These are certainly interesting times to be involved in personal transport. And of course, with our cars and bikes and need to travel, we are all involved. The car manufacturers are trialling electric vehicles, hybrids and fuel cell cars. The search for alternative fuels is gathering pace, just as the cost of oil rises and reserves are depleted. This urgency is driving innovation all across the industry, resulting in a period of unprecedented developments. In addition to new fuels and power sources, new technologies are changing the way we interact with our vehicles.
In the USA, Google has been trialling a driverless car. So far the vehicle has covered 400,000 miles without incident. In the UK, Volvo has already trialled a driverless car on public roads. Other manufacturers such as Toyota, Mercedes and Ford are also testing the technology. Some of these manufacturers are focusing on a completely driverless environment. Others are simply using additional technologies to make driving safer and simpler. These technologies include systems like self parking and accident avoidance capabilities. As reported in the Guardian Business Secretary, Vince cable, announced that driverless cars will be on the roads of Milton Keynes by 2015. This project will see the introduction of two seater vehicles, which will run from the railway station to the town shopping centre. The cost of the journey is likely to be around £2.00.
The uptake of these new technologies is not without its problems. Electric vehicles have yet to conquer the twin issues of range and recharging time. Most electric vehicles have a range of around 100 miles. This makes them unusable for longer journeys. Charging can take several hours or even overnight. The vehicles must be hooked up to a charging station in the home, which makes them impossible to use for those who do not have a garage or driveway. Ironically, most electric vehicles are targeted at urban users who are the very people most likely to live in flats or apartments with no access to drives or garages.
Clearly, these vehicles do little to ease congestion. They still take up the same road space as conventional cars, no matter how they are powered. Now, however, there is one new form of personal transport that might just tackle these issues. The Ebike from SMART is an extremely clever piece of kit that could transform the daily commute of thousands of people across the country. This bike features an electric motor to assist the rider on their journey. The average commute in the UK is something like 8 miles and this bike has a range of around 62 miles. Charging time is around five hours for a full charge from empty.
The bike has a host of features that make it extremely usable and reduce the barriers to acceptance. Unlike an electric car, the Ebike does not leave the user stranded should the battery run out. In this case, the rider would simple peddle. The bikes also have a clever energy reclamation system that allows energy to be reclaimed from braking, giving more power and extending battery range. The Ebike, like all bikes, is small enough to take into the home or office, making them easily rechargeable for anyone.
Image credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronsaunders47/5922005506/