which would merely make it bump up against ceiling. Outside it might work well enough, while at the same time making the car bump up against the house which means it can’t be put just anywhere. If one breaks loose, that image of it floating down the street then river then maybe out to sea should be enough to make sure the anchor is secure.
Aside from saving money, it also saves time. During a disaster, minutes count. If the vehicle is already on the barge, then the owner can concentrate on protecting the house, their company, or their community – which may also save substantial funds and recovery time.
Time, money, and then there are materials. If a flooded car has to be replaced, that means that much more waste, and that much more mining and refining to produce the replacement. A barge is far simpler than a truck.
The cost every vehicle turned into junk far exceeds the cost of the replacement in terms of time, duplicated effort, maintaining a growing pile of old tires, and cleaning up the pollution as oils leak into flood waters.
In some regions, it seems that insurance companies would have an incentive to subsidize the deployment of floating car barges.
There’s a good chance that this idea is a natural for someone who lives on an island (though purposely far above sea level and on land that slopes and drains well), and who drives through tsunami zones, through neighborhoods that experience king tides, and in general hates waste.
Whether this Fresh Idea is serious or silly, writing about it is also a little gift to me. I enjoy playing with such ideas. Evidently, so do some readers. Years after I’ve posted some of them, they continue to attract traffic. Two of the more popular ones are: Dockside Tidal Power and Passive Pump. Maybe someone else has the resources to pursue them. Maybe they’ll remember where they got the idea and will be gracious enough to include me. Who knows? But the world has many problems. We need new ideas. It is hard to know which ones will make the biggest difference, but if ideas stay locked inside heads, the ideas may be revealed too late, or never.
OK. Let’s assume we’ve saved the car or truck. How about the house? How could we make a house float? How could be make a house act like a boat? House. Boat. There’s something there.