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MIT City Car conceptual drawing  (Source:
MIT dreams up a rentable, stackable, all-electric car for cities

America just seems to be obsessed with large vehicles. Maybe it’s our expanding waistlines, image consciousness or our "You can't tell me what to do, so I'm gonna buy whatever I want" mentality that persuades people to transport junior in a Suburban, go grocery shopping with a Tundra CrewMax or take Fido to the get his yearly shot in an Escalade EXT.

With rising gas prices, an increasing attention to our consumption of fossil fuels, an increasing awareness of vehicle emissions and expanding city centers, many are looking for more cost effective and efficient ways of transporting people in metropolitan areas. MIT Media Lab's Smart Cities group is thinking small with a new stackable car to reduce emissions and congestion in and around city centers.

The MIT "City Car" would be an all-electric vehicle capable of carrying two passengers and their cargo. The vehicles would be located near train stations, bus terminals and airports to ferry travelers to their final destination.

"The problem with mass transit is it kind of takes you to where you want to go and at the approximate time you want to get there, but not exactly," said Ph.D. candidate Franco Vairani of MIT's school of architecture. "Sometimes you have to walk up to a mile from the last train or subway stop."

The City Car will be stackable -- the entire back end of the vehicle would rise up allowing as many as eight of the vehicles to fit into a conventional parking space. The vehicle itself would also be mechanically simple with the electric motor, steering system and suspension enclosed within the wheel hubs.

The vehicle is said to weigh between 1,000 to 1,200 pounds and will be powered by lithium-ion batteries. According to Vairani, there could also be multiple versions of the City Car to accommodate a certain city's needs. A City Car destined for use in New York City might have a less powerful battery and a lower top speed due to traffic congestion. In other cities where interstate travel is more frequent, more powerful batteries capable of propelling the City Car faster and farther could be used.

If all goes well, MIT will show a prototype of the City Car sometime next year.

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sounds like
By Moishe on 11/7/2007 12:57:30 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like a great idea. Small, cheap rental car that gets the job done without a lot of flair.

Add a DARPA Urban challenge system to this thing so that you can rent for one way trips (and have the car bring itself back home) and you have the perfect setup for city cars.

It might not fit well in rural areas, but if they will sell them to regular folks in non-metro areas, I bet they will sell a few here and there.

RE: sounds like
By cochy on 11/7/2007 1:18:35 PM , Rating: 2
I like the idea too. People have this idea for London where they would only have these kind of cars and they would be remote controlled. Sorta like automatic taxis. I really think cars as we know them today will be extinct by the next century or so.

In any event, these look cool, though I'm not sure how well they'd do up here in Canada during the winter ;)

RE: sounds like
By AmbroseAthan on 11/7/2007 1:29:51 PM , Rating: 2
The idea is interesting, but I am trying to see how useful these would be in NYC.

I currently live in NYC, and I don't see how they could possibly compete with Taxi's unless they are literally flooding the city with them. I can go anywhere in the city for a max of $25 with a tip, have 4 people in the cab, load the back with a ton of luggage/purchases, and not need to drive. The City Car doesn't seem like it would have the cargo space to fit anything too large with you.

It is a great idea, but unless the pricing is very very low, the market won't be large at all, least not in NYC.

RE: sounds like
By Moishe on 11/7/2007 3:19:29 PM , Rating: 2
If you made the entire Manhattan section free from regular cars and then only allowed these (and service vehicles)... now that would be cool.
More room for walking and tiny cars, and all you'd need is a parking lot and tiny car rental station outside of Manhattan. Of course the taxi companies would never go for this (unless they could have tiny taxis)

RE: sounds like
By jskirwin on 11/7/2007 3:39:06 PM , Rating: 2
If you made the entire Manhattan section free from regular cars and then only allowed these (and service vehicles)... now that would be cool.

Why would you need these if you unbanned taxis? What, you've got something against taxi drivers or something?

RE: sounds like
By maverick85wd on 11/7/2007 3:32:06 PM , Rating: 2
perhaps larger versions more the size of say a mini-van will be produced and taxi drivers can transport with those instead... will cost less because gas isn't being used and will be better for the environment. They could just charge them over-night (or during the day for night shifters). I personally think cutting taxis out is a bad idea because then all those jobs are lost... there are a hell of a lot of taxi drivers. And, at least for now, I'd rather have a person driving me around than a computer.

But props to MIT for working towards a solution to one of problems of living in a large city... and energy.

RE: sounds like
By marvdmartian on 11/7/2007 3:37:46 PM , Rating: 2
Not only that, but if the taxi drivers are anything in NYC like they are in any other urban area where I've been, it's highly likely that this itty-bitty little electric car is going to be playing bumper tag with 5000+ pound taxis...... and losing!

Yellow cab, FTW!!

RE: sounds like
By MADAOO7 on 11/7/2007 7:08:53 PM , Rating: 2
How is $25 a good deal? You can easily spend $50 going back and forth from your apartment in a given workday. That's $250 a week. Obviously, people usually use the metro, which is affordable, so total dependence on taxis is not realistic. The point is, Taxi's are a terrible deal vs. a rent by hour car program as proposed by MIT. I use Flexcar for $5.50 an hour here in Gainesville. It's cheap, has great availability, and gas and insurance is included. I know in most metropolitan cities Flexcar is around $10 an hour. Also, there are about 8 vehicles around campus to choose from. Trucks for when I haul things, SUV's for day trips, and Hybrids for groceries.

RE: sounds like
By AmbroseAthan on 11/8/2007 9:46:51 AM , Rating: 2
Well no one in NYC is going to commute at $25 each way, roundtrip, I just proposed every day by taxi (That would be from E96 St. down to Battery Park City (bottom of the island on the west side), one of the longer drives; and people who can afford that fare for commuting are doing it by black car, or just taking the Subway for like $3/day.

I tried to look up Flexcar for NYC, but didn't find anything, so went with ZipCar pricing. Cars in my area are $10-14/hr; so you are looking at $20-28 round trip if you can somehow just go one way each trip and not get charged for anything else. Your average taxi cab is likely $12-15 a trip (like 50-60 blocks), so $24-30 round trip.

So for a few extra dollars, you do not have to drive, park, etc. Do ZipCar / FlexCar allow you to drop the car in a different place? Otherwise, you are then paying Parking (the first hour in NYC will be $20+, a couple hours tends to be $30+) unless you happen to have the luck of God and find street parking.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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