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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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RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By Rovemelt on 11/10/2007 10:22:26 AM , Rating: 3
Second of all, wagons are not "equally as versatile", especially for anyone who occasionally needs to tow something, or travel on rough roads.

I've lived in rural parts of the country where the roads can get real, real bad. Yet I got through them with a simple front wheel drive POS compact car. Driving skill is equally important to passing a road as the vehicle itself. And if the ruts are two foot deep with mud, your run-of-the-mill SUV won't get through it either. Many modern SUV's have rather lousy clearance which makes them perform similarly to 4wd wagons in those situations.

I put a hitch on my compact car and can haul a trailer. Mind you, I'm not hauling a horse trailer or a boat up hills, but I can haul 1000lbs. You just have to go slower (which you should do anyway for safety when hauling something heavy.) I've driven some compact 4 wheel drive cars that handle the snow just as well as an SUV, but with twice the fuel efficiency. Most people I've seen who own SUV's simply don't need them for the type of driving they do. For the bulk of the driving that is done in the US, a good wagon is just as versatile as an SUV.

RE: so much for unbiased opinions
By mindless1 on 11/11/2007 6:32:19 PM , Rating: 2
Your distinctions seem quite arbitrary, an SUV obviously does better than a car in many scenarios. Given a need you have better tire options on SUV and many do have more ground clearance as well as more suspension travel. You seem to imply it would be only a little bit of snow versus 2 feet of mud. Hardly a reasonable contrast as there are in fact many if not most places where the mud is less than 2 feet deep and the snow is more than 6" from time to time, if there is mud and snow at all.

It's not necessarily the case that 100% of a trip is so bad the SUV is needed, it's that one bend in a snowy road or washout at a creek that you have to cross. That doesn't mean everyone needs an SUV, certainly many people don't, they use it like a van on easily traveled roads.

Sometimes the only reason someone in a FWD or AWD car can drive down a bad road is because those in SUVs already did, their tires plowing out a path.

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