When you drive six kids to school, the ePod will probably not be your vehicle of choice. But getting to the office could be so much more fun!
Electric cars are emerging fast. All serious car brands are proudly presenting their electric offspring on motor shows this year, or feverishly finalizing the development of their first scion of this new generation of cars.
I like electric propulsion. Not because it is more ‘green’ than petrol burning combustion engines, but because of the simplicity of the motors. The minimal number of rotating parts means the end of vibrating exhaust systems, turbo’s, liquid cooling systems and all those other parts that will eventually break down and ruin your day. The electric motor is a wonder of simplicity that will outperform any combustion dinosaur. And with hydrogen technology around the corner we might even get rid of the heavy battery in the near future.
The transition from petrol to electric vehicles in the next decade might be something new, but what really surprises me is that the cars look so familiar. I understand that the new technology will have to be fed to the general public (that’s us) in a package that we recognize and that more or less disguises the fact that it is a completely different machine we’re going to buy, but it would be a good thing if the car designers could take it one step further.
With electric cars, the emphasis is back on optimizing the vehicle design in terms of weight and aerodynamic drag. But the new electric car still has four wheels and offers a rather comfortable ride for two persons, with additional space behind them for two more – preferably children or very small persons. It would be so much better if we could welcome some rather different breeds in the car park. And the change from combustion to electric seems to be the perfect moment to introduce a new family of vehicles to the consumer. Since we are now discussing battery-sizes, recharging stations and the average length of a trip, why not discuss the average number of people in a car? The energy wasted to overcome aerodynamic drag of a compartment that is empty – on average. Why drive to work in a large and heavy car every day just because it will haul your caravan five days a year?
It is well known that most cars feature only one occupant. We tried carpooling, but it just doesn’t seem to comply with the feeling of freedom to move that many people demand in transportation. So why not shrink the car? Why not make a small and more suitable vehicle to commute or use on those occasions when we would normally be sitting alone in our four-seat car?
A single person vehicle would be much cheaper to operate. It could be halve the width of regular car, so we could fit twice as many on any highway. Popularity of any such type of vehicle would have a significant impact on traffic jams. Since this vehicle could be so much lighter than a regular car, it would require only a fraction of the batteries needed to outfit a family car with an adequate range. Or a nice compact hydrogen tank and fuel cell if technology allows it. This vehicle would be smaller in both length and width, so the car park at your office would double it’s capacity without an expansion.
So what would you need? A comfortable seat, familiar controls in front of you, behind you some sort of luggage compartment to store a laptop and other essentials (could be combined with a seat for a child) and last but not least some sort of battery or fuel cell to feed the electric motors in your wheels. Three wheels would do the job of providing a solid base. And naturally this three-wheel-drive pod will be enclosed by a sleek aerodynamic package to minimize drag and optimize fuel economy.
This lightweight single person monocoque would have the acceleration of a electric motor bike. Spectacular performances compared to the bulky machine you drag around today. It will cost you of course. Let’s hope that a more reasonable tax system will emerge soon. One in which you pay for the miles you drive, not for the vehicle you own. Because when that comes along you might be tempted to calculate how many cheap miles you would have to drive in your ePod to justify the price. How much you would save on maintenance and parking fees for your large family vehicle if you would not use it every day. And of course how much more fun it would be to cruise around in a personal cocoon with sports bike performance.