Car2Go Smart ForTwo Electric Drive in San DiegoEnlarge Photo
What would make electric cars perfect for you?
Maybe it'd take a 300-mile range, or a sub-$15,000 price tag, or the ability to charge from empty in five minutes.
But you could argue that current electric cars are already perfect--for car sharing schemes.
Car sharing is becoming increasingly popular in several cities throughout the U.S, Europe and elsewhere, coinciding with economic conditions that make owning a car impossible for many city dwellers.
Heavy traffic, expensive insurance, lack of parking and the cost of gas all make an impact. The cost of living in cities is already high, and it's unlikely to get cheaper as more of the world's population moves into dense city centers.
Though public transport eases the strain of moving millions from place to place, it's still unsuitable for some, making driving vital.
Car sharing satiates that need for personal transportation, without the associated costs. And existing electric cars are proving perfect for the task.
Bolloré BlueCar electric car used for Autolib' car-sharing service in Paris, September 2012Enlarge Photo
Several companies already run electric cars in their car-sharing schemes, from Car2Go in U.S. and European cities, to the Autolib' system found in Paris.
They offer all the benefits of electric cars, such as low noise, zero local emissions, and ease of use--but remove many of their limitations too.
Short range is little issue on a car which may only be used for a few miles at a time. Cities with electric car-sharing schemes benefit from investment by those companies to install charging points too--so finding a plug is rarely an issue. And in city driving, even electric cars with lower top speeds are appropriate, which may not be the case for those who regularly drive on highways.
Cost is less of a problem too. Both for the company running the scheme, which need not run a fleet on expensive gasoline, and maintenance costs are also low--and for the user, who pays a low fee for use, rather than the huge costs of running their own car.
Car2Go is best known for its blue and white Smart Fortwo Electric Drive vehicles, used in cities like San Diego.
But increasingly, dedicated vehicles are being used for car-sharing--vehicles designed specifically for the purpose.
Usually small and narrow (making them easy to park) and light (meaning less work for the electric drivetrain to do), cars like the Bolloré BlueCar are perfect for the job.
There are others on the way too. The Design for Urban Drive Cycle concept (via Earth Techling) may not have a catchy name, but designer Bharani Catna has created it specifically for inner-city, 'car club' use.
Like the BlueCar, it's described as a "no frills" design. Cars designed for only short usage periods don't really require many of the comfort and convenience features which weigh down regular electric cars--but GPS and digital readouts are included.
The Urban Drive Cycle concept would use wireless technology to recharge, so users would simply park it over a charging pad embedded in the road, ready for the next user.
Hiriko folding electric city carEnlarge Photo
The Hiriko electric car, which folds to fit into tiny parking spaces, is yet another urban-only electric car, designed specifically with car sharing in mind. It's expected to reach San Francisco in 2013.
Even ardent electric car advocates would agree that the current crop of vehicles has some limitations.
Those limitations seem to be almost irrelevant in car sharing schemes. Such schemes combine peoples' needs for personal transportation with the all the existing benefits of electric cars.
In fact, it makes the electric car look almost perfect as it is.