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MIT City Car conceptual drawing  (Source: SciFi.com)
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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RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 11/7/2007 3:56:25 PM , Rating: 2
I wasn't aware that I couldn't express my OPINION in my own blog ;)

That being said, the SUV boom of the 90's wasn't out of necessity, it was out of being popular and "hip" to everyone else. The Explorer beget a modernized Grand Cherokee. The 4-Runner sprouted an additional pair of doors as did the Pathfinder.

Americans gorged themselves until they realized that "DUH" I don't need a 5000-pound truck-based SUV to go to work or take a trip the mall.

So we've slowly seen the transition from body-on-frame behemoths to slightly smaller (or in some cases just as large -- GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook/Buick Enclave) car-based crossovers. RX350s, Highlander, Edges, RAV4s, CRVs, etc.

But of course, people are free to buy whatever they want, so more power to them.

But as the gas prices keep going up and up, we'll see how long people are willing to hold on to big vehicles.

And I've always been amazed at how Europeans can manage with significantly smaller vehicles while we just don't seem to "get it." Part of it is b/c of high fuel prices, but they are still far ahead of the curve when it comes to downsizing vehicles.


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By jskirwin on 11/7/2007 4:38:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the SUV boom of the 90's wasn't out of necessity, it was out of being popular and "hip" to everyone else.


Uhm... No, it was about cheap gasoline that could fuel them. People will waste what's cheap; once gas prices rose as they began to do about 5 years ago, people began to consider MPG when they bought a car.


By Brandon Hill (blog) on 11/7/2007 4:41:30 PM , Rating: 2
What does cheap gasoline have to do with the fact that they were still a poor substitute for the wagons and minivans they replaced?


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By TomZ on 11/7/2007 4:51:34 PM , Rating: 1
Also, your theory doesn't explain why SUV and truck sales are still brisk today, even though gasoline is at around $3/gallon, i.e., no longer "cheap."


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By Clenathan on 11/8/2007 5:23:18 AM , Rating: 2
Because car retailers realize this change in American thought and have subsequently lowered the price of SUVs and trucks.


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By TomZ on 11/11/2007 12:59:27 PM , Rating: 2
American manufacturers have reduced the prices of their entire product lines - cars included - due to decreased demand for their products.

If what you were saying were true, you'd see a lot more Americans buying cars instead of trucks, which you don't see happening. In fact, in the past few years even the transplants Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc. are coming out with more and more trucks (new products) for the North American market.


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By Rovemelt on 11/12/2007 11:00:39 AM , Rating: 2
Truck sales seem to be declining relative to cars lately, Tommy.

http://money.cnn.com/2007/11/01/news/companies/aut...


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By Rovemelt on 11/12/2007 11:07:45 AM , Rating: 2
More info on SUV sales declining with rising gas prices:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic...

That CNN article paints a mixed picture regarding truck and suv sales, though.


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By TomZ on 11/7/2007 4:57:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And I've always been amazed at how Europeans can manage with significantly smaller vehicles while we just don't seem to "get it." Part of it is b/c of high fuel prices, but they are still far ahead of the curve when it comes to downsizing vehicles.

Europe is not "ahead of the curve" in anything. They have smaller cars out of simple economic necessity. We have on average larger cars because we can afford them, due to lower fuel prices, lower financing interest rates, and higher purchasing power.

In other words, we'll only shink our vehicles here if the same economic forces come to bear on us as well.


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By jak3676 on 11/7/2007 7:23:31 PM , Rating: 3
One of the biggest reasons that Europeans get smaller cars is so they can fit them on the roads. Trying to bring full sized American SUV's to Europe just doesn't work. They don't fit on the inner city roads, there is no place to park them, and they won't fit into any garage.

I had my 2005 Honda Pilot (mid-sized SUV) in Germany for about a year. It was a great car, but just too darn big over there. We drove downtown Paris and I swear we were the biggest car on the road.

We've just replaced it with a Honda Odyssey - easier to get babies in/out, more usable space, and a little better MPG.


RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By Aarnando on 11/8/2007 2:08:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I wasn't aware that I couldn't express my OPINION in my own blog ;)

You are allowed to express your opinion in your own blog. Others are also allowed to express their opinion of your opinion in their own comments about your blog. ;) ;) ;( ;)

quote:
And I've always been amazed at how Europeans can manage with significantly smaller vehicles while we just don't seem to "get it." Part of it is b/c of high fuel prices, but they are still far ahead of the curve when it comes to downsizing vehicles.

Americans seem to be managing pretty well with very large vehicles as well. Amazing. Maybe I should go to Europe and try to make a push towards larger vehicles for Europeans. Why pack into a sardine tin, when you can drive a Canyonero?


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

















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