Friday, September 3, 2010

Challenge on the Next City

gem cars

GEM e2 electric cars – under $10k.

One of our readers points out that cutting carbon footprint at home, getting rid of the car, and emphasizing walkability is all well and good if you’re mobile, but what if walking is a problem? Sit home and mope?

While talking about automated mobility may be a slippery slope in the next city, let’s take a look at what’s out there. Actually we are now beginning to see the production of quite an array of electric vehicles for the next city (and without a $25 billion federal subsidy…).

We have many qualms. Though some are very inexpensive, small, and light, they are certainly not built with sustainable materials in sustainable ways – and none of the manufacturers is touting the cradle-to-cradle nature of their production (recycled, recylable, renewable) – but it strikes us as better than a Hummer, by some margin.

smart car electric

Electric Smart car. Just another car in a smaller package, or a new way of thinking? $35k.

Our favorites are the littlest, the lightest, and smallest. Kind of like golf carts that are enclosed. These are the ones that allow for local urban mobility without pretending that we can commute for two hours one-way, or make a weekend run from DC to Boston. For that, in the next city, we’ll need something else – not cars – like trains. If the next city is to be about people, and local life, and neighborhoods, and sustainability, and not cars and all their attendant destruction, then thinking really small seems like the only way at all.

start lab open street

Startlab’s Open Street model. A bit more than $22k.

There is one available soon, supposedly, called the Tesla. Hard to suppress a laugh at that name… Anyway, the manufacturers claim over 200 miles between charges and a top speed of 125 mph. Cost is north of $110 grand. This sounds more like substitution than rethinking – greenwashing if you will. Here we can see what we can do, but not necessarily what we should do.

Tesla electric cars

Tesla: 0 to 60 in just over 3 seconds, top speed 125 mph.

Anyway, dear reader, there are options for those with mobility challenges, options that permit participation in the next urban life without pumping breathtaking amounts of carbon into the air. In the end though, these little electric devices need to be coupled with a new way of making our communities – destinations within your neighborhood that are just a few blocks away, not across town or out in the suburbs. For many, even city dwellers in most cities in this country, walking a half mile or a mile doesn’t get you to the garlic you need, or the trattoria where you want to be. This must be the highest priority as we reshape the places where we live and work. Mr. Kamen, we need a two-door Segway with wipers and a heater, please.

yellow electric car

Myers Motors NMG (no more gas) one seat electric car – a tricycle. $30k.

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