We know that cities are working with transit agencies to transition their fleets to fully electric buses. People are lining up at dealers and clicking online to purchase electric cars. But we hear a lot less in the media about more outlandish, outlier, but fun EVs. Moving from R&D to prototypes and marketability, there are a whole lot of really cool — and occasionally weird — innovative EVs coming onto the scene.
Let’s check some of them out.
Ultra efficiency for fun and work: With the goal to move away from oversized, overpriced, polluting vehicles to right-sized, ultra-efficient EVs that nearly everyone can afford, Arcimoto offers small EVs built for one or two people to maximize efficiency. They’re looking to create the safest motorcycle-class vehicle on the road and offer the FUV (fun utility vehicle), the Deliverator, Rapid Responder, the Roadster, the Flatbed, and the Mean Lean Machine.
Aerial utility and urban air mobility: Interested in seeing the world from above? The Aero-X is a 90+ mph concept craft. Safety and reliability are important elements, so its enclosed fans, intuitive pilot interface, and redundant systems protect people on the ground from the hazards of exposed rotors. Aerofex ducted-fan technology manipulates the air-flow for thrust augmentation and control. The company has developed stable, stiff carbon-fiber ducts, and fans that are lightweight and tiltable — resolving the weight and drag issues usually associated with shrouds. The ducts on the Aero-X are over 6 feet in diameter and weigh less than 7 pounds.
Unicycle your way to local errands: With a 1,500 watt motor and a rechargeable battery, the Solowheel is a small, green, convenient “People Mover.” The gyro-stabilized electric unicycle is compact, easy to learn, lightweight, and portable. It has a built-in handle and fold-up pedals, making it easy to carry and store. With a maximum speed of 10 mph and a range of up to 10 miles, the Solowheel is a good alternative for errands and short commutes.
Another one-wheeled, electric-powered vehicle: Capable of operating at speeds up to 10 miles per hour, like a casual stroll, the Ryno is less than a motorcycle — in some ways. Outfitted with a full-size motorcycle tire and built in the US, it has a tech-y appearance and two high output SLA batteries that offer up to 15 miles of travel. (A lithium-ion option is available.)
3-wheeled scooter: With its stylish design, refined chassis, solid handling, and ample charge, the 100% electric Piaggio 1 has two versions of its MP3 Yourban — the 125 cc and the 300 cc, known as the LT. It has a range of 34 miles in ECO mode, a speed of up to 28 mph, a 1.4 kWh removable battery, and a whole bunch of smart details and functions. The combination of lightweight build, advanced lithium-ion battery, and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) function that recharges during deceleration means the Piaggio 1 delivers solid range. It also seems to be a good fit for female riders, due to its slick styling. Classed as a motor tricycle, a motorcycle license isn’t necessary to ride it.
3-wheel and low-slung: The Alpha Outrider carbon has a belt-driven electric drivetrain technology paired with a “state of the art planetary” gearbox for improved performance, durability, and capability. It offers a top speed of 45 mph where permitted for 4-series drive systems. You can even choose your battery — from 1512 watt-hours (20-60 mile range) all the way to 6048 watt-hours (80-240 mile range).
Self-driving electric-powered taxis in Israel: Not to be outdone by other countries around the world, Israel is adding 400 self-driving electric-powered taxis to the existing 640 startups already working in the autonomous segment of transportation. Permitted through a Transportation Ministry law, the taxis are part of the nation’s goals for zero road accidents and reduced emissions and congestion. Among the companies developing self-driving car technology is Intel Corp unit Mobileye, which is based in Jerusalem.
Case Study: How an E-Rickshaw Changed a Life
Monika Devi, age 35, is one of the first women to be driving one of the first e-rickshaws on the streets of Delhi. As she navigates the 3-wheeler amidst the whirl of city congestion, she’s part of the city’s efforts to reduce pollution in the world’s most air polluted capital.
Delhi’s air crisis is extreme because of what the Brookings Institute describes as a combination of smoke from thermal plants and brick kilns in the capital region, effluents from a congested transportation network, stubble or biomass burning by farmers in neighboring states, and the lack of cleansing winds that causes air pollution to hang over the city.
Devi’s e-rickshaw was subsidized by the Delhi state government, which has launched a fleet of 3,500 e-rickshaws. Unlike her male counterparts, who drive the standard yellow and green e-rickshaws, hers is painted a thick lilac and is designated strictly for female passengers.
“This city is unsafe for women, and, until now, they had no choice but to travel in an autorickshaw driven by a man, which can be scary at night,” she told the Guardian. “Plus, I hate the pollution and feel happy that I’m doing my bit by driving an electric rickshaw, which isn’t spewing out toxic fumes.” (The Guardian described Devi’s e-rickshaw as “a flimsy contraption on 3 wheels with no safety belts or protection and exposed to the fumes of other vehicles.”)
The Delhi government is promoting e-rickshaws to transition from fossil fuels to EVs. The main EV target segment has been the 2-wheeler and 3-wheeler categories. According to the Delhi transport department, sales of EVs increased by about 136% from January, 2021 – January, 2022 — or to 3,404 units.
Sales of 2-wheelers, for the first time, surpassed those of e-rickshaws. The electric motorcycle/scooter segment showed a jump in sales, too, contributing to 52% of the overall EV sales during the same period. The city’s first electric bus also began carrying passengers in January, and there’s a pledge to add hundreds more soon.
Devi’s biggest anxiety is the battery running out a long way from a charging point. Delhi’s transport minister, Kailash Gahlot, hopes to see the day when drivers are never further than 3 km from a charging point, but that will take some time. Until it happens, most women e-rickshaw drivers will avoid long journey that could leave them stranded on a lonely road.
Final Thoughts about Innovative EVs
If you’d like to peruse some cool and (mostly) battery-powered vehicles of today and the future, check out this YouTube video. The sky’s the limit!
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