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Monday, October 09, 2006


Alternative transportation

For the past year or so I have been thinking about alternative fuel vehicles, be it gas-hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell or plug in electric. I haven't really found anything that meets my criteria, that being price, availability of the vehicle and the alternative fuel. Some of the vehicles I've found are worth a look at, especially if I were to live in more of an urban environment where a car isn't as practical anymore. Vehicles such as electric scooters and electric assist bicycles or even the ENV hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle that I really like, these all make a lot of cense in an urban environment.

First off I like the idea of an electric bike, something you can plug into any wall socket, charge up and go, but most don't really have the performance that I'm looking for. Some seem more like toys, some are marketed as toys, a few are serious attempts at making an electric bike but look like they were hobbled together in a garage that was filled with old bike parts, or at least those were the kits available online.

One of the more interesting ones, the IZIP Urban Cuiser Enlightened by Currie Technologies is an electric assist bicycle with a top speed of 15mph and a range of 25 miles (rider weight contingent) at average peddling. This is a nice commuter bicycle, and it doesn't look so bad. The battery and charge system are located in the down tube, making it not so obvious that it is an electric bike. It has an MSRP of $1,499, a bit steep for me at this time but worth looking at. The company that makes this bicycle is also working on a hybrid human electric bicycle due in 2007, your own peddling recharging the batteries and supplying the electrical assist.

In the full on electric motor category comes The Blade, an electric motocross bike that is nicely designed, and has the look of a gas powered motocross bike, but is full electric. I don't know is its street legal, but it would be a nice commuter bike.

One of the vehicles I like the most is the ENV (pronounced envy) a hydrogen fuel cell motorbike with a decent speed rating of about 50mph. The ENV has a range of 100 miles on a single tank of hydrogen fuel; the downfall of this would be the severe lack of hydrogen fueling stations in Illinois. I don't happen to know of any at this time or even if any are planed for the future. Baring the fuel station question, I still think this is a really nice bike, with the look of a modern motocross bike mixed with a sport bike,

I like the idea of solar powered vehicles as well, so when I read an article about a French company Venturi and its electric-solar hybrid car the Astrolab I became intrigued. I not sure it's a practical car, but I like the look, kind of like a giant skateboard. It is a nice little car, though I wonder how it would fare in an urban environment such as Chicago especially with its open roadster look.

A few key points of interest, it is a hybrid, meaning it doesn't depend on the sun for all its power, it can be plugged into the grid and be recharged, it has a top speed of 75mph but a range of about 68 miles. The Astrolab doesn't burn any fossil fuels, theoretically making it a zero emission vehicle, if your power supply is also eco-friendly.

That is something that all electric vehicles seem to have a problem with, the power supply, any and all electric vehicles that need to be plugged into the grid are still giving off some sort of pollution, it might not come for the vehicle its self, but depending on the power company, something is being released.

In thinking and researching other modes of transport, I looked at the Honda Big Ruckus scooter. Its gas powered mind you, but fuel efficient at 60mpg. You may have seen its little brother the Ruckus around town before, the striped down scooter that seems like the most basic of transports, the Big Ruckus is just like it, only slightly bigger and more ergonomically built. With a seat and peddle position more like a motorcycle, the Big Ruckus feels easier to ride than a traditional scooter. At 60 mpg, I could deal with it as an alternative to a car that only gets about 28mpg, and because I don't really drive around with more people than myself, it kind of makes cense.

That's just some of the stuff I have been looking at, I do not know if I will be in the market for some sort of vehicle in the near future, but it's allways a good idea to look around, esspecially if gas prices decide to go up to insane prices again. But that will be the topic of a future posting, as I need to put new data in the gas log and figure out just how much I did spend this summer compaired with last.