Sunday, June 22, 2008

Green Transportation Right Now

All of my friends who know me know how much I love cars and motorcycles. I have been riding and driving since I was 15 and even today, nothing works better for me as an anti depressant than driving or riding a bike on a calm and peaceful rural road. It was when India's roads began to become more crowded and filthier by the day from the early 1980s onwards that I began to wonder if there was a possible solution to this whole mess of transportation and to making it cleaner. Let's face it - there are more people today than there have ever been and the world is a crowded place. While population experts suggest that populations could taper off in the future, any reduction in crowding is at least half a century away. And people have to work, public transportation is not reliable unless you live in Moscow, Paris or London, and this makes clean transportation a crying need.

For a long time, car companies were lazy, doing little to harness technologies that could save fuel and even now, some of the hybrid technology and advanced diesels that are being used are a first step, and not the full potential of the technology that is available to us even today. Fortunately, small firms are showing the way ahead. Some of the products are expensive, but they do work and large scale demand for them could make them significantly cheaper. In any case, it is summer here and my heart is not in my car. Who wants to bake inside it after it has stood in the sun for two hours? This is a time for the open road and for short hops to the grocery or to meet friends. For those romantically inclined, sitting with your significant other on a bike is also much more fun than sitting side by side even in a Ferrari.

So, here goes with a few links:

1. For the power freaks, there is a bike that uses fossil fuel, but with a twist - the diesel Neander cruiser is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful bikes ever made in my opinion. Their website is: The bike's engine used a very innovative crankshaft that would have some special applications in the diesel and even gasoline engines of the future. Instead of buying a convertible of ANY kind, this is the bike to go for

2. For a full electric bike, there is a design that is garnering a lot of attention in this part of the world: Bloody expensive if you ask me, but very beautifully styled, and, if you take the manufacturers' background into consideration, it should be superb. They make the Ariel Atom sportscar in North America

3. And then there is something really special:
This is actually a bicycle with a patented electric boost system which allows it to be pedalled at upto 50 Km/hr. I think it looks simply superb and it would be more than adequate for most cties in the world, especially in South Asia

4. In cars, there is the old Th!nk car, once a Ford subsidiary now revived by the Norwegian government with Venture Capital funding from the USA who have two designs: The Think City and the Think Ox (not as in ox-cart but as in Oxygen) which you can check out at: I just might buy the Ox when it goes on sale in Chicago

5. And then there is the Aptera, a design that has wowed much of the US media including diehard skeptics like Popular Mechanics magazine. This is a design that requires a lot of hand fitting. It would be ideal for someone to assemble in South Asia under license. Do check the website out: and also have a look at the many videos and reviews on Google, Youtube etc. The company plan to drive their car from Los Angeles to New York this summer on one tankful of gasoline in an attempt at getting the Automotive X Prize. The prize is for the first production car that gets the equivalent of 100 mpg. The Aptera will do at least twice that

6. There is something that we overlook until we have one of these discharge soot into our faces through our car windows - delivery vans. A British company called Modec has started manufacturing electric vans and has sold a large number to the British postal service. They also have orders in the Netherlands. Their website is: Capable of taking 2 ton loads, these could be ideal delivery vans for South Asia. To boot, they come in Right Hand drive, something that the other cars do not come in

7. There is a new concept here of the "Neighborhood Car." This refers to cars that are driven inside city streets and which do not go on highways. In the USA, thjese are given special exemptions if their top speed is restricted to 25 mph / 40 kmph though this particular design is capable of easily exceeding that if the restrictors are removed: The car would be superb for South Asian streets as a low speed people hauler that costs much less than any car in the world in use and which is much safer than the badly designed Indian Reva

There are several planned solutions from Mitsubishi, GM's Chevrolet Division, Nissan, Renault etc for the future as well as limited production cars like the Tesla and the Fisker Karma I seriously doubt if any of the big names would come to South Asia. Even in advanced markets theya re being pre-empted by the small guys. Showing fossil fuels the fist also means showing a fist to those who have been making us use oil without bothering to innovate.


Post Script: A friend in Sri Lanka had an intriguing question. Is there any way that treadmills could be hooked up to do small jobs from utilising the energy that exercisers use on them? Run a small fruit juicer, perhaps? So you have an instant smoothie after you finish exercising? Ideas please...

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