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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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Go 2 Wheels
By Machinegear on 11/9/2007 12:43:04 PM , Rating: 4
Americans are still very image conscious. The people who like these ultra-small smart cars are the same heldover hippies who bought the Mini Cooper and VW Beetle. On paper, and in commercials, most folks might find these very small eco-cars slightly appealing, but once they see a hippy driving one of these cars down the road with a flower on the dash and the bumper plastered with looney left bumperstickers the broad appeal disappears really quick.

My solution is motorcycles. Americans love'em. They get great milage and are sexy. Compared to four wheeled vehicles, they are cheap to obtain as well. Most folks drive solo and use their vehicles just to commute. For these folks, a motorcycle with a tail bag is all they -need-. Of course, a spare old car/suv sitting in the garage can be pulled out for those random heavy duties.

All of this development and effort to produce a small (expensive) car that gets great milage seems like reinventing the wheel. Get a motorcycle and a good coat and go.




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