Meet Trev: A two-seater renewable energy vehicle

Major auto companies are now close to bringing their first electric vehicles onto the market. But in many cases these new vehicles are as big and heavy as their gasoline powered brethren, and consequently burn just as much energy even though they take it from batteries rather than a fuel tank. In the greater scheme of things, I’m not convinced that helps us very much.

I believe there is instead a bright future for a spectrum of 'micro' electric vehicles, from battery powered bicycles up to compact size cars, including this new concept car named Trev (Two-seater Renewable Energy Vehicle).

Here is the full story from Team Trev's website (quoted with permission).

Trev, the idea

Conventional cars use a lot of energy. Try pushing one. The larger and heavier the car, the harder it is to move and the more energy it uses. Typically, less than 15% of the energy that reaches the wheels is used to move the occupants; the rest is used to move the machine.

Most of the time, we use our cars to travel short distances in slow city traffic with only one or two people in the car. But we do it in cars that are capable of carrying four or five people across a continent at 100 km/h or more, and towing a boat or caravan at the same time.

We need something new. Something appropriate for city mobility.

Staff and students at the University of South Australia have designed and built such a car, which we call Trev (Two-seater Renewable Energy Vehicle).

Automotive companies are developing electric versions of conventional cars. But they are still large, heavy cars, and still use a lot of energy.

Rather than take a conventional car and try to make it clean, our approach has been to take a clean, low energy vehicle — a solar racing car — and make it practical. Solar racing cars can cross a continent at 100 km/h (60mph) powered only by sunlight, so it should not be too hard to build a clean, efficient vehicle that can transport someone to work and back each day.


* two comfortable seats, since more than 90% of urban trips have only one or two people in the car;
* enough luggage space for at least two overnight bags;
* 300 kg (660 lb) mass (because using a 2.5 tonne vehicle for commuting is ridiculous);
* energy-efficient tyres, brakes and suspension;
* a clean, quiet and efficient electric drive system;
* compliance with road safety and worthiness regulations;
* good performance, with a top speed of 120 km/h; and
* 150 km of city driving before the car must be recharged.

Most importantly, it uses less than 1/5 of the energy required by a conventional car. And it doesn't look too bad either.


* The tandem seating layout gives good aerodynamics, good balance, and good vision.
* The acrylic canopy gives the driver an unimpeded view of the road.
* The canopy and door open on the kerb side of the car.
* The electric motor gives smooth, quiet acceleration from 0–100 km/h (60mph) in under 10 seconds.
* A composite tub chassis, with foam and plastic body panels, gives a total car mass of 300 kg.
* A 45 kg lithium ion polymer battery gives over 150km of city driving.
* Low-energy tyres on low-mass alloy wheels give low rolling resistance.
* The single rear drive wheel simplifies the suspension, and allows a simple, efficient transmission.


In October 2007 we drove Trev from Darwin to Adelaide in the Greenfleet Technology Class of the World Solar Challenge. For most of the journey, we drove 80 - 120 km at speeds of 80 - 90 km/h before stopping to recharge from a generator. We completed the 3020 km (1900 mile) trip in just over six days.

Our energy consumption was 6.2 kWh/100 km. Electricity costs about AUD $0.18 per kWh. The cost of recharging Trev is 1.1 cents per kilometre [Approx 1.6 US cents per mile]. The entire 3000+ km journey cost us $33 of electricity.

It makes petrol (gasoline) look silly.

Trev, the team

Team Trev is a motley collection of EV enthusiasts, innovators, tinkers and travellers. We’re volunteering together to take Trev to the world.

The current challenge is the Zero Race - carry two people 30,000 km around the world, powered by renewable energy, starting in June 2010. To achieve this, we need to:

* place a larger battery beneath the floor, to give a range of 250 km
* improve the brakes and suspension
* make the back seat more comfortable
* get the car registered.

The key design concepts will not change.

Trev. Simple, efficient, clean.

There's a lot to like about Trev, and with batteries just a fraction of the size, it wouldn't have the price tag of a Chevy Volt either. Or if you can cope with the elements, the electric bicycle end of the spectrum will suit everybody's budget and still cover a fair bit of ground. Today's monsters could be kept in the garage, or shared with neighbouring houses, for the larger shopping and holiday trips where the larger capacity is actually required.

So for just 20% of your current energy use, Trev can keep you clean and dry while completing your commuting journey as quick as the roads allow. Now these smaller vehicles won't solve congestion, although they will help, so I'm also an advocate for a new mindset in city and suburban planning and long-term investment in public transport. But changing infrastructure is a slow response to peak oil.

Once fuel costs start to become a significant factor in people's driving decisions, a car like Trev that is super cheap to run will look pretty attractive. Given the simplicity and much lower resource use of a micro electric vehicle, it's not hard to imagine the Asian manufacturing industry churning these out once we realise the need for them.

Thanks Team Trev!

You can find contact details for Team Trev at

We need something new. Something appropriate for city mobility.

Like a bicycle. :D

Our energy consumption was 6.2 kWh/100 km.

That's 62Wh/KM. That's really, really good! Heck, even the best EV conversions (typically home-built of small-scale conversion shops) only manage about 200Wh/km, 150Wh/KM at best, so getting it down to 62Wh/km is a fantastic achievement!
The LiFePO4 battery pack for White Zombie is looking to be around 200kgs. Imagine how far the TREV would go on that! It'd sure quiet the whining that "it doesn't have enough range".

I'm too lazy to do the calculations myself, but I wonder what TREV's Cd(Drag Coefficient) is. At anything under about 60km/h, it's not that important, but above that, it become the main factor in how much energy is used. Given the 62Wh/km figure, it must be impressivly low.

As you note, Phil, TREV (or any other EV) isn't 'the' solution. But TREV (or something like it) is one of the 'Silver BB's' we do need.

The weight/performance stats sound excellent.

I'm writing to Tony Abbott today to see if he can make them COMPULSORY as part of his carbon-reduction-by-decree programme!

I also like the cute shape, sort of the stylistic descendent of the Morgan 3-wheeler from the classic Peter Sellers movie "The Party".

And where is all the extra electricity coming from to power ten million TREVs?
Why not centralised solar?
Matthew Wright had an inspirational article in the business pages yesterday...

Renewable energy is the fastest growing power source in the world, and already generates baseload electricity on the scale of utilities. Large solar thermal plants with heat storage can dispatch power around the clock every day of the week regardless of whether the sun is shining, and make handsome profits during demand peaks.

Wind power is being installed on scales that dwarf Australian grid requirements. These and other clean energy technologies are replacing coal on modern grids. While Australia continues to throw money at 19th-century technologies, Spain, China, the US and others are charging ahead with zero-emissions power generation, and creating export markets.

I'm looking at a flyer from Origin Energy (Australia): 2kW solar system fully installed (incl GST & rebates), $12,690... 2kW will bearly run our electric kettle. What about the 7.4kW air-conditioner, and the other billion such units around the globe?

That's a lot of panels!

So-called renewable systems can't be produced enmasse with a click of the fingers. They're expensive for a reason: A hell of a lot of energy goes into making the bloody things. And they provide terrible bang-for-buck.

Immediate conservation measures and debates on reducing world population is the only genuine path forward (at least for this century).

Regards, Matt B

Of course your electric kettle is turned on all the time.... As well as your airco is running full load 24 hours a day....

I am nit so sure about the exchange rate but an installed 2 kW solar pv would be installed in the Netherlands for about EUR 7000 (no rebates) and would deliver about 1800 kWh per year. Approximate half of the average house hold use.


The kettle takes a minute or so to boil (@ 2400w). Aircon is a blast here, a blast there. Both need a base load, yes?

Or are you suggesting I should wait an hour or two for my cuppa? Or do I purchase a solar-kettle and throw away the Breville? What about all the other kettle-owners? Is that the plan for the automobile?

Scale, finite resources and compounding growth... Solar panels will not save the day.

Your solar panels are going to be either grid-tied or use batteries with an inverter.

Your coffee pot, if that's how you choose to spend your precious watts, will be just fine in either case.. but as electricity starts to show its real price, PV at today's prices will show itself to be a real bargain, and your CoffeePot and A/C will be revealed as the truly uneconomical assets.

There are far better ways to heat your water and cool your house. Electricity has just been the most convenient. Welcome to increasingly Inconvenient times.. spend your watts well.

So your suggestion for cooking energy? Use of wood for cook stove fuel is one of the major contributers to deforestation worldwide. Solar ovens won't do much for the cloudy temperate regions much of the year. Natural gas of course isn't available everywhere and down the road far enough it won't be available just about anywhere. Electricity is going to have to be cheap enough to cook with. More energy efficienty electric cooking technologies are critical to our going forward in a sustainable way.

I have seen this claim before-that pv panels are expnsive because of the energy inputs.

Of course the term energy is a little ambigious in this context.

Somebody here knows about what part of the cost of new panels can be attributed directly to energy costs.

So about how much petroleum, coal , and or natural gas, mostly in the form of electricity I am thinking, does it take to run a typical panel plant? How much does that come to roughly per kilowatt's worth of panels out the door?

Let's assume the plant is a big one and purifies it's own silicon. etc.

I'm looking at a flyer from Origin Energy (Australia): 2kW solar system fully installed (incl GST & rebates), $12,690...

Presumably, that's before the sale of the RECs. You should be able to get a 1.5kW system (the max you can install with the 5x REC multiplier) for ~$4000.

2kW will bearly run our electric kettle. What about the 7.4kW air-conditioner, and the other billion such units around the globe?

You're mixing your units up (I do it all the time). Your 2kW kettle might well draw 2kW, but it's only doing so for a few minutes (even less if you don't fill it all the way, or buy one of those new 'quick boil' kettles), so you're 2kW kettle might only use 166Wh (5 minutes), or about the amount of power TREV uses to cover 3km (and about the same time if travelling at 40km/h, or 8km in 5 minutes at 100km/h).

Thanks Bell,

I realise I can find a better price - indeed, I've haggled hard and saved thousands over the years. But generally Aussies are bad negotiators and I was pointing out an MS price that fellow Joes and Janes might baulk at.

Re kW and kWh, I've tried and tried, but am too Joe Average to get it. For me, simple tests are the way to go: Just a minute while I pop out to the meter box...


OK, what's running in the house at the moment? Fridge, washing machine, LCD TV and amplifier, two computers (incl this 21 monitor) and all sorts of electric clocks and things on standby.

The meter's spinning disk is rotating five times every 1min 36 seconds. Now I'll boil enough water for the wife and I.


Whoa! (Not surprised really). Five rotations in 19 seconds.

I guess my point is that I really can't "visualise" how we're going to stop people GLOBALLY from making cups of tea (amongst other things). Yes, I know I can do MY bit (drink cold tea? Yuck), but big deal. Humans in the first world love/don't care about waste and that's that.

Regards, Matt B

And where is all the extra electricity coming from to power ten million TREVs?

That's the crux of the matter. Our #1 job is to REPLACE our existing coal fired power plants, NOT to add new power consumers to the grid. Parliament hasn't even agreed that this is the main job. No one can tell me motorists would be sufficiently disciplined to re-charge only at night, when there is still spare capacity available from power plants. This would also mean we swap oil dependency with coal dependency.

These electric car dreams will only lead to more freeways and highways being built because the public, the pollies and bureaucrats all think we have enough time, money and energy for a transition to green cars, yellow cars, hydrogen cars, electric cars...

And where will all those car loans come from? Peak oil = peak credit

The end of our car culture in this decade:

Peak oil = peak credit

This is such a kneejerk response. That is only true if oil is the only thing that can power our civilization. That is why electric solutions are being sought. If these things work, then peak oil does not mean peak credit. That would only be true if oil is the only option. Your logic isn't valid. You're saying this:

1) ENERGY allows growth
2) growth allows credit
3) we can't use OIL energy because it is running out
4) we can't switch to electricity because OIL allows growth and credit

The fallacy is that your arguments substitutes OIL and ENERGY. but they are not the same thing. Oil has (with other FFs and nukes and renewable electricty) powered growth, and maybe it's even the most convenient way, but that doesn't mean it is the only way.

And the person above who says that this is worthless because it trades oil dependency for coal is wrong. It trades fuel dependency for electricity dependeny... a far better crux. Coal capacity has stagnated in the US. It will mean more gas, and for now, that is doable. Once the infrastrucure is there we can talk about more wind, nukes, etc.

So many responses to ideas like Trev, which are by my account is a noble and logical pursuit, are just kneejerk refusal of anything that doesn't comply with immediate doom as the only option.

Another comment above states that overpopulation and conservation are the only anwer. First off, Trev looks a lot like conservation to me if it means giving up the SUV for a Trev type vehicle. Also, other types of conservation and poop reduction are not mutually exclusive with techno fixes.

1) GROWTH of the energy supply allows growth.

2) growth of population reduces energy flow per capita.

3) Declining EROEI reduces net energy flows.

4) Not all energy forms are equally useful. Converting energy to more useful forms reduces EROEI.

5) Transitioning to a new energy infrastructure needs a lot of energy.

6) No one is admitting there is a problem.

"6) No one is admitting there is a problem."

Huh? We admit to these problems every day here. It just seems that anyone who doesn't let it paralyze them and gets to work finding improvements is simply 'ProGrowth'..

There are things that need to GROW in order to move away from the things that we need to get rid of. Why is that seen as tantamount to 'Accepting and Continuuing the whole shell game'?

I tend to suspect it is the objections of the paralyzed and traumatized, who fear any action taken will be a disaster.

Well said Bob.

Not well said at all.

Many people here seem to be seeking a "solution" that will allow BAU. And, by BAU, I mean societies as complex, or more complex than we have now. It means growth. That is completely, and utterly, stupid given that we live on a finite planet. Why on earth anyone thinks economic growth can continue indefinitely is a mystery. And that's what this article is about - continuing business as usual.

When will people get it? I don't think they will until society starts collapsing around them. Even then, it'll take a while, I think.

This doesn't mean we need to stand paralysed, only that we need to take actions to move to sustainable societies. But a TREV won't do that. So why does Phil see a bright future for it? Beats me.

If by growth you mean extraction of natural resources, then you are correct.

If by growth you mean the production of useful goods and services, I see no reason why "growth" cannot be infinite.

You can't literally mean "infinite", can you?

By growth I mean economic expansion.

And yes, to all intents and purposes, I mean "infinite" (OK - the sun will eventually die and the earth with it and thus we'll never reach infinity - but I can't see why with a completely restructured industrial ecosystem we can't have a relatively stable population supported by an economy that continues to expand - by increasing the quality / value of good / services provided - "forever").

What are the essential properties that "completely restructured industrial ecosystem" would need to have to be capable of indefinite (I can't bring myself to say "infinite") expansion?

For that matter, what do you mean by expansion?

For me, it's energy, not money, that makes the world go round. So how does one avoid entropy?

A "completely restructured industrial ecosystem" is one that completely adopts cradle-to-cradle / design-for-disassembly principles - everything manufactured can be completely recycled later (the "internet of things" is a handy tool as well).

Once you do this (and have a stable population), you can shift to a closed loop for materials used in manufacturing - you don't need to go out and extract new raw materials from the ground.

By expansion, I mean increasing GDP - for that to happen, you need to keep increasing the value of the goods and (particularly) services provided - so "growth" can then continue indefinitely, even as the consumption of raw materials dwindles to nothing.

Energy obviously needs to be from fully renewable sources - no more fossil fuels - but as I never tire of saying, the earth has available 10,000 times as much energy from renewable sources as we currently extract from fossil fuels - so the switch is entirely practical.

So you imagine that it's possible for a society to adopt an economy that keeps growing but doesn't consume any non-renewable resources, doesn't consume renewable resources beyond their renewal rates and doesn't destroy habitat?

That's a tall order. Full recycling is an impossibility (nothing is 100% efficient).

Without growing the economy, in terms of consumption, what sort of companies will be operating? Will they be out to make a profit? Will they have a full order book? What will be their scale? How will they distribute and spend their profits?

If you are not producing extra stuff (which is inevitable, at some stage), then the stuff you're producing has to be higher and higher quality to attract more value. Is their no limit to quality? How is the money earned for this higher value and where does it come from?

Will everyone eventually have everything they want and simply be yearning after higher quality of the things they have? Presumably, if everyone has everything they want, everyone has exactly the same stuff, with only the quality varying as the new version starts to make its rounds.

Yes, the earth has lots of renewable energy. All of it is currently employed in the energy and life systems of this planet. Also, diverting any of that requires resources and assumes no environmental degradation in so doing.

I wonder if anyone will ever be reasonably happy with their lot. I doubt it, without a major mindset shift.

A few comments (I don't have much time - sorry) -

1. Yes - 100% recycling is hard - do some research on "cradle to cradle manufacturing" and "design for disassembly" - you need these to try and achieve it.

2. The economy isn't just about goods - it is also (and increasingly importantly) based on services.

3. The trend for business in a C2C world is for products to be services - you just rent the "goods" and he company continuously updates them. Read up on Ray Anderson at interface carpets for an example of where people are trying to go with this.

4. Life does not absorb all the energy hitting the planet - much (most ?) of it just gets raidated back into space or remains locked within the earth's core or gets wasted against the shores of the oceans...

5. Yes - we should avoid environmental degradation as much as possible.

1. No doubt, in some cases, you might get close to 100% but you'll never get 100% of everything that goes into what is being recycled. And that recycling takes energy and other resources. Also some things wear down.

2. The economy can never be just about services, so I'm not sure what this point is, with regard to infinite growth.

3. I'm not sure what the point of this is, either. It's just describing a model of how stuff gets upgraded, not how those upgrades can be the only growth in the economy.

4. The earth is in a (precarious) balance. It's good that a lot of energy gets radiated back to space. That helps maintain our habitat to one conducive for human life, and the other life that supports it. All of the energy that doesn't get radiated back to space is currently employed in the earth's energy systems and the life on the planet. Even energy from tides has a role. Shore erosion has a role too. Do you think humans can cocoon the earth sufficiently to counter all of the negative impacts of what we do. In nature, you can't do just one thing.

5. If we don't, then we are unsustainable and economic growth is unsustainable.

The Jensen/McDonough article looks interesting, though I don't have time to read it fully, at the moment. My current take (and it looks like it's the take of both of those people) is that civilization has caused it's own downfall. I suspect that I'd, therefore, side with Jensen, since expecting the very thing that brought us down to save us is a rather bizarre notion. As Einstein (I think) said, we can't expect to solve problems by using the same thinking that gave rise to those problems. Technology, essentially, got us here and is unlikely to get us out of it.

But back to economic growth. I still see no way to achieve indefinite economic growth. Your ideas on this just don't stack up for a great number of reasons, even if it were likely that society would smoothly migrate to your ideas (which is extremely unlikely, I think).

Well - I think you are wrong (especially on counts 2 - which misinterprets what I said, 3, 4 and 5) while most of 1 is irrelevant.

But yes - I can see that you have a similar viewpoint to Jensen, while mine largely matches McDonough's.

So we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Yeah, we could agree to disagree but that moves neither of us on. I've seen the notion that economic growth can continue for ever many times. If it were true, I'd be quite happy, believe me. But it never seems to stack up. It never fully explains how it can be done, in reality, or what such a world would look like (it most certainly wouldn't resemble the world we have today - I've touched on some of the reasons why). As it would be such a world changer, what are the motivations for people to move towards it? It seems the motivations today are celebrity, profit, celebrity, getting the next best thing, celebrity, holidaying abroad regularly, celebrity, and outdoing others. Oh, and celebrity.

I don't see how I misinterpreted your point 2. You said that the economy is not just about goods, it's also services. I simply restated what you said, in a different way.

What's wrong with my responses to your points 3, 4 and 5? For example, explain how we can be sustainable whilst degrading our environment.

As for my response to your point 1 being irrelevant. How is it irrelevant to state the recycling will not allow our economy/society to never need to consume another finite resource? Surely that is the whole thrust of your argument? Which is that recycling will allow better quality goods to be made indefinitely, without consuming resources beyond their renewal rates and without degrading our environment, and that improved quality will allow good to be sold for higher prices, thus supporting infinite economic growth.

Oh - I was going to note we are probably coming at this from different angles - see this comparison as a (possibly) relevant example :

The production (and consumption/use) of useful goods and services takes resources of all kinds, and produces wastes. We live on a finite planet with a finite environmental capacity to safely absorb waste, finite resources and a finite ecosystem.

Which bit of that do you not understand?

You say 'To Take Actions to MOVE TO Sustainable societies' .. how is a vehicle that radically reduces fuel and material requirements NOT taking a step in this direction? This is easily that 'Journey of 1000 miles'.. you don't expect to clear it in one bound, do you? This goes in the right direction.

This post is NOT saying we have to have 100million of them and commute 3 hours a day in each one on the mass of superhighways we've got today.

It IS saying we'll still need to get around, and we'll still have roads to do this on. Which of THOSE two points do you disagree with? We will STILL use vehicles on roads. I won't predict the volume or the exact role they'll play, but I'm sure that the statement is true. So what vehicles will we have to choose from?

A great percentage of my trips in any month could be done by bike and on foot. For some, I need to bring building materials to a friend's house to make a repair, or pick up my daughter in the rain from across town. Maybe in a far more constrained situation than today's, a TREV would be along the lines of that vehicle you co-owned with your extended family, while much of the rest was on Mass Transit, Foot, Bike.. A small electric that can tow a trailer or hold a couple kids or maybe the CSA farm pickup for the week, one that I could charge from Solar, from Wind, from the Grid, from a BioGas Generator.. this sounds like a flexible and durable and probably sustainable solution to me.

It doesn't go in the right direction. It goes in the direction of continuing BAU, just being a little more efficient in our use of resources. TREV is designed to allow economic growth to continue a bit longer. It's designed for a society fairly indistinguishable from the current one in terms of desires and aspirations. It is not intended for a sustainable society.

It IS saying we'll still need to get around, and we'll still have roads to do this on. Which of THOSE two points do you disagree with?

We only need to get around locally, at least on a daily personal basis.

A great percentage of my trips in any month could be done by bike and on foot.

That's because you don't live in a sustainable society. It is pointless using an argument of "I can't do what I do now without personal motorised transport" whilst also arguing for sustainability.

A sustainable future will be nothing like today's societies. Of course, you may not want sustainability and so have to accept the inevitable result of living unsustainably. Switching energy sources does not make a society sustainable unless it results in that society not consuming non-renewable resources, not consuming renewable resources beyond their renewal rates and not damaging our (and others) habitat.

"A sustainable future will be nothing like today's societies."

That sounds like a cop-out to me. To get from here to there, you will have to take concrete steps.. and might even have to POUR some more concrete in the process.. even if YOU have a way of getting there 'cold turkey', and feel you can be free and clear of anything unsustainable.. you are going to be connected to people who are still either feeding you or supporting you in some way who are tied to this resource hog of a culture we're in.

'Sustainability' is an ideal, and yes, it is mine as well. But getting up and clear of a mudbath requires a lot of contact with more mud. We're all typing on computers here, using god-knows what kind of fuels between your workstation and mine. Does that contradiction just make you nuts, or do you somehow accept that this is the best way we have at the moment to get ideas to each other, and it has some slim chance of helping us move in positive directions?


Yes, it will take some number of steps to get there. However, we need to first design the "there" and then figure out how to achieve it. I don't think switching modes of personal transport is a step on the way, since it appears to get us no closer.

No, the contradiction of using computers to get the word out doesn't drive me nuts. But I don't think the message is getting across, anyway. There are plenty of people (perhaps the majority) on forums like this who do see a limit here or there but think we can fix one problem in isolation, without taking on the whole set of problems. The problem is always prefixed with the assumption that we need to change as little as possible about our lives or about how society is organised. Let's switch to the same amount of renewable energy, let's drive around in TREVs, let's manufacture fuel from algae, and so on. Rarely do we see posts about "let's organise our societies, economies and lives differently, to fit in better with the rest of nature and only use the resource and energy budget that the sun earth system provides annually, and without destroying habitats or ecosystems".

What does sofistek suggest we do. Sit around and wring our hands together: "OH ME! OH MY! WE'RE ALL DOOMED!" Some of us need something to do on our way out. An electric hearse might come in handy for getting the bodies to the mass grave, don't you think softi? I've already eaten the horse.

What should we do?

At some point, our "leaders" need to begin public discussions on conservation and population limits. Wouldn't that at least be a start? (And it wouldn't cost much).

Might just help the planet (possibly the only place in the universe with "intelligent" life) as well.

Regards, Matt B

Yes, but you're kinda changing the subject, though, Joe.. err, Matt.

Those conversations DO need to happen, and leadership would be downright brilliant to take the lead there.. but Ghung is asking 'whether people designing efficient next-gen vehicles should just hang it up and decide there will be no new vehicles, because all vehicles are awful.'

Bob, or, Joe-cool

Hey "Joe-Cool", (Dang! Never would have got that one!)

I'm all in favor of less-is-more, of technological advances; I'm always blown away by innovation. But I think my 150cc motorbike has more of a place for the foreseeable future (particularly if population keeps rising).

I realise I'm probably the dumbest person who visits here (lowest IQ), however I just don't "see" a shift to next-gen vehicles any time soon, for all sorts of reasons.

Clunkers anyone?

Regards, Matt B

"I'm probably the dumbest person who visits here (lowest IQ)"

Ahh, don't say that. I'm not one who buys into IQ anyway. The ones I worry about here are the mean ones. Antisocial is the foolishness I think brings out the stupid in people. I know I can be pretty sarcastic, but I hope I'm not a jerk about it.

I think keeping good machines running is going to be essential, and if you've got a bike that's durable, cheap to run and repairable, I'm all for it. We've got a Subaru that I call the 'Snow Flea'.. if you can't move in the snow around here, you're sunk, and 'Priscilla' (Her other name, after an Aussie Flick) will just hop out of snowbanks like they're not there.

I don't expect our habituated public to buy into this stuff, but I do think this is a useful direction for us to be reaching for with the next fleet of wheels.

Me, I'm looking forward to learning brazing, and doing it with bike parts and old Treadmill Motors.

Bob (and Joe Cool, to be totally candid, is a Pseudonym for Snoopy.)

Thanks Bob,

Droughts and flooding rain over here! (Oz)

I've been visiting TOD for more than two years and certainly taken comfort in feedback from folk such as yourself. However, that my fellow Joes and Janes (and myself, to be honest) continue on their merry way still keeps me up at night. And that our leaders can't agree on even a 5% carbon reduction doesn't help.

Long term, sure, bring on the Trev and I'll hold out hope that the transition to it will be... kind. But - short of a black-solar-swan (or such) - I fear PO may best us in the near future. I'm trying not to have a doomerish outlook, honestly, but the alternative solutions just don't do it for me. The scale still seems enormous; and growing every year.

Then again, general travel's a bit over-rated anyway.

Regards, Matt B

PS. Sunsets, warm nights and good company do it for me. Cheers :)

And that our leaders can't agree on even a 5% carbon reduction doesn't help.

On the contrary, they agree absolutely on a 5% reduction. They know it satisfies the public's need to see them 'doing something', while at the same time keeps the donations rolling in from Big Carbon.
All their lobbyist mates (half of them former staffers or former elected persons) can't be wrong, and wouldn't lie. Would they?...

sofistek suggests we all stop dreaming of continuing BAU and, instead, start working towards living sustainably. I realise that most people don't yet understand what that means and don't yet realise that it might not be half as bad as they think.

1) GROWTH of the energy supply allows growth.

2) growth of population reduces energy flow per capita.

-Irrelevant to collapse of free markets. Total growth is what matters. I would argue we in the West could use a big hit to energy throughput. Maybe it's the socialist in me speaking, but we are wasteful at other's expense.

3) Declining EROEI reduces net energy flows.

-Not if volumes go up. This is not the case in oil now (though Iraq is a wild card here, temporarily). But it is the case in natural gas and coal and renewables and, if we would allow it, advanced nuclear.

4) Not all energy forms are equally useful. Converting energy to more useful forms reduces EROEI.

-Oh yeah, useful for what? What if I want to power an elecrical motor? Then what is more useful, gasoline, or natural gas? I'd say they're about equal. Our infrastrucutre and practices are built around gasoline. That is a matter of history, there is nothing binding there. I don't think we need as many cars as we have now. Industries will arise that capitalize on those resources that are available.

5) Transitioning to a new energy infrastructure needs a lot of energy.
-It can be done incrementally. Many things DON'T take lots of energy. Park and Rides, for example, will probably be the stopgap for suburbia... all that takes is a year of wartime conversion of auto plants to bus factories. It would be a decrease in energy used without descreasing useful work done.

6) No one is admitting there is a problem.
-I am. Why do you think I am here? My post above, and most of my comments, clearly state something to the effect of "None of this is to say that a transition will be easy or painless." It takes economic pain to change behavior.
-It's a little bit naive to think that TPTB aren't all over this... you think they're stupider than all us? Blind? Nation building in Iraq to save the poor Muslims from themselves? It's just not politically expedient to speak the devil's name yet... one day soon it will be.

There is nothing which can replace oil (except for a couple of percent)

Diminishing Returns of Fossil Fuel Energy Invested

Nonsense - there is of the order of 10,000 times as much energy available from renewable sources as we currently use from fossil fuels.

Why do you think it's "available"? Is none of it being used, at the moment?

Will it take resources to utilise, and at what cost? What is the safe scale for such energy?

Is energy our only problem?

Nonsense. Thorium. Coal and natural gas and uranium and renewables and conservation (and temporary economic decline?) till we get there.

Also, no one above is arguing that we need to replace the ammount of oil, and certainly not the BTU content, of the oil we use today. The three cubic mile image is helpful to consider the depth of the hole we dug... but the ladder out will have to be thinner. There is no reason we have to do things in the future the same way we do them today (see TREV) or even do them at all (relocation, restructuring of distribution networks).

Also, other types of conservation and poop reduction are not mutually exclusive with techno fixes.

And by poop reduction I do mean pop., or population, reduction... hmmm.


As far as I know current US power production is in the neighbourhood of 7 Trillion W (7 Tera Watts). Admittedly, about 50% of that is from Coal. However, ~20% of that is from Nuclear. Nuclear is not a load-following power source. A good fraction of the nuclear is wasted at night because nuclear power plants run best (and so do most gas-fired power plants) at close to 100% of their rated load.

Using some assumptions for how much power is available, we can estimate about 10 terawatt hrs at night are wasted (perhaps an overestimate by a little but I want to keep the numbers easy). That is 1/7th of the electrical power generation of the US at night for 10 hours. Since it takes ~62 watt-hrs/km for this very efficient electric car, which works out to about 100 watt-hrs per mile. If we assume that electric cars need about 50 miles per day and the average electric car is two times less efficient (or 200 watt-hrs per mile) that works out to about 10 kwhrs/day (1e4 watts )per electric car). If there are 10 terawatts-hrs (1e13) (of surplus power available that means that there is enough power for 1e9 electric cars (1 billion). Since there are only 100 million cars in the US and not likely EVER to be 1 billion cars in the US, there is arguably enough power ALREADY to do the job.

Even assuming that I am off by a factor of 10 (certainly possible given my rough numbers), there is still enough surplus power for any reasonable number of electric cars for the foreseeable future. Even if a fair number of the coal fired power plants were shut down in favor of natural gas, nuclear or wind, I still believe that there is plenty of night time electric power available (NOT peak!!) to keep all the electric cars running, even if everyone had one (not likely).

I think that this is good news.

Most people like good news.


Some electricity will be saved from the refining and distribution of liquid fuels. It all adds up.

You do know that energy savings are not fungible, right? Ie, if you eat fewer boxes of Cap'n Crunch this month, it doesn't translate into the nation's power grid being any less affected. Nor does it lessen the amount of oil being imported from the ME if, say, you use the television less and do your laundry by hand.

It doesn't all add up any more than loose change in jars (all over the country) adds up. While it might be a lot collectively, collecting it all together from disparate sources and in different forms isn't a practicality.

While it might be a lot collectively, collecting it all together from disparate sources and in different forms isn't a practicality.

We already do this. Let's see: Wind, Solar, NatGas, Hydro, Nuclear, Coal, Geothermal, CoGen, Methane from landfills, Fuel Oil, Etc., etc. The grid seems to not care. It's all good. Some is better!

You do know that energy savings are not fungible, right? Ie, if you eat fewer boxes of Cap'n Crunch this month, it doesn't translate into the nation's power grid being any less affected. Nor does it lessen the amount of oil being imported from the ME if, say, you use the television less and do your laundry by hand.

Please clarify this. It makes no sense. Are you saying that there is no decrease in energy saving across forms, namely fuel and electricity? How then is that an argument against running more transportation on electricity??? Are you telling me that using an electric car instead of an ICE doesn't save imported oil??? No one said anything about television or laundry; we were talking about EVs... that's a red herring above (and not a very well disguised one either).

"Please clarify this"

Ie, if you eat fewer boxes of Cap'n Crunch this month, it doesn't translate into the nation's power grid being any less affected. Nor does it lessen the amount of oil being imported from the ME if, say, you use the television less and do your laundry by hand.

Fungible: "a commodity that is freely interchangeable with another in satisfying an obligation"

Until we're all hooked into the Friedmanesque "smart grid" and there's only one form of energy used/sold/made/distributed/generated (in the case of this grid, electricity) energy savings from one format of energy don't necessarily translate into those same savings being reaped/used/accumulated elsewhere.

There were several examples given to illustrate how savings in disconnected places/things don't translate to overall efficiency elsewhere.

Let me explain this differently: suppose you and your neighbor both live on the shores of the same pond. If you pour a bucket of water into the pond, and gets blown this way and that, or flows, you neighbor might end up with some molecules from your discarded laundry water in whatever s/he takes from the pond. In like manner, if DDR Springs sets up a water bottling operation there and draws a few hundred thousand gallons out per day, you and your neighbor (along with everyone else living along the shore of that pond) will notice the water level going down -- unless somehow the pond gets magically refilled.

The same does not apply if DDR Springs is using a pond far away from the pond that you and your neighbors enjoy.

In like manner, saving firewood in Wisconsin (and wearing sweaters more) doesn't translate to gasoline savings in Massachusetts or California -- or anywhere.

Different energy streams, very little interaction between them.

Any questions?

The "it all adds up!" meme is the overshoot naysayers what the song "every sperm is sacred" is to Catholics.

Bullshit. My comment was simple. Less electricity needed to support the massive transportation fuel infrastucture makes that same electricity available for other uses. Electricity = Electricity. I'm off grid. If I save electricity by using CFLs or by turning things off, that frees up electricity for other uses, and it does add up, as in I can charge my EV today because I turned the TV off. Too complicated for you?

(Bullshit? Does Mommy know you use that word?)

The examples you gave were electricity. Much energy is consumed in the west in forms other than electricity. Do you need examples?

Sorry, buddy, energy savings here don't always add up to effects there.

Mommy's dead but, despite her amazing education, bullshit was one of her favorite terms. Our debate is pointless, and I think you'll agree. Any energy we save, regardless of what form it takes, will quickly be sucked up by the BAU monster, either in the form of consumption or by the absurd economic model that we all support to some extent. This is why as much as possible, I try to be my own energy company. It's the only thing that makes sense to me.

Condolences on the untimely passage of your mother.

I agree with you on how the BAU monster will relentlessly exploit whatever's left on the table in terms of energy, materials, or personnel. It will be Jevon's Paradox material by the supertanker. Improvements to fleet fuel efficiency in the USA have, rather predictably, led to (or enabled) there being more vehicles on the road and driven more with each passing year.

This is why rolling out more-efficient vehicles seems so much like kicking the can down the road. Rather than viewing PO as the problem, and things like EV's as the solution, we should be thinking of excessive energy use as being the problem, and PO being the solution to it.

Oh, what have we here, an outside context, off-the-grid, out-of-the-box thinker? You mean wanton energy use is the problem, a vector sum of [number of users X consumption rate], and not diminishing oil supplies from our foreign "friends"? And PO is a solution? I'm sure all of the Earth's critters will now stand and graciously applaud you, our new Snow White!

Meanwhile, "high ho, high ho, it's off to work I go...."

D3PO, thanks for the warmth and fuzziness! Err, PO is not so much a “solution” as it is a ton of bricks that's about to land on us .. though it can be considered a solution to the problem of profligate FF energy usage among us, the Yeast People of the west.

On another blog, people have defined the “new rich” as keeping your job.

Since there are only 100 million cars in the US

There are over 250 million passenger vehicles in the United States

One of the factors that has been brought to my attention is the electric utilities rely on the low demand overnight to allow their transformers to cool down. If the transformers are still hot in the morning, they will not be able to handle the daytime peak.

In reality, the electric grid would have to be upgraded to handle the load.

Only about half of that 250M passenger vehicle fleet (in the USA) gets used for duo- or solo-occupied commuting. The rest are 4-ton suburban assault vehicles (so every soccer mom/dad can imagine being in the military), cars that grandpa uses for church & groceries once weekly, etc.

No doubt it's well-known by EV fans & detractors alike that charged batteries, if not kept in a high state of readiness via trickle/maintenance charging, will self-discharge at a periodic rate, expressed as a percentage/time number.

No doubt the number would boggle the mind, but has anyone tried to figure out the energy losses of 250M EV battery packs all self-discharging when the vehicles are left parked and not hooked to a charger? Wouldn't the generation capacity given over just to fighting these losses (which appear to be impossible to recover) be somewhere in the gigawatts?

Since numbers are not my forté in the way that intelligent speech wasn't GWB's, could someone please proof this?

This page gives TREV's battery as being a 40kg LI-polymer type holding 5.5kWh worth of juice:

This page gives us the LI-polymer battery's typical energy density of 130~200 Wh/kg and typical self-discharge rate of 5%/month:

At this discharge rate, a single TREV would lose 275 Wh/month when starting its discharge from a fully-charged state. (5500 Wh x 0.05)

250,000,000 TREV's would then collectively be losing 68,750,000,000 Wh/month under the same circumstances.
(275 Wh/month x 250M)

There being approx 720 hours per month (24 x 30), the 68.75 GWh/month loss rate works out to 95,586,111 Wh/hour loss rate. At 80% power plant capacity factor, that works out to 119,357,638 W generation capacity needed just to maintain all those 250M batteries in a high state of charge.

Just for extra credit .. let's go with the mid-2000's level of gasoline usage at 400M gallons/day. Applying that to our 250M vehicles in our passenger fleet, we get 1.6 gallons per vehicle per day. At the average vehicle efficiency of 20mpg, that's 32 miles per day per vehicle. The TREV team reported that while crossing the country, they had to recharge roughly every 100 km (62 miles). Assuming that's the same driving style of most of the US public, we're looking at each TREV battery getting fully half of its effective driving distance used each day .. or 2.75KW/h out of each TREV battery.

Calculating that usage rate for 250M vehicles gives us 687,500,000,000 Wh/day needed to keep up with the fleet's collective energy use.

Where that fits into our existing usage & capacity, I can't quite tell.

While you're at it, why not calculate the amount of fossil fuels lost to spillage and evaporation each month.

5%/month self-discharge is nothing to get worried about. It basiaclly means that if you drive your car once a week, you'll lose just over a percent of capacity, if you keep the batteries fully topped up all the time. Big hairy deal.

Your calculation of 32M/day (51km/day) fits nicely with the estimate by many of a daily use of <40 miles (64km/day) for US passenger vehicles.

If TREV uses 62Wh/km, that's 3162Wh/day (assuming 32M/51km/day). For the fleet, it's 790,500,000,000Wh/day (looks huge, but as I calculated elsewhere in the thread, that's not much different to 250M people boiling a kettle once a day). Of this, if left fully charged and unused, the TREV fleet would lose 7,905,000,000Wh/day.

If the US grid provided 3,836 billion kilowatthours (Kwh) of electricity per year, then the total useage by a 250 million-strong TREV fleet per year would be 7.5% ((790500000000*365)/3836000000000000*100) of US generating capacity. And most of this would be used at night, during off-peak periods.

When compared to the motor efficiency (>90%), battery round-trip efficiency (~85%, depending on chemistry) , and charger efficiency (~90%), all of which are damn good efficiencies when compared to the Promethean 'ideal' of simply burning stuff (Heat Engine), the 1% loss to self-discharge isn't nearly the issue you seem to make it out to be.

Bellistner – in a word, “sweet”. Thank you for finishing the numbers.

Too bad the world isn't ready for these yet. I have ridden in small cars before and have noted how disgustingly overtly violence-suggestive the other drivers (of heavier) vehicles get, presumably because they've been addled by too much Starbucks plus Viagra plus WWF on the flatscreen. (though it's a toss-up as to whether they're being aggressive or really, really stupid)

Something like TREV would be ideal in a place where the public transit system can handle any major trip and where an automobile is needed only for local transportation and where charging capability is universally available.

Quoth Matt:
Our #1 job is to REPLACE our existing coal fired power plants, NOT to add new power consumers to the grid.
"You cannot do just one thing."

There's more than one problem facing the US, UK and Europe.  The problems are legion, and many of them are related.  Trying to come up with perfectly compartmentalized and independent solutions to all of them is the stupid hard way to go about things.  Replacing coal with wind and nuclear doesn't help if somebody else decides to liquefy coal to replace petroleum.
No one can tell me motorists would be sufficiently disciplined to re-charge only at night, when there is still spare capacity available from power plants.
The plan is to build a whole heap of brand new powerplants, and you think this is NOT the time to budget for additional capacity?  What planet are you from?

Discipline is easy to manage, without anything like enforcement.  You charge a lot for instant gratification and discount the overnight feed.  The fees paid by people without self-restraint support those who help the system work.  People do what they want, pay the going rate and it all works out.
This would also mean we swap oil dependency with coal dependency.
I just thought you were trying to get OFF coal?

Coal-electric isn't that bad compared to petroleum-ICEV if you handle it right.  An IGCC powerplant like Wabash River hits 40% efficiency, compared to the well-to-wheels figure of about 12.3% for an ICEV.  If you scavenge CO2 from the IGCC syngas (pre-combustion, part of the acid-gas scrubbing you do anyway to remove H2S) and pump it underground, your thermal efficiency drops but your gCO2/kWh goes down too.  If you are more worried about energy security, GB could use CO2 for EOR from the North Sea fields.  Burning oil in combined-cycle powerplants is far more efficient than burning it in ICEVs.  This lets you electrify, reduce oil use and NOT burn coal if you so desire.  And it comes out that way only if you stop viewing the various problems in isolation.

How do you charge a lot for charging during the day? How could you guarantee that only the high priced electricity is used for charging cars and that cars can't use the everyday electricity?

Was that 40% efficiency figure for coal mine to wheels? That sounds amazing.

> And where is all the extra electricity coming from to power ten million TREVs?

Ok, check the price of 10 mill SUV's vs 10 million TREVs.

Now see how much *de-centralized* solar you get for the difference in purchase price and fuel cost over the life-time of such a vehicle..

What numbers did you come up with?

My bicycle can't climb hills. But with an electric assist, it would.

The key to Trev's low energy consumption is the low mass---see the latest article on the Team Trev blog. Once you get the mass down, aerodynamics also becomes important. We do not yet have a good estimate of the drag coefficient. But at 90 km/h, Trev uses about 4000 W.

Either we all move to these little get-arounds at the same time, or forget it. A 300kg machine will always come off second best against a 2-tonne machine.

My daughter is eligible for a driver's license in a few years. No way I'd let her get around in one of these things. I don't care how cute or efficient they are.

Regards, Matt B

Does she get to choose a Scooter, Bike or Motorcycle if she wants one? How do those do against Trucks?

There are ways to drive defensively, to enforce traffic laws, and design road systems to make it reasonably safe for all travellers.

As with your coffee pot, the problem is the energy hogs, not the lightweight solutions that challenge them.

A nice thing about living where there is decent public transportation is that teens can get around by themselves without a car. Our family of five has one car between us all. (Plus 4 regular bikes, two electric bikes and a membership with a car-sharing service.) We have saved tens of thousands of dollars not buying our teens cars and not paying for their car insurance. (We do occasionally drive them places when the situation requires it.)

Since the accident rate is so high for teen drivers, they are actually safer (as is everyone else) not driving. A teenager in our city driving a car recently hit a father with his four-year-old son who were riding a bicycle. The son was okay, the father's back was broken. She was talking on her cell phone (illegal in our state) and ran a red light (also illegal.) Then she didn't stop after she hit the pair. (Illegal as well.) After a month, she turned herself in and faces many, many charges. Her life is now really messed up, all because she didn't have the maturity to operate a heavy, dangerous vehicle. (The father faces months of physical rehab.) I think it's better to wait to drive until one's judgment is more fully developed.

A nice thing about living where there is decent public transportation is that teens can get around by themselves without a car.

That is a key factor. People should not have to rely on having their own individual transportation to get around.

I used to ride wind-powered electric trains to work (I love to quote this to people who say, "We can't live without oil".) It worked just fine. Some people I know never learned how to drive because they never had the need to.

I was on one of these wind-powered trains when it hit a car that ran a red light. All we noticed was that it slowed down unusually fast and stopped between stations. The car was smashed flat.

I had a friend who was in the rail yards when a main-line locomotive came in that had just hit a car and killed four people. It didn't even scratch the paint on the locomotive. Size matters.

I think safety, when mixed with other vehicles that have much greater mass is a big onstacle to adoption. I'd love top own/drive an Apetera, but as long as it would have to share the roads with Ford Expeditions piloted by agressive drivers there is no way I'd do it. Vehicles have been getting heavier because people want to protect themselves from the other idiots on the road. The best way to do that is to be bigger and heavier than the other guy. Of course we know that this arms race is unsustainable, but that doesn't change the calculus of individual vehicle choice.

So the biggest, heaviest and hence safest option turns out to be a City Bus!


Back when diesel was cheap I knew a guy who drove a dump truck that wieghed 32000 pounds when fully loaded to run his personal errands.

He owned the truck and earned his daily living with it, and said that given the cost of owning and insuring a car just to drive it to the store occasionally, it was cheaper for him to do without a car.

The clincher for him was that he had been involved in several accidents with cars over the years and had always walked away with no injury to himself and only trivial damages to his truck.

Even today he would be able to drive such a truck (empty) an additional hundred miles a week for only about thirty to thirty five dollars worth of additional diesel and maybe another ten dollars for other variable expenses.

Given the fact that even a very economical car uses some gas and needs new tires, etc, occasionally, his savings were substantial.

Keeping this example in mind will help clarify the popularity of trucks among people who actually need one occasionally.

If you need a truck just one day a month, it may be cheaper to own one and use it as a daily driver than to own a much more effifient car and rent a truck for a day.

Most people who drive trucks tend to believe they are cheaper to own than cars.My guess is that this is true but I can't prove it.

Anyone remember the RUSH song "Red Barchetta"? It was based on a sci-fi short story of people wanting safer and safer cars (mandated by the gov't). The cars evolved into rolling personal tanks and the drivers, safe in their massive 'cars', took to the sport of driving the little cars off the road or smashing them. The little cars were deemed 'unsafe' and legislated off the road. The owner of the little red beauty kept his under wraps in the barn and took it out for clandestine joyrides. Great little story, great song.

I do think the US has passed the line where the little cars are unsafe. It's a real problem when the calculus of individual choice meets the laws of physics. Even if you want to do the right thing, you take on significant personal risk doing so. Bikes are the extreme, plus there's no protection from a punk that wants to bounce a bottle of the back of your head.

It's clear from looking at Europe where the fleet of road vehicles is smaller and lighter that the TREV-type of options are D.O.A. in the USA until the avg car size and speed is reduced. I think the best way to do this is through a carbon fee, but that's the policy wonk in me talking.

I do think the US has passed the line where the little cars are unsafe.

I think the US has passed the point where big cars are an affordable means of transportation. The people just haven't realized this yet. The alternatives are to drive small cars, or take public transportation. Where public transportation is unavailable, there are no alternatives.

Either we all move to these little get-arounds at the same time, or forget it.

This is, of course both impossible, and a short-sighted argument.

A vehicle is a 15 to 20 year commitment cradle to grave, either for you or the downstream owners. Ask yourself these questions:

In 10 years, are there going to be as many large vehicles on the road?

I don't think so.

In 10 years, what is the resale on an SUV likely to be compared to a hybrid or other efficient vehicle?

I'd bet that the percentage of retained value will be greater for the hybrid (and yes, I even believe that despite battery replacement.)

In ten years, are we likely to be driving the same types of distances we do now, either for a commute or for frequent visits?

Again, I'd bet on shorter distances.

Will we be able to finance large luxury vehicles in ten years as easily as we do now?

That isn't the future I see.

There is indeed a slightly greater risk of dying in a car accident in such a vehicle. But the risk is not that much greater than for all car traffic- your SUV can be hit by a bus or truck, you know, or flip due to their high centre of gravity. Driving is the single most dangerous thing we do; yet no one suggests moving to a more urban, walkable area for the health and safety of their children, or to reduce total miles traveled (and hence chance of accident) for the same reason. But risk of accident is the first thing big car fans reach for. The fact that the math likely evens out with a small car driven fewer miles against a big car driven more miles is not something that is seriously discussed or considered.

This vehicle would meet about 95% of the requirements of my family of 3. Just about the only thing it won't do is take all 3 of us to visit my mother-in-law in Peterborough.

Someone would have to stay home.

How soon can I get one?

Close to one million cars were sold in Australia last year (what recession?). A very high percentage of those were six-cylinder guzzlers. I have two myself, both almost ten years old now. It will be perfectly and economically viable to keep these cars maintained for another decade, compared with selling them (for little) for something "better".

Indeed, my local mechanic has never been so busy (I have to book in with him three weeks in advance these days).

Where will we be in ten years? Lots of big, old cars. 'Cause we all know oil at plus $100 a barrel just isn't a goer.

Regards, Matt B

For the record, I've stated before I'm all in favor of solar-powered golf carts, or whatever. I work from home and on the odd occasion I find myself in peak-hour traffic, I'm horrified.

And most of my commuting is on a 150cc motorbike.

Indeed, my local mechanic has never been so busy (I have to book in with him three weeks in advance these days).

I wonder how busy he'll be in ten years if BAU continues. All the modern cars with idel-shutoff, variable displacement, variable valve timing, and all the works are going to wear out. They might be more efficient that cars of ten years ago, but the maintainence costs are phenomenal (I was quoted $160 for a replacement water pump for a 35yo car a few weeks ago. Imagine what the cost will be for a 2005 Mondeo fuel pump in 2020!).

Thank the gods for stuff like this.

You know, without being able to drive anywhere we want, pretty much anytime, even down to cruising for cheeseburgers on Friday nights, that American Dream thing just wouldn't be the same.

[insert sound of can being kicked down road]

Nice find Phil - when are they going on sale :-)

unfortunately it's another high minded, voluntary, non-commercial type of operation :-) they're out to set a good example and hope that the people who actually manufacture cars will take on their idea.

How much did it cost?
The prototype car cost us about $40,000 (AUD) in materials, parts and machining to build. The most expensive item was the battery, which cost around AUD $10,000 (AUD). Custom built motors are also expensive. In mass production, however, this type of car should be significantly cheaper than a conventional car.

When can I buy one?

We don't know. Trev was designed as a prototye car. Our aim was to demonstrate the concept of a low-mass, efficient commuter car. We first displayed Trev at the 2005 World Solar Challenge, and in 2007 we drove Trev from Darwin to Adelaide. But we need someone else to take the ideas and produce a commercial version of the car. We are happy to work with anyone that is interested in developing plans, kits or manufacturing prototypes.

I put this in the same category as the spray-on solar panels and flying cars. Let me know when it's actually on sale. Until then, stop teasing me.

If you want a revolution, don't expect to find it stocked on the storeshelves.. you might have to explore into somewhat less authorized waters.

There is the Twike, which is available for some 20k British pounds (only price I saw today..), and a whole slew of little startups doing Velomobiles and Ebike conversions and EZgo's..

..but if you need to buy it from GM to be convinced it's really real, then I think you're barking up the wrong tree. (BAU, BAU, BAU!)

Woohoo, it's a Sinclair C5...

Sorry. Not going to do the job.

Solectria & APC are perhaps some of the better companies to look at. They've built electric vehicles that people actually bought and really used. Solectria managed a 4 person vehicle capable of 375 miles (better than my petrol car) per charge ... in 1996... using NiMH batteries.

Lipolys have approximately 2-3 times the energy density of nimh batteries. Which would potentially be a range of 800-900 miles.

As for specifically designed electric cars you can actually buy now (for a reasonable price. i.e. remotely capital cost competitive with petrol or Deisel) and which are practical?


Maybe you should re-read my first and last sentences, then.

We've seen them work, and know they can. People with EV-1's and RAV4's were desperate to keep them when the companies chose to recall them. The RAVs and Pickups (Chevy S10 had an electric run, IIRC) that are still out there are getting good prices on ebay sales when they come available.

What I said was basically 'Don't be surprised that they're not on the shelves. Be ready to have to fight for your EV solutions at this point.' And like PV, you might have to wait for the economy of it to pay off.

This demand that it be cheap is another offshoot of our century of living with such cheap energy. Tough Luck.

This 2011 Aptera 2e (not available yet) is kind of cute:


MeyersMotors is taking orders for the "Duo":


The "Moose" van as well as the "Triac" and "Buckshot from Green Vehicles:


Same problem I mentioned.

Either not practical, or too expensive.

Too expensive; $80k+

Impractical; one passenger, no storage space, short range, too slow for normal traffic etc.

So far the only practical and reasonably priced vehicles are two wheeled. Bicycles and scooters, and they only appeal to a small percentage of the population.

Maybe next year there will be a flood.

Practical and Reasonable, I guess, will be up to the lifestyle of the beholder.

If you want to limit your choices to what your perception of what the 'Mainstream' will accept, or are also insisting that you will refuse to change some terms to make a different system work, then you are one of the lucky many who will work to keep us from shifting this system towards something that can carry us further down the road.

Wow. Where did you get $80K ? the website clearly says $16,995 retail .. under Moose/Economical. I mean, I hate to think that was intentional misinformation, but with that string of snipes, it's a hard suspicion to erase.

60 mile range.. remembering that this covers some 80% of US daily car use, and which is predominantly driver-only, not even a single passenger.

Sounds Reasonable and Practical to me. (There are EV conversions that go full hwy speeds, if you need that.. or if you just want that.. )

Add a 2kw PV system to charge this thing and you'll never have to buy fuel or pay for charging for years, for under $25K (van and PV). I like that idea alot. And, with the $$ you save you can upgrade the batteries in a few years increasing your range. The current 60 mile range would cover 90% of my driving.

Even micro electric vehicles will demand quite a lot of electricity for recharging.If they appear in sufficient numbers there will be a greater need for baseload power.

Outside of coal burning generation we don't seem to be doing too well at providing that at the moment.

for sure it's a depressing state of affairs so far, but if we decided we really wanted to, i've no doubt we could build renewable generating capacity as fast as we could bring mini-eVs in.

even as we stand, you could bring in plenty of these and since most of them could be charging at non-peak periods you wouldn't push the capacity of the grid much. and even with our coal dominated grid you'd still reduce C02 emissions overall, as they only use 1/5 the energy of a normal car.

so much potential, just need some new and inspiring leaders ready for a serious change of direction..

Its not like we don't have an excess of "baseload" (cough) power overnight in any case, when these things would usually be recharging - which puts in perspective what a ridiculous concept baseload (as its usually defined) is anyway - we wouldn't be pushing the capacity of the grid at all, unless people tried to recharge during the evening (cooking) peak (which hopefully smart meter roll outs will make near impossible)...

People forget that we were encouraged to put in those electric water heaters in the 50s, 60s and 70s so that the coal fired plants would keep spinning at night... and then the factories stayed open all night... thus creating the concept of "baseload". If we replace all those electric hot water heaters - and of course a lot of our factories have gone... well... The recharging car becomes the new "baseload" doesn't it? ;-)

Electric engineers think it`s a big problem:

The myth that thousands of EVs will seamlessly fold into the power grid by charging at night, using otherwise idle generating plants and power grids, is breaking down. Utilities worry that EV charging could black out the neighborhoods of some early EV adopters and give the emerging technology a black eye. Policy experts worry that the change in the grid's use could unintentionally muck up their green energy plans.

so much potential, just need some new and inspiring leaders ready for a serious change of direction..

No Phil, whats needed is some far-sighted investors, a few good engineers (nudge, nudge)and some willing customers.

I was surprised at the $40,000 build price for a proto-type which could translate to a $15-20K price tag, competitive with a Getz or nice Honda of the two wheeled variety. Someone in China is probably already palnning production.

Low-mass electric vehicles such as Trev require a lot less energy than the cars most of us are using now, and the cost of recharging from wind power, even at the South Australian price of 25 c/kWh, is about 1.5 c/km---much less than the cost of fossil fuels for conventional cars. The increase in demand for electricity is not large; if all city and urban car travel in Australia was done in electric versions of small to medium conventional cars, electricity use in Australia would increase by about 10%. With low-mass vehicles, the increase in electricity use would be much less. If I was to do my daily 35 km commute in Trev, my electricity use would increase by about 2.2 kWh per day---an increase of about 15%. My CO2 emissions would drop by 5 kg per day.

Electric vehicles are clean if EV users pay for their energy to be generated from renewable sources. As the amount of renewable power on the grid increases, the increasing variability in supply can be handled by smart charging systems that aim to match charging time to the availability of renewable power.

.... even at the South Australian price of 25 c/kWh, is about 1.5 c/km---much less than the cost of fossil fuels for conventional cars.

I can assure you the Government will impose a road tax on EVs. How else will they maintain the roads? Asphalt will become very expensive.

Light cars will mean the roads will last much, much longer, reducing road maintenance costs considerably. It's really a pity in the US that we're not charging cars a road tax by weight right now. (We do it somewhat with trucks.)

Institutions and politics can really screw this up. Some US states want to impose per mile taxes on cars (monitor the odometers). Of course the per mile charge is not a function of vehicle weight. So the micro-car subsidizes the Hummers. Of course the road departments only see it as revenue, they got hurt on fixed (per galon) gasoline taxes, which have gone down due to a combination of inflation and more efficient fleets, so they want to be sure you can't game the system by driving a small efficient vehicle. Of course the obvious solutions, like charging by vehicle weight, or raising fuel taxes are politically unthinkable.

Taomom wrote: “Light cars will mean the roads will last much, much longer ..”

Are there any good sources on this? Most of what seems to be on the web says that moisture plus the aging of bitumen-based binders (they become brittle within just a few years) is the primary cause of road deterioration. Heavy vehicles tend to damage the edges of paved roads disproportionately.

Edit: forgot to add ~ the easy way to see exactly how much longer roads last with lighter traffic would be to check the condition of older paved roads that get no traffic at all (best-case scenario).

Previous studies have found that trucks place heavy loads on highway pavement, which lead to significant road damage, therefore resulting in increased highway maintenance costs nationwide.

The constant pounding of heavy vehicles is more of a factor in highway degredation in most areas than weathering. The sections of the Autobahn in Germany that were built to carry the exteme loads of wartime traffic have required much less maintanence than roads in the US that are not nearly as thick. As a highway engineer, I saw numerous studies that indicated that increasing road thickness standards by as little as 15%, or reducing gross per wheel weight by as much in the US would nearly double roadway lifespans where heavy traffic is an issue. Areas with extreme weather still will benifit from thicker roads or reduced loads. This is one reason most states charge higher taxes on heavy vehicles. The next time you travel on an interstate where truck traffic is limited to certain lanes, look at the condition of those lanes compared to lanes restricted to lighter vehicles.

Thanks Ghung. And now my task is to wait for TREV to appear on the market and think up ways to abbreviate "Jevons Paradox Bait" so it fits onto a custom license plate.

Then again, this doesn't look so bad:


Someday we'll have the best of both worlds:

Oh, wait a cotton-picking minute here please. The assumption that big, heavy truck traffic can be replaced by small, lightweight EV traffic somehow implies that the haulage tasks currently performed by big, heavy trucks will be replaced by something else.

Does the “roads will last longer” argument imply that lightweight, tiny EV's will do a better job hauling, say 40,000 lbs of cold lettuce from Simi Valley to NYC (or, to be completely appropriate, a couple billion tons of coal per year to the power plants providing the juice to charge all the the EV's) than those big, heavy trucks that are supposedly ruining the pavement?

No doubt an Autobahn-type road can be built very, very well .. but the quality of that type of road doesn't usually extend past its own off-ramps. Very few of us live directly along the Autobahn. If the highways are in perfect shape, but the local roads are hopelessly potholed and unmaintained, small vehicles like this will be even less appropriate on local roads than are SUV's.




The one thing this board needs is more charts showing exactly stuff like this.

Wonder what the range of those Smith Electric Truck things is and what the EROI is like when they're hauling coal to the same power plants that are charging the truck batteries?

Coal plants in the USA have their own rail sidings, and coal goes straight from the cars (some of which are rolled upside-down to empty them) into their storage piles.

The EROI of electrifying the railroads would not be all that impressive, but it would make the rails independent of petroleum and allow power from wind, nuclear, or almost anything else without further modification.  As a way of improving energy security, it would have few peers.

Now you're moving us toward the Electrified Rail discussion.

Maybe that should be another day.

Is that one being saved for one of those "not gonna happen" discussions? Well, actually, it /could/ take place in the right country, but most of the industrialized west would never make it a priority. Sigh.

Switzerland and Sweden have done some. The Russians Electrified the Trans Siberian some years back.
US Electric Freight is I believe limited to a Coal run in the SW somewhere.

Alan from Big Easy is point-man on this topic.

I'd guess that it probably will happen, but it's already way too late in coming. We Yanks like these things to ride in like the Cavalry, after half the people are already dead, but the band decides it's at least heroic enough to play some good music for the occasion. (Think of the Pipe/Drum tune in Little Big Man, if you will)

Sigh, no more, Ladies, sigh no more..
Men were decievers ever;
One foot at sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never!

So sigh not so, but let them go
And be ye blithe and bonny;
Converting all your songs of Woe
into 'Hey, Nonny Nonny!' - Much Ado about Nothing

Someone on another blog mentioned having read that the amount of money spent on bailing out Wall Street and GM would have paid for electrified rail to every burgh in the USA with population above 5K humans.

Did not get a link.

So nice to see we've got our priorities right and that we're focused on the important stuff *cough*

Is Russia now part of the west?

There is a difference between surface wear of asphalt roads and sub-surface damage of concrete roads. For the latter, damage has traditionally been modeled as a function to the 5th power of vehicle weight (per axle loading), which means 18-wheelers should pay 10,000 times more than a car for road up-keep.

There is additional damage due to dynamic loading. There are studies (trucking-favored) which indicate that larger trucks would be possible if only you had "road friendly" suspension enhancements.

Oddly, a quick Google used to return a stack of solid articles and studies about this. Now you get less pertinent data and only abstracts for pay-sites at that.

There are plenty of engineering references about designing for expected loads, and that impacts underlayment design as well as the surface material depth.

Some references here:

Thanks for the links!

My link above has an outline of some interesting ongoing studies including:

Effect of Climate Change on Transportation Flows and Inland Waterways due to Climate-Induced Shifts in Crop Production Patterns

And this:

Analysis of Freight Railroad Fuel Efficiency with Comparisons to Waterway and Truck Transportation

Cars do only a trivial amount of damage to primary roads.

Nearly all the cost of maintaing pavement is due to the damages done by trucks,which commonly are allowed to wiegh up to 16,000 pounds per axle.

If TREV is only using 62Wh/km, then for the 'average' Aussie commute (<60km), you'd only need 3.7kWh. This can be generated by a 1kW Solar PV system just about everywhere except Melbourne and points south.

that's a very impressive comparison Bellistner. once you think super small and efficient you can solve peak oil and climate change in one very cost effective stroke.. say $10k for the solar panels and let's guess $20k for the car. then you have clean and free commuting transport all year round.

a few caveats of course, but plenty of potential! can solve peak oil and climate change in one very cost effective stroke...

Since our government is in full peak oil denial mode

Report Card 2009 (part 1) - Energy Policy - Has the Federal Government prepared for declining oil production?

we are going to have food shortages when the first diesel shortages appear at the filling stations. What kind of cars we drive will be completely unimportant.

As mentioned above, we need to REPLACE all coal fired power plants with renewable energy systems, a gigantic job. We'll need industrial scale mass production to manufacture all components for these systems. We have to convert car factories to do this job. Forget cars.

Our pollies are now wasting every year, every month. The longer this delay lasts, the higher must be the capacity of these factories to make up the lost time because at one stage of this non-linear global warming there will be so many nasty and weird weather events that these will force us to give up our carbon based consumer society


Now get rid of that stupid ineffective coal powered motor and the batteries and put a smart 2 cycle rotary diesel engine in that body. Then you'd have something.

Even with 100% coal power, at 60 watthrs/km, you'd be putting far less carbon into the air with this item than any little scooter motor by a LONG shot..regular EVcars have already been shown to have this clear advantage to ICE.. and electric motors for EV's are rated for up to 1million lifetime miles. No Oil Changes, no air filters, no clogged carburators, no sparkplug replacements, no noise, no smoke..

For the record, a diesel vehicle would have to get in the neighborhood of 175 km per gallon(U.S.) to have equal CO2 emissions per km. According to my back of the envelope calculations based on US EIA numbers.

this may have a better chance ...

but it may be more like ...



In order to be "Sustainable" , it needs to be "Economically Viable".

My gut feeling is ... electric Cars are not going to happen, and I have 2 EV's.

Who would have thought an SUV in every garage would be "economically viable" 75 years ago? Not saying that EVs will follow the same "logic" but stranger things have happened.

In the US, unless they give this vehicle a new type designation which bypasses the required "safety features" of conventional autos, it will never get anywhere. Perhaps a fancy 4th car for the monied who need a tax write-off.

I don't know if anyone else thinks that the cars in the US are ridiculously over-engineered, to the extent that a simple and economical entry level car, such as could be bought 20 years ago, is illegal. You must have air bags, abs, esc (electronic stability controls), tire pressure monitors...all adding thousands to the cost and maintenance.

Hi daxr, type designation which bypasses the required "safety features" of conventional autos.... is illegal. You must have air bags, abs, esc (electronic stability controls), tire pressure monitors...all adding thousands to the cost and maintenance

You hit the nail on the head. I love this little car (assuming it could be mass produced for something less than $10K) and as jaywfitz mentioned it could also have some other type of small engine. This is a great idea looking for a problem that needs to be solved. Of course the problem is very real - except that few can see it.

Assuming that the US public actually understood PO/GW/etc and actually wanted to take appropriate action (not holding my breath), then we would drastically change the laws governing the use of public roads. We would mandate 40mph max speed governors in all vehicles. This would allow us to remove all the safety requirements that daxr listed (maybe seat belts and a roll bar would be OK). We would tax horsepower above some minimum at a very high rate - also vehicle weight for all private passenger type vehicles.

In addition to making mass transit more attractive, it would pave the way for greatly expanded use of bicycles, neighborhood electric vehicles and human powered vehicles. As it stands (in addition to the fact that the Trev would be illegal most places in the US) very few people would risk mixing it up with 2,000 lb autos that dominate the roads today.

Here is another neat vehicle (human powered):

"mandate 40mph max speed governors in all vehicles"

....... well lets try starting at 55 mph to save energy etc. How far will that go ?

Hi jmygann,

well lets try starting at 55 mph

Exactly, this is my point - we would cheerfully stone to death any politician who suggested a national max speed of 55 mph. There is no problem that needs to be solved with lower speed limits.

what possible reason would there be to lower speed limits. I could get downtown much sooner if the darn political hacks would just raise the speed limits. Heck, with fewer people working now the roads are less congested and I should have a god given right to go as fast as I want.

very few people would risk mixing it up with 2,000 lb autos that dominate the roads today

yeah, they do seem to just get bigger and bigger. Horsepower is another thing, everybody seems to want bigger more powerful engines, at least trends to 2007 or so.

In 1987 I had a Honda CRX that got 48 mpg on the highway, and even the civics and accords were pretty close to that. Looking at the new 2009 models was pretty disappointing...nothing nowadays gets that kind of mileage except the hybrids, barely. But they do have 2 or 3 times the horsepower!

My favorite vehicle back then was the Datsun pickup, circa 1970. It had just what you needed to cart stuff around and absolutely nothing else; an example of a beautifully engineered simple workhorse, easy to drive and cheap to maintain, that you couldn't legally build today.

Assuming that the US public actually understood PO/GW/etc and actually wanted to take appropriate action (not holding my breath), then we would drastically change the laws governing the use of public roads.

Why the discussion emphasis on laws or government change? It is up to people themselves, within the range of law, for what they can do, or not.

Sadly, I think the wallet factor is the biggest lever. When gasoline was US$4/gallon, then mass transit was standing room only, large hybrid sales, etc.

("You can't legislate morality." -- Barry Goldwater)

In the US, unless they give this vehicle a new type designation which bypasses the required "safety features" of conventional autos, it will never get anywhere.

It's my understanding that three wheeled vehicles like Trev do not have to meet all the safety requirements of conventional autos and instead are treated more like motorcycles?

A car like Trev could be a heck of a lot safer than a motorbike and plenty of people choose to ride them.

I get a little bemused by arguments against every possible solution to peak oil that assume that peak oil will be shocking and impossible to manage with conventional vehicles, but that all the solutions proposed will never work as they will never be able to share the roads with conventional vehicles.

Cars like Trev show that there are ideas to tackle peak oil out there - but that many of the problems are in our heads. I totally understand that in today's environment/culture that people don't want to trade in their SUV for a Trev. But when the impacts of declining oil supply unfold, and the choice is between getting to work or the shops in something like Trev or not getting to work and the shops at all, then I know that people will be willing to change their minds.

YES! And it extends beyond cars, this whole, "We've been doing X, but we can't do X anymore, but we also can't do Y, because of course, we're still doing X."

See my above comment on several similar comments, particularly "peak credit"... At some point when it becomes neccessary, people will be willing to write off past investments as losses and move on, be it investments in paper markers, investments in communities that are now worthless, careers, whatever. At a certain point you just can't keep pretending.

If the stock market crashed to 900 next week, there would still be people buying into it the next day, supporting businesses that are adapting to the new circumstances.

This is actually a really interesting discussion because it's sort of what is happening on a larger scale... a lot of possible solutions are not being implemented now because thery aren't viable yet. Most people still have "better" alternatives to completely chainging their lives.

None of this is to say that transitions are easy or painless.

None of this is to say that transitions are easy or painless.

mine was both, as well as very inexpensive and enjoyable, to travel by bicycle. But then I've always had good health and fitness, having a fairly physical job and decent genetics. My commute is 6 miles each way (comparable in time spent to an average car commute), though most errands are much shorter.

...all the solutions proposed will never work as they will never be able to share the roads with conventional vehicles.

I guess I am guilty of tending toward that, but its based on many years of experience and wishing for alternatives. A couple of years ago I had a car go out and was determined to not replace it with a 4 wheeler. I spent a couple of months looking at all the alternatives - 3 wheelers, electric and gas scooters, motorcycles, etc. One big factor is that I had at one time a daily-use motorcycle, and recall a constant level of nervousness riding it in traffic - always calculating escape routes and being prepared to react instantly for cars doing stupid things because they wouldn't see you or expect anything other than cars on the road, yet the only place legal to ride was on the road with the cars. The one natural advantage of having better sight and hearing (not being in an enclosed box) is definitely offset in this country by the helmet laws. I'm prone to think that all the scooters and three-wheel alternatives are in worse shape, as light low-horsepower vehicles in a heavy high-horsepower road system, lacking the maneuverability of a motorcycle.

In any case, I decided on a bicycle, which I have commuted on for 2 years now...the primary advantages being that I don't have to ride in the road with the cars, I have all the advantages of better sight and hearing and so am more aware of my surroundings as well as being more maneuverable than other traffic, I can choose freely the best routes on or off the road, and feel perfectly safe and in control.

A vehicle like the 3 wheeler would be great, but I think that we would have to see a big change in how people approach transportation, in the US at least. I can't imagine such a change myself, except by means of an economic shock sufficiently hard that it would also likely remove from people the means to buy 3 wheelers here...In the meantime, the humble bicycle get my vote as the best alternative, and the perfect peak-oil solution to most transportation needs, bar none.

Actually, I think you are wrong on that. In the US, because it has three wheels it is technically a motorcycle and not a car. As a result the legal requirements are much lower. My neighbor made himself a commuting vehicle to cut down on gas consumption. He chose a tadpole trike design in part because he knew he could not get a home-built certified if it had four wheels.

Have you asked him how it's working out?

I think a lot of people toy with this option ( I do..) , but want to hear how the 'road tests' are going for those already out there.


As far as I know it is working fine. At the moment the vehicle is in pieces in his shop, but he commuted with it all summer and fall until he decided to make some changes. It is basically a small motorcycle with a two wheel front suspension. It has a body made out of cedar strips that fully encloses the body and makes it aerodynamic. He tells me it is better than a prius with one person, but not as good as a prius with four in it. Apparently people generally respect him, and he hasn't felt uncomfortable driving it. Of course he is commuting on back roads in rural Vermont.

Not bad.

Of course, there's Rural VT and there's Rural VT. If he's in Brattleboro, I wouldn't expect much trouble.. but be careful going over to Keene NH, some of those pickup drivers are having trouble seeing smaller vehicles through all the 'Calvin peeing' stickers.


Hi jmygann,

Cool link. I guess it is kind of sad that we don't see a hotbed of this kind of development here in the land of "unexcelled innovation leadership". But, we do create really fearsome grills on the front ends of SUVs.

For those people that can't ride bicyles, and need a way to get around, a small 2 seater would work wonders, if it were cheap enough. As others have said, The US has to many extra things they have to add to a car for it to be safe, and that will undermine the whole part of being cheap and easy.

If It ever came to having one around here I would love to have one handy. I am very far on the underside of the income brackets and might not be able to buy one anyway, but I'd sure like to see them on the road.

It would make parking and being able to get out of a car a lot easier. It seems that parking spaces have gotten smaller lately.

Every time I see myself riding in a small car, I can hear the crunch of an accident in my head remembering several I have had when other people have hit me. That is one reason getting past the US safety laws will be hard for the newer small car designs.


- It is large and heavy enough to kill whoever it hits. Fragile enough to allow whoever rides in it to be killed when hit by something bigger.

- It will need a noisemaker ... for 'safety'. What an improvement.

- It will need good roads made out of asphalt, large enough so that twenty can pass easily, with the multitude of parking spaces.

- Having these around for 'in- town use' will certainly cut the wear and tear on existing vehicles so those will be around much longer.

- There will have to be carbon emitting factories to build these with energy gobbling robots and whatnot. There will need to be large, ocean- going ships to carry them from China, where they will all be made.

- The balance of trade issue will be resolved, of course. China will be back to lending American consumers hundreds of billions of dollars so that the Americans can afford to buy ... not!!

- The intended users will be too fat to be able to get inside. Once inside, the combined weight will be equal to a current car.

- Add to the 'clients' the required suspensions, brakes, A/C, heaters, instruments, seats and sound proofing. These would be large, heavy road vehicles.

- Every where post- modern American looks there will be millions of ugly little scurrying blobs scarifying the landscape, running like rats from sea to sea. The small handful of makers will be 'rich' while the great mass of users will be debt slaves. They will spend their days isolated within their battery powered cocoons, saturated with advertising and propaganda.

Ugh, hasn't there been enough lazy mans' 'progress'? When are smart people going to learn?

Jeez ...

Hi Steve,

They will spend their days isolated within their battery powered cocoons

This is a big reason that I like to travel by bicycle (in safe rural places) because my interaction with nature and local people is some much more satisfying than travel in a motor vehicle.

I've noticed that while traveling (by bike) in tourist areas, how isolated the "tour bus people" are from the local folks. Of course we have an unusual bike that attracts a lot of attention - but, it really is fun to have this "ice breaker" to get into fun interactions with strangers. The bus people just mill about in this odd sort of cocoon of their own.

The movie "The Reader" has an interesting little scene where taking a vacation automatically meant getting on a bike to tour into the country side.

Wow! What an Amazing post, Steve!

It goes to prove that if we try hard enough, we can find something negative to say about ANYTHING!

(While you have clearly reached a personal best and listed no less than 9 separate negatives against making a vehicle that works to help people 'get there' with 80% less energy, with far fewer produced materials carried on those wheels.)

jokuhl - Your cheerleading is getting old. When ever someone points out that if we do not address the global issue of growth, which most techno fixes are all about, you whine about them not jumping on the band wagon. Yes there is no silver bullet. It will be a thousand lead BBs that end up killing us because we were to impressed with our cleaverness to actually address the big issues.


There are certainly useful challenges that can and must be made against all of our attempts to steer away from the excesses we've gotten so mired in. Wind certainly has some serious downsides, hydro has choked up our natural circulatory systems all over the world, PV has some horrible chemicals in its manufacture that have to be carefully monitored - ANY of our industrial systems run the risk of being overdone or misdone, and being selectively viewed through the goggles of 'Blind Techno Faith'.

But there are also filters of 'Kneejerk Objectionism' that we hear an endless drumbeat about here, which ALL of Steve's bulletpoints seem to meet. I did also get the sense that Steve was very pleased with HIS cleverness in that post, so that crime of vanity is hardly limited to one side of the equation.

You use the roads, you use cars. You're using a computer. If you have a better suggestion for pushing that use in a positive direction, please take a big risk and offer it up. You MIGHT get accused of 'just perpetuating BAU', however. In the meantime, drive safely.


Geez eeyores, this discussion is about EVs and mitigating our transportation problems. If you folks want to talk about our collective predicament involving growth issues, start a thread. I'll try not to rain on your party. I guess some people feel that we should limit disscusions on the Drum to predicaments and conundrums. Seems sort of pointless to me.

"I'll try not to rain on your party."

Party on DUDE.

Although tempting, I will not pick on jokuhl. One of my old professors nick-named his 2-wheel drive Chevy Bronco "Smilodon". When I asked why, he said he and his wife named it that because it was big enough to prey upon smaller cars on the road, but not so large as to win in a confrontation with a Mammoth-sized truck. Safety was obviously a factor in the purchase.

- The intended users will be too fat to be able to get inside. Once inside, the combined weight will be equal to a current car.

+1.E9 I practically fell off my chair laughing.....

At the risk of being accused of an ad hominem....

This is such an utter waste of time. I can't even bring myself to pick it apart, so I'll just point out one thing: the tone. It is so obvious that you are more concerned with tearing apart any mitigation that isn't an embrace of total collapse that you have set aside any illusions of level-headed reasoning.

It's comments like these that make me wonder why I even read this board anymore. While I admire the TOD articles (even the ones I don't agree with), TOD is just not a place for real debate. Maybe I am expecting too much of a public forum.

And to the person that said, in response to a response to this comment that, Jokhul was "cheerleading"... wow. Just wow. All of Jokhul's comments have been clear and focused, on topic, logical, and absent of the basic logical fallacies I see here all the time. Even if you don't agree with his assessment of the vehicle, how he arrives at that assessment is sound (not to say that he, or myself, is "right" in any predictive sense). If anyone is cheerleading here it is people like Steve whose tone and lack of fair reasoning (not to say that he can't reason logically... but that he is purposely refusing to) makes it so obvious that he has no interest in what other people have to say unless it aligns with his own worldview, which apparently was decided and set in stone long ago.

Now I extract myself from this discussion. I am banging my head against the wall at people's reaction to this. If people think measures like this are so futile to be not worth the effort, they really have to unplug and go into the wilderness now to avoid being hypocritical.

It's comments like these that make me wonder why I even read this board anymore.

You are not alone.  Had TOD adopted the comment-rating system it really needed (instead of the simplistic +/- scheme, now discontinued), a proper rating for those would be "-1, Doomer Porn".

Oh look, someone finally dumped an electric drivetrain into VW's 1L prototype. ;)

very few people would risk mixing it up with 2,000 lb autos that dominate the roads today

2000 lb? The curb weight of of a Suzuki Swift (Geo Metro) is 1900 lb. Most where I live drive 4000+ lb SUVs and pickups - with one < 200 lb person in the car most of the time. Something like the trev is what we should be driving most of the time, but try convincing one of those SUV or pickup owners of that. I converted a Swift to electric and do 95% of my driving in it. It and the house are powered by 5.6 kW solar panels on the roof of the house (grid tied). It uses about 200kWh/mile. The trev uses about half that! The Swift has about 65 mile range (LiFePO4 cells)in a 50/50 mix of highway/secondary travel (55-60mph highway). My SUV driving friends think it is a cute novelty item, not a "real" car, and certainly not a real man's car, even though it would serve their daily driving needs. We confuse what we want with what we need, and we are convinced of what we want by advertisers who ensure us we will be inferior to others without it. Sheeple.

Any links or pics of the Swift (geo metro) ?

I would like to convert my geo to lithium like I did with my bike.

very few people would risk mixing it up with 2,000 lb autos that dominate the roads today

The US created a special tax category that gives small businesses special tax breaks for SUVs and trucks exceeding 6,000 lb weight. Meanwhile, they phased out the tax breaks for small, fuel-efficient vehicles.

There are quite a large number of such vehicles sold in the US.

The interesting thing is that vehicles over 6,000 pounds exceed the legal weight limits on a lot of city and state roads in California. I wonder if anybody has considered ticketing the governor for driving one of his Hummers on the the streets of Los Angeles?

Hi curioustom.

2000 lb? .... Most where I live drive 4000+ lb SUVs

LaCrosse CXS -> curb weight = 4045 (even a Toyota Corolla = 2723)

A senior moment! I was thinking 2 tons and my dyslexic math translated poorly.

LaCrosse CXS--good choice for an example. Upper middle of US the manufactured fleet, 17-27 mpg and all wheel drive available for snow country. That is where the US market is for at least the next 1/2 decade and probably double that without a significant upward change in fuel prices, which of course would put a significant drag on jobs numbers which thus puts pressure to keep fuel prices relatively low, which then reduces pressure to create a much more efficient vehicle fleet. As Joe Heller said, 'that's the catch, catch-22'

While I am generally negative on electric cars but I do think electric bikes are a game changer.
An electric bike is 15 times more efficient than an electric car(.016kwh/mi). Electric bikes go 12-24 mph with ranges up to 40 miles(charging takes a long time though, +4 hours).

About 25% of car trips are for commuting and another 25% of car trips are for non-commute business trips.
That leaves 50% of trips for shopping, going to school, visiting friends, and other leisure pursuits. Most trips are well under 10 miles.
Mass transit is used less than 10% of the time in conjunction with a car trip.

One problem is that bikes and cars can't really coexist.
When PO really happens we should probably just stop using cars. People will start substituting electric bike/trike travel to save gas.

"One problem is that bikes and cars can't really coexist."

That's not true. Not only do I and many of my colleagues ride our bikes to work every day (year round) here in Boston, a trip to Holland will show a whole country in which bikes and cars coexist. When I vacationed with my family in Amsterdam a few years ago, we did everything by bike, quite safely.

Hi colburn & majorian,

One problem is that bikes and cars can't really coexist

Although my personal experience is much like colburn's, I would generally side with majorian on this point.

I've been cycling for nearly 40 years as an adult - commuting, touring, utility, whatever. I've cycled in the US, Ireland and France. Done big city, small village, rural, mountains, etc. But, the personal experience of colburn and that of mine is really not the most relevant factor.

As a very active bicycle advocate, I find that motor vehicles of all sorts are the major impediment for greater adoption of cycling. I find that it is fairly easy to encourage an adult to cycle on a nice safe bike path if they are somewhat disposed to this type of activity. I find that these same people absolutely will not bike on public roads that have a fair amount of motor vehicle traffic. In addition, they will not permit their kids to bike to school on these roads either.

Colburn, I've often wondered if there is a potential PHD dissertation in analyzing why you or I have persisted in cycling in traffic when most sensible people will not :-)

While cars make me nervous about bicycling, what times I have attempted to ride, they were not the greatest impediment (choosing one's route carefully and depending on what time of day a person must travel, cars can be dealt with as is pointed out by cyclists here.

No, the biggest impediment for me has been and continues to be the weather. As I sit writing this, the streets of my neighborhood are covered in ice, and the temp is about 22 degrees Ferenheit, not conducive to enjoyable cycling, in fact not even allowing bearable cycling. It has been this bad or worse for days, and more is predicted next week. Take note that the mid-atlantic states are buried in a blizzard that does not even allow car travel. In the summer much of the U.S. is hit often by surprise flash thunderstorms, lightning, and tornado watches and warnings.

If we take out the weeks that weather would prevent safe travel by bicycle, I am willing to bet that of the 52 weeks of the year travel by bike would be next to impossible at least 25 of them except for the risk desiring adventurer, and I think this is true in most of the continental U.S.

This is why I am fascinated by some type of workable and lightweight weather protection on a trike as a possible workable solution...if the faired bodywork of this type

Could be combined with the leaning trike idea...

We could discuss the idea of electric assist as another issue, but the faired leaning trike would offer decent speed, some marginal weather protection and fun performance with or without the electric assist. In fact in most towns it would go as fast as the cars are legally allowed to go anyway. :-) It is not undoable, and may still be a path to the least as the local level. It should probably be sold as much on the basis of fun and style as on environmental or peak oil basis. People do like to ride bikes, but cannot easily visualize them as dependable is ironic to see the SUV's carrying folks and their bikes to our local park (Freeman Lake Park in Elizabethtown KY) to be riden for enjoyment around the lake and then strapped back to the SUV to be carried home! :-)

(edited to correct links)

Hi RC,

Thanks for the link on the "leaning trike" - I had never heard of this! And, I've been riding a trike for years.

I'm a big fan of any kind of trike and the idea of one enclosed with fairing is what the velomobile is all about. Some time ago we had an essay here about velomobiles in Europe that was very interesting.

If we take out the weeks that weather would prevent safe travel by bicycle, I am willing to bet that of the 52 weeks of the year travel by bike would be next to impossible at least 25 of them except for the risk desiring adventurer, and I think this is true in most of the continental U.S.

I think you are being too pessimistic about this. Here in WI, wife and I hang up the bikes/trikes for about 13 weeks because of ice and snow on the roads. Otherwise, cold rain and wind is really just a matter of preparation and attitude (barring electrical storms, wind over 30mph). Ask the folks in Seattle and Ireland about biking in the rain. I toured in Ireland for 2 weeks when it rained most days - sometimes very heavy rain - you just keep going.

While cars make me nervous about bicycling, what times I have attempted to ride, they were not the greatest impediment

I stand by my statement that cars are the biggest impediment. Riding a trike has the advantage of being more "all weather" but it is even more dangerous in motor vehicle traffic because of it's low profile and reduced visibility. I have 4 substantial "mini lawn sails" on our tandem trike for visibility. Actually, if it were not for cars I would ride even more weeks in the year - a little ice or snow is workable with a trike - but not with cars around.

I agree with this "destination" biking thing being dumb - drive a big vehicle several hundred miles to ride your bike. Honestly, I did that many times in the past because because we liked the social aspects of big bike rallies. Now, we mostly just ride out of driveway on the trike (or my single bike).

I really don't have any illusions about biking, velomobiles, tiny cars becoming a safe means of transportation any time soon - maybe never. But, as others have said, it is a very rational solution to local, personal transportation. Now, we just need to find a rational species.

I'd say cars and bikes get along fine in my town, and pretty well generally. Cars usually lumber along pretty predictably, with slow reactions, slow braking, and slow turning. I've not had any problem keeping out of their path over the last 35 years or so of riding, and as usually the only cyclist on the road I always have a good set of choices about where to ride and how to manage circumstances. I might complain about their girth and predominance, but if every driver suddenly became a cyclist, I can only imagine how much more complicated navigating traffic would be!

Hi daxr,

if every driver suddenly became a cyclist

That has occurred to me also - kind of "beware what you wish for". I notice that lots of fairly sane motorist become very irresponsible about traffic laws when they get on a bike. But, I would expect that would settle down over time.

As many comments above show, the real problem is not peal oil or even overpopulation and over-consumption.

The problem we face is inside us. Those of us in so-called developed countries feel entitled to a great deal of personal comfort and security, and to a long life of comfort and security.

We expect problems to be solved mostly by the mythical "Free Market" which will deliver products and services to us which will increase our immediate personal comfort and (misperception of) personal security, and which will be "Green" at no extra cost.

I noted in an article related to US politics (forgot which one -- on Drumbeat today or yesterday?) where-in the brilliant comment was made by a politician that clean energy and products would be produced "at no additional cost" -- in other words, we get something for nothing, that old political snake oil sales tactic.

Add to this that many in so-called developing nations want to live like the rich already do 7-to-10 billion fatties wkith diabetes going through the world's drive throughs and watching Tee-Vee on the SUV's media system.

Reality is that resolving overpopulation alone will be hugely difficult and painful, and that many people will literally fight to the death to defend their own right to have big families with high per-capita consumption.

We are transforming the world into a planet overloaded with intentionally ignorant and heavily armed people with a sense of righteous rage at everyone else, all looking for scapegoats to kill and also BTW take all their good stuff as a reward.

We have plenty of solutions for peaceful powerdown -- nothing easy or materially prosperous in the conventional sense of the term.

But no one is buying. When things get tight we have already laid the groundwork to create scapegoats and the weapons needed to turn our rage at being deprived upon those scapegoats.

Of course no one will win. Too many God-like weapons are in too many hands already. Too many of us depend on complex systems that will easily fail during chaotic and violent times.

We have already chosen our collective course of action. We are building towards more violence every day. Mostly governments of the "inverted democracies" are doing this, but of course other (mostly poorer) countries are doing the same.

I love bikes and walking and the cool light electric transportation ideas. They might be part of a good transportation blend in a world with no more than 1 billion people who have enough wisdom to understand and respond to the living habitat which supports them rather than to declare war on their planet and each other.

We worship violence, so these good ideas will seldom find a place in our human culture.

Hi beggar,

As depressing as your argument is - counter argument seems hard to formulate. I can only hope that there is some way for "enough wisdom" to come sooner than later.

Our animal heritage. The ape can't become the Buddha overnight. Even the buddha required several dozen years of stringent practice to realize his animal nature.

As several posters have already mentioned, the great efficiency of the TREV vehicle seems to come as much from it's low weight, aerodynamics and small frontal area as from it's electric drive.

Being a fan of the electric vehicle idea, it pains me to say that that it may make as much sense to use a fossil fuel engine as electric drive in it.

Think of it this way: Despite the solar dreams that solar proponents (myself especially) propagandise for, for the foreseeable 2 to 3 decades, cars of the TREV electric type would be propelled by fossil provided electricity, mostly coal and natural gas, and some small amount of hydroelectric and nuclear power. Coal being pretty nasty, we would just as soon it be natural gas...which begs the question: Why not just power the car with a very compact small compressed natural gas engine? Essentially remove one conversion step (from nat gas to electric and then back to mechanical power) and go directly from nat gas to mechanical?

Of course there is a problem we can see already: If we build such natural gas vehicles, and natural gas seems to be (as it does now) very cheap and bountiful beyond measure, then the vehicle would rapidly begin to grow and get fat...and before long we would be whisking down the highway at 80 mph in vast natural gas SUV type barges...So some would say why not skip one more conversion step (the TREV) and go ahead and build the natural gas barges...which is just what I foresee happening anyway.


One of the things in the setup to this post that I liked about their intentions was to 'make Solar Racers Practical' .. and part of the design game I play in my own head for my 'Dream Vehicle', is in part, "how to remake the bicycle and tricycle themselves into practical local errand devices?" There are some out there, like Velomobiles and Cargo Trikes, etc.. but I still want to see the design make them weathertight and easy to get into and out of, and finally, easy to lock up. Then, I'd have something I could use in my own life, working with the traffic realities I find in my home town.

It would likely not be exclusively Human-powered, but a Pedal/Electric Hybrid. (and I can't help but design PV onto the roof.. AS the roof in fact, to let them serve both purposes.. while they would essentially be a slight backup support for the batteries, not as much the main recharge source, while the electric demands of this vehicle will have been reduced to the point where the contribution from rooftop PV wouldn't be 'negligible' any more..)

You might be right that the current price and availability of Gas would incline Vehicle MFRs and their loyal customers to go that route, but as you suggest as well, it would probably simply invite a continuation of today's expected vehicles and excesses. This is where we as 'citizens' must look ahead to long-term solutions that will be ridiculed as 'foolishly uneconomical', in a way that the Market never will.

Right is right, and I'm personally convinced that this way is right.. even if it gets a bit of ridicule by the 'pragmatists'.


Hi Bob,

It would likely not be exclusively Human-powered, but a Pedal/Electric Hybrid

Although I can appreciate your thought, I've never felt that the electric assist was really worth the extra weight and gadgets. Maybe when I'm older, I'll think differently (like in my 80s instead of my current 70s). I think a couple of other factors are more important.

First, is to switch to a trike when a regular bike becomes to difficult. With a trike that is properly geared, effort is hardly ever an issue - you just go slower and rest more often (so time is a more important factor than effort).

But most importantly is the whole environment for cycling: motor vehicle danger, parking hassles, harassment, etc. If cycling was mostly a matter of effort, physical fitness, and weather protection, I think the need for power assist is lessened significantly (but not eliminated as a power assisted trike could be a big help for some folks).

Why not just power the car with a very compact small compressed natural gas engine? Essentially remove one conversion step (from nat gas to electric and then back to mechanical power) and go directly from nat gas to mechanical?

Speaking from ignorance here, but... Do small compressed natural gas engines have the same or better efficiency as the electricity generation and transmission model? I would roughly estimate the latter at %40. (60% generation*90%transmission*%80battery)

The question would be as much 'why?' as 'why not?'. One can also of course power the electric vehicle from both worse and better sources than nat gas.

"Do small compressed natural gas engines have the same or better efficiency as the electricity generation and transmission model?"

Think not. I don't see any reason NG powered ICEs should be more efficient than gasoline powered ones (typically between 15-20%). 2010 Honda Civic CNG gets 28 MPG combined mileage, which is even slightly lower than the gas-powered version (29 MPG). AFAIK the mileage cited is calculated on equivalent energy terms.

As to why not:

A power plant burning NG for power runs at greater efficiency than a small gas engine.

The electric motor is far simpler and easier to maintain than a small gas engine.

Any number of fuels can be used to produce electricity, making a fleet of electrics about as "future-proof" as you can get.

Electricity is a pretty universal energy, and likely the last thing to go in a civilization powering down, if it goes at all.

The reason we did not put a small diesel or gas engine in Trev was that we wanted a vehicle with no emissions. You can't do that with fossil fuels. You can do it with an electric vehicle powered from renewable energy.

Getting renewable energy for your house and electric car is often as easy as paying more for your electricity; for every kWh of electricity you use, your supplier is obliged to buy that much clean energy from generators. Wind power is a lot cheaper than refined oil. As more people switch to clean energy, we will have to build more clean energy generators and develop ways of coping with fluctuations in supply. The argument that EVs are no good because we get electricity from coal is not an excuse to do nothing—clean up your electricity supply!

Trev won't travel as far as a fossil-fueled car, but it will travel far enough for almost all the trips I do. For the small proportion of trips it can't do, I need to find another way. Behaviour change is going to play a key role in the emissions associated with mobility.

The safety risk with Trev is that I might be hit by someone wrapped in tonnes of metal. In a collision between a heavy vehicle and a low-mass vehicle, the low-mass vehicle will be subjected to greater accelerations, and the occupants more likely to be killed or injured. To be fair, we should all drive in the same type of vehicle. Should it be heavy or light? (Don't forget, we also have to share the road with pedestrians, cyclists and motor-cyclists.)

Yes, there are emissions associated with building and transporting low-mass vehicles. But the total life cycle emissions from these vehicles are much lower than from the vehicles we drive now. The fact that they are not perfect is not an excuse to do nothing.

Trev may not be the vehicle for you. But for a lot of people, a vehicle like Trev would give them the ability to drastically reduce their transport emissions.

Getting renewable energy for your house and electric car is often as easy as paying more for your electricity; for every kWh of electricity you use, your supplier is obliged to buy that much clean energy from generators

...who get it from renewable projects which should actually replace existing coal fired power plants instead of catering for new demand. The same applies to desalination powered from wind. It doesn't bring us one step forward

Well, I guess now is as good a time to discuss this as any...

When I read discussions of the automobile, and what it really "means", it becomes obvious to me that many people, in particular the anti automoble purists, simply do not understand the nature of the relationship between the human and the automobile. It is important to think of it this way, the automobile as a "being". About no other mechanical device except perhaps aircraft or ships (and the average person does not have access to ownership of planes or ships) do you hear them referred to in the language used when describing the automobile, as having "soul" in the sense of personality and the attributes of a being, almost like a human created pet. Marshall Mcluhan once brilliantly described them as most like a man made wife, desired, catered to, even grieved over when the relationship is finally severed for whatever reason. It is the automobile that is most referred to as "she" by owners and devoted lovers. It is a relationship.

This is often seen as an "American thing" to which I will only say, not to use technical jargon, bullshit. The Americans did not invent the automobile, and in the eyes of most critics, have not elevated (or degraded,depending on your view of things) "the relationship" to it's most rabid extremes.

Let us pose a frightening question: If turned loose, completely freed of limits of law and even sanity, what would "the people", the glorious democratic "people" REALLY want?

I am a fan of the automobile, a fan of the automobile at it's extreme limit, I have never denied it(and in defense of those who honestly hate the automobile who post here on TOD, many of them here are honest in their disdain, and do not attempt {as the politicians must do} to veil thier hatred, and do not desire an "improved automobile" but despise the very concept of the automobile, the very spirit of the thing. But even as a lover of this device, this art form, this opera, even I am sometimes dizzied and even frightened by what "the people", the great democratic mass, may actually desire.

And it is in many ways a spiritual thing, sometimes the haters of the automobile understand this in a way even the defenders of the device do not (or will not openly admit). But the anti auto purists do not comprehend the nature of the madness. This is a primal relationship, an operatic experience, that cannot be truly comprehended, only witnessed or experienced. It involves deep (sometimes dark) human desires for power, excitement, freedom, it is similiar in it's compulsive magnetism to sex, bull fighting, violence and danger, in its core elements a form of madness.

Witness, if you will, a short bit of film. Pay attention not only to the cars, to the sport itself, but to the fans, to the great mob, to "THE PEOPLE". Note the setting of the music, the operatic drama implied and desired. This is all European film. Take note of the size of the crowds, the masses. This is not a compulsion that is fenced in by borders, not an "American thing". We are now preparing to see more than two billion more of the planets people become able to indulge the compulsion, the madness, so long as the planets atmosphere and the fuel supply can allow it....what do "the people" really want, how do they act in close proximity (as close as they can get even at risk of great danger) to the power of this primal seduction? Again, this is the masses in Europe...

It has had the same effect in Europe, in Asia, in Africa and of course in America.

It is this the purists would attempt to stop, to outlaw, to CEASE. Frankly, I would rather try to outlaw sex...I would have more chance of success.


Yikes. Given the current insane obsession particularly in the EU with mindlessly overwrought elf'n'safety "precautionary"-ism - goggles to play conkers, that sort of thing - it boggles the mind to see a clip of cars skidding and sliding at racing speed along narrow tracks hemmed in by crowds of spectators. When and how did Europeans become transformed from such daredevils into quivering trembling cowering wallflowers fearful of absolutely everything? Anyone?

PaulS asks,

"When and how did Europeans become transformed from such daredevils into quivering trembling cowering wallflowers fearful of absolutely everything? Anyone?"

Well, since I opened this line of discussion by way of my post and link, I will take a shot at it, but my reply will not be popular:

I think with the full realization of the EEU (European Economic Union) there was born a new utopian dream....utopian defined for the sake of this discussion as the perfection and rationalization of EVERYTHING.

This is why I have felt almost from the start of the "modern" EU (since I became aware in my high school days, late 1970's) that it is doomed to failure, at least in the way it is being presented and is developing. The broad and deep dream of the perfected world by way of the perfected Europeanism is so at odds to the particulars of the dreams and hopes and ideas of the average European that it can only be spread applied by way of propaganda, bribe and finally even force (economic for now, but no one knows what the future holds)

There is precedent for this all through history of course: All great civilizations arrive at the point that they believe the world can be "perfect" and "rational" if only everyone would figure out that we can get there if the misguided souls of the world would become "just like us" (the ultimate compliment that can be paid by any nation or culture attempting a utopian dream, whether it be the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, The Christian monks, or the Pax Americus....or the "planners" and rationalizers of Belgium is that "they are just like us".

Since the 1970's Europe by way of the EU dream has attempted to become "perfect", to remove all risk, to become the ultimate rational state, and the propaganda machine of the EU tells us that they are almost there, and the world will only dream of imitating them, duplicating the European idea.

Down at street level however, Europe is in many ways more dangerous, more irrational, and more divided than it has been at any time since WWII. There is real anger at the promise of the overlords compared to the reality of European life. The intrusion of the EU, the attempts of the Brussels based planners to get into and control every aspect of European existance, damn the traditions and desires of the people, are being met with a type of passive resistance for now (through drugs, through sex, sometimes through crime and even terrorism, and yes, through cars and motorcycles of completely irrational design as hacked together in backyard garages and operated in wildly dangerous and illegal ways on the roads of Europe).

Eastern Europeans join the EU utopian dream having just gotten out from under the oppressive yoke of the Soviet utopian dream. They come to the west for freedom, not for a new set of utopian guidelines and rules to follow. They want to be wild, to do the things they were kept from doing for a half century...wild cars, wild bikes, wild art, other words, they want to live the life the Brussels planners would deny to them as decadent and irrational. Does anyone actually believe this schizoid polarity of desire of the controlling elites vs the desire of the "masses" can long stand the strain without exploding?

Sorry for such a long answer to such a short question, but I am playing out some of the implications of this coming explosion in my own mind, and trying to see if we can guess where the shrapnel will fly.


Interesting video. I had no idea. However...

The Americans ... have not elevated (or degraded,depending on your view of things) "the relationship" to it's most rabid extremes.

Have to disagree with you there. Racing and other entertainment phenomena aside (and btw, you have heard of "monster truck rallies", right?), I think that American physical and psychological dependence on the personal vehicle is deeper and more unlimited than anywhere else. You don't see the same level of extreme commuting in other countries, at least not by car.

Hi RC,

anti auto purists do not comprehend the nature of the madness. This is a primal relationship, an operatic experience, that cannot be truly comprehended, only witnessed or experienced... I would rather try to outlaw sex

I can't argue with your "many ways a spiritual thing" and the attraction autos have. I'm sure that in the era of the "horse culture" the feeling was the same. In my callous youth, I was also obsessed with sports cars and motorcycles (how I wish now I had the money I spent on them).

But, now I am your complete "anti auto purist" who thinks the automobile was the worst thing ever invented by mankind - a truly brutish machine (no intention of justifying that statement). I now think that the bicycle is the finest machine ever invented by mankind. I think the spiritual experience of being an accomplished cyclists (able to tour 50 to 100 miles days - day after day) transcends by orders of magnitude the experience of sitting in a metal box and pushing a gas pedal. I think the so-called macho image of a guy in a race car is mostly advertising hype to sell cars - and all the other phony images attached to car ownership. Which is still not to dispute your claim about the mass appeal of cars.

So, I might say "auto purists do not comprehend the nature of the" JOY of cycling. BTW, it takes real guts to do a Lance mountain decent at 70 mph.


I respect your viewpoint. As I said in my post, I respect those who are honest in their statement of what they truly believe, and there is a sincerity in your statement that must be respected even by those who may is a valid philosophical position. I once heard the race driver Nikki Lauda asked what he thought of bullfighting, did he find it barbaric? He was absolutely honest in saying he could not in good conscious say anything negative about bullfighting being involved as he was in a blood sport himself. It was not what race fans wanted to hear.

I too find bicycles absolutely fascinating, the engineering and design of the best of them are sheer artwork. My real fascination as far as "renewable transportation" goes are sailboats, how much more beautiful can a transportation device be!

But bikes and sailboats seem to appeal to a different part of the human psyche don't they? It is comparable to the difference in reaction people have when comparing for example rock and roll to a classical string trio. The latter appeals to a more cerebral and quitely artistic side, while rock and roll is in many ways a release, a form of primal scream.

I have seen first hand the reactions of the devoted fans to the automobile. Some here think this is purely a "racing thing" an "image thing" and it has elements of that, but one has only to see the amount of money spent on hot rodding and high performance modification of road cars all over the world, of the "mocking up" of the average car with often useless spoilers and stripes and wheels to mimic the racers to see that image and overblown performance are a very real part of the primal appeal of even the road car, and again, this is an international phenomenon. Look at German car advertising to see this carried to wild extremes, with the "civilized" artistic road car sliding about like a rally car and destroying rear tires in clouds of smoke, and one sees the "rational" well educated professional BMW and Mercedes fanciers (of which I am one) in their most primal aspect. As I said in my earlier post, even to those of us who are admitted fans, sometimes the sheer lust of our fellow fans from all walks of life can be a bit scary.

I am not defending this primal lust, simply acknowledging it. I am at a loss as to how to deal with it. And by the way, I know that I have posted in defense of the concept of "peak demand" on TOD, and what I am saying in these posts does not square with that logic in many ways. My defense is that I have no defense. I really don't know how this whole thing will play out. I am not a crusader, and have no desire to try to perfect the human race. We are what we are. I consider myself a student, just trying to game this thing out to my own best advantage. Then I will try to live an enjoyable life within the confines of my culture in so far as my conscious will allow me. Honestly, I hope for the best for all of us, from the car crazies to the bikers to the anti car purists. I just don't know if all of the above can be easily accommodated, if at all.


Hi RC,

I do enjoy your comments - you think deeply and hit a nerve about the uncertainty of what is coming down the road (hmm.. "road").

I too share a love of cars. I can't explain it. It's... primal. The aural and visual spectacle. The power. The control and responses of the drivers. I love Spa, Daytona, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Talladega, Lakeside, Bathurst. The great tracks. The ones that test both man and machine. I love the GT-40, the 1976 LX Torana, the ubiqutous and generally ignored Gemini (rear-wheel drive version only, also called the Kadett and the Chevette), the 1985 VK Commodore (The Last of The Big Bangers), Dick Johnsons "Green Machine", the Audi Quattro Coupe rally car, the smooth lines of Formula 1, The GTHO, E49 and E38 Chargers, the blunt, utilitarian brutishness of NASCAR.

But I also know that they are not for everyone. Cannot be for everyone. As personal transportation, they cause more problems than they solve. The congestion, the cost in building and maintaining the roads, the pollution, the weight and feature bloat, the lost time, the lives lost to injury, the seperation of the driver from the community.

I know that bicycles, trikes, scooters and small motorbikes (all preferably pedal-powered or electric), mass transit, and higher-density living are our future. We can't afford, either financially or energetically, to live the way 'we want' to live at the moment. I know that the current age will fade into history, probably remembered as "a really bad idea" at best.

I don't advocate to anyone that they should go out and buy a new car, especially a big car. When asked, I suggest using Public transport, or bicycle, or moving closer to work, or whatever.

Yet I still love cars.

For what it's worth, I'm a massive Gunzel as well (and I have invested way too much money in model trains. :D ).

The Trev would work well here in Taiwan. This is a fairly small and crowded island, but pretty affluent and lots of unneeded POWERFUL cars stuck in gridlocked traffic. But motorbikes outnumber cars about 2 to 1, in part because of their economy, but also because of the crowded roads and demand for scarce parking space.

The climate here is subtropical, so the Trev would not need to waste energy on a heater or defrosters. In a cold climate, that could be an issue, as it is for all electric vehicles.

I'm afraid we won't see the Trev commercialized until gasoline hits at least $10/gallon or is unavailable at any price. But by then, the economy will be free fall and financing will he hard to come by, and the masses might not be able to afford a new vehicle of any kind. Hope I'm wrong about that.

Thanks for the snapshot of scooters in Taiwan. I was there for a few business trips and was mesmerized by how the scooter system worked. It's so different from the US automobile traffic system.

In the mornings we usually started traveling in the AM rush hours, in a hired car fortunately. The way the scooters flowed around the slower moving autos and moved up at each intersection to fill all available road space was so bold, yet I only saw rider get in an accident.

The nights were best. From the upper story windows of the hotel you could see the headlights accelerate and spread out and re-collect at each intersection. Like watching some sort of digital data flow.

I took lots of early morning walks around the city. The huge numbers of mopeds and scooters parked along the streets was stunning. Imagine street after street with scooters all perpendicular parked, tightly side by side, on both sides of the street. I don't know how anybody ever found their scooter in the morning...

PS. Congrats to the TREV designers and builders for a successful and handsome design project!

Anyone remember Ivan Illych who said, "Tell me how fast you go and I'll tell you who you are?" Anyone read Booth Tarkington's book "The Magnificent Ambersons" in which he describes the changes to a town as the automobiles push bicycle, pedestrians and horses off the streets?
The typical personal auto is an anti-social, anti-community machine. When you are in one you are the master of the universe and you can avoid all the unpleasant messiness of having to deal with other humans. Because of the danger, you also forbid the public ways to those who can't afford to go fast - the young, the old, the disabled and the poor. As energy supplies run low and fewer people can afford big cars the majority of walkers and bikers may have regain enough clout to lower speed limits on local streets. My grandfather used to get arrested all the time for going more than 10mph in his handmade auto. That's because the majority of people (male people, mostly) were driving horses.
Once you don't have to design something that goes more than 10-20 mph all sorts of possibilities open up. Personally, I have a BikeE recumbent with an electric assist for going up hills, a tadpole trike with a granny gear and an electric assist, and am having built an enclosed velomobile with electric assist.
In developed countries we already have smooth roads and warehouses full of chains and gears. For awhile we may have batteries and electronic controllers and solar chargers. We don't have to go back to walking everywhere but we have to plan to live differently and travel less far, less fast. Right now all sorts of people are building all sorts of little vehicles in their garages and workshops. We have to start producing components locally and this includes batteries. I love seeing what others are doing even if I think that high speeds are not a measure of success. These small vehicles will make living locally a lot easier and more fun but they have to slow down!

Hi fannybuckingham,

typical personal auto is an anti-social, anti-community machine.....small vehicles will make living locally a lot easier and more fun

Bravo! Our family vehicle (for most of the year) is a Greenspeed Tandem Trike. At my age, I doubt that I'll see the full transition to bikes and very small personal vehicles - but, I sure like to think about it.

Perth establishing first electric car recharging stations in 2010

From Motor Mouth, on Geoff Hutchinson’s morning show, 720 ABC radio,

Wednesday 3/2/10.

Speakers: Geoff Hutchinson (ABC), Simon ? (regular commentator/ABC), Professor Thomas Bräunl (University of WA’s REV project


at the very end:

PROFESSOR: Can I just add one more point – the other thing that has to happen is the rethinking of energy production… only as clean as the energy provider, and Western Australia is mostly coal fired, so we have a long way to having more renewable energies to make up for the extra energy demand.

So why start with EV recharging stations before coal fired power plants have been replaced?

They have just built new coal fired power plants (Bluewater)in WA

So why start with EV recharging stations before coal fired power plants have been replaced?

The calculations have been done elsewhere, but even using coal-fired power, at worst a 180kWh/km EV will 'only' produce as much CO2e as a regular ICEV. Given that TREV is an order of magnitude more efficient than a 'standard' EV, it will produce much less pollution (virtually none over its lifetime if you use rooftop PV).

Additionally, Electricity is a 'equal-opportunity energy carrier' It doesn't care what it was generated from (be it coal, gas, biomass, wind, photons, wave, whatever), because all electrons are equal.

The Grid can be cleaned up. Oil, Gas, and Coal can't be.

Phil, great little car! I wish I could test one, charged by our PV system. A few questions/comments/additions though:

How does it perform in a strong cross wind? Considering its low mass and three wheel config, it seems to me this might be an issue. Also its size would seem to make it incompatible for operation around heavy vehicles such as trucks and busses. Just the aerodynamic effects of these large vehicles would be a problem, IMO.

How to heat and cool. Here in the SE US, one could dress for cold in the winter. Dressing for the heat, on asphalt roads (that get hot enough to fry an egg) would be a problem. While cute, the thing looks like an egg shaped greenhouse.

As has been stated above, safety is an issue.

Some ideas I have posted on TOD before:

Standardized batteries for EVs that could be swapped out easily at battery change stations. This would help address problems of range/charging times, battery maintenance, recycling, upgrading to new battery technologies, and access to renewable sources of electricity.

A hybrid option. A small, efficient FF powered generator on board would help with range "emergencies" and heating/cooling issues.

When marketing these things, include an option for PV or wind powered charging stations. Sell a solar garage/carport for these things as part of the package.

Competitive racing has been a huge driver in the development of ICE vehicles. An electric racing circuit (electric Gran Prix, I mean the real deal!) would help to get this technology off the ground. The huge torque/ acceleration of these cars combined with quickly replacable batteries might make this a very exciting prospect. Many race cars are already very light and aerodynamic and could be redesigned around an electric power plant.

To my bicycle friends:

I've ridden bycycles most of my life. Many are not able to ride bicycles (physically) and issues of weather and location/terrain limit their usefulness to many. In our rural location a bike has limited utility. A small EV would be far more viable/useful to alot of people.

Great discussion! I see a future (if we have one) where we will need to adapt ourselves and technology to sustainable limits. This little EV is a good example of the kind of ideas we will have to consider. Combined with more localization and electrified mass transit, our transportation problems can be mitigated incrementally. This will involve a cultural change that, I fear, will have to be forced upon many, likely by circumstances.

Hi Ghung;
I've mentioned this before, but to address one of your points..

If a vehicle in this class (maybe even quite lighter than this one..) were a Pedal/Electric Hybrid, then the question of a heater might be considered answered. Anyone who Cross-country skis knows how well the body can do in very cold temps. (While I might look at the motorcycle gear with heated jackets and pants to get you through the first few frigid minutes.. and even in my car, I've thought about a simple heating coil on the Wheel or Handlebars, since just having warm hands can make a huge difference. (Perhaps a micro heating blower for the windshield would be needed in some climates, as well.)


Imbedding microwire resistance heat might solve defrosting issues.

My main concern is how to get Joe/Jane baby boomer who is retiring and just had a knee replacement to give up their Expedition or Lexus for something much less consumptive. The new hybrids, while a small incremental step, have been successful in acomplishing this to some extent. There's a point that folks will reject the technology as being too inconvenient. There's the rub. If we could implement legislation that makes it "inconveniently expensive" for folks to continue BAU, we could force this transition. I don't see that happening, not in the US anyway. If we wait for circumstances to force this change, it will likely be too late.

Best hopes for forward thinking made sexy. I think this little vehicle (and others like it) is a great start.

Hi Ghung,

concern is how to get Joe/Jane baby boomer who is retiring and just had a knee replacement

Wife and I are a bit below/above 70 mark and still bike close to 4,000 miles a year in WI. I have total knee replacement and wife has had MS for over 20 years. As I mentioned up thread: think about a trike.

If we wait for circumstances to force this change, it will likely be too late.

Honestly, I don't expect to see widespread use of bikes and tiny cars in any kind of useful time frame. I love bikes but our car culture is so strong that I suspect many folks would prefer a slow painful death over giving up their SUV - see "madness" up thread.

I'm sure you know you are exceptional and in a minority. Even with folks like you as an example, I doubt we'll see any meaningful adoption of human-powered vehicles in the US. Most folks will stay home and watch TV, given a choice.

Hi Ghung,

I fear you are right. It seems my mission in life is to keep plugging away at being a bicycle advocate - I have managed to convert a few folks!

Anyone who Cross-country skis knows how well the body can do in very cold temps

I ski an hour or two at a wack in -10F to -20F several times a week, a few months a year, which I am guessing qualifies as cross country skiing in very low temps. I'd sure hate to get stuck outside in traffic or some such during one of those skis. The wet clothes and chilling ski boots have to come off pretty quick at the end of a run if you don't want to harm yourself. I guess the foyer of the supermarkets would be a lot more entertaining if a bunch of relatively fit velocipedist were putting on an endless strip show in them. Lots of issues to deal with in human powered enclosed transport systems running in cold weather.

There is usually a hard core soul or two open bike climbing up the 1000 foot plus grade out of town right down to the minus forties, but that activity isn't likely to catch on. The longest running practitioner on my route ran his homemade open trike (road style upright) with a flashing barricade light on the little platform for about four years.

The plug-in hybrid has a longer range than an electric car. Toyota has begun to sell a plug-in Prius this year The Prius is the most popular car in Japan, but sales of hybrids in the United States have fallen with lower gasoline prices. I got a Yaris that gets about 35 mpg highway, 29 mpg city. Emissions laws have reduced the fuel efficiency of autos in the US. The local dealerships have been offering incentives due to safety issues. I paid about $2000. less than the sticker price by shopping on the Internet.

I think the Trev would be great in San Francisco if it could get up the hills. Right now electricity in our region is only 3% from coal, and that number is decreasing. (It is 40% from natural gas.) If people just put in a power strip on their stereo and media systems to shut off their nightly vampire load, they would free up the electricity to power their Trev without additional consumption. I think just switching out a few more lights in my house from CFL to LEDs might lower our family's electrical usage enough to make room for a TREV. (We could also add another solar panel to our array.)

In many ways the Trev would suit my needs well. Ninety percent of my driving is under 40mph, and most of my trips are a maximum of fifteen miles round trip. Very often I am shuttling my pre-teen daughter around, so there's just two of us in the car. The Trev would protect me from rain, which is when I'm least excited to ride my bicycle.

I would also enjoy a city full of Trevs. They wouldn't spew out nasty fumes (you really notice how nasty-smelling cars are as a bicyclist), roar with noise, and hog the road like the army of SUVs do. In addition we wouldn't have to waste so much public space storing people's incredibly large vehicles. So we'd have a quieter, calmer, less-polluted, less-congested city, and the planet might not become uninhabitable by our species quite so quickly. Sounds good to me.

Hi taomom,

city full of Trevs...Sounds good to me

Me too - but, do you really think Calif's love affair with cars will allow this to happen in a relatively safe and practical manner?

In San Francisco the transition seems to be underway. Even though our bicycle infrastructure is on the pathetic side, about 128,000 trips take place by bike here each day, and 30,000 people use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. In addition, 600,000 trips are made each day via MUNI (our public transit system that everyone loves to hate.) Though I couldn't find data, I'd guess almost an equal number of trips happen on foot. 30% of households in San Francisco have no vehicle and 43% have only one.

On an anecdotal level, I am seeing more and more young people bicycling throughout the city. (Some of old fogies, too.) And the new cars on the streets I'm seeing lately tend to be smaller cars (Fits, Yaris, and the like) that make the Prius look big.

As for the whole of California--that's a different matter. However, I do think if oil were to get really expensive, people would get very creative very fast.

Hi taomom,

Before I retired, I traveled a lot. San Francisco was one of my most favorite destinations. If I had to stay over a weekend, I would spend most of Sunday in your Golden Gate park watching all the strange people do their thing. Is the park still closed to motor traffic on Sunday and is it still such a colorful place to visit?

Maybe SF will be a model for the rest of the country?

All of this is recycled BAU. Throwing technology at a symptom and ignoring the underlying problem; a debt and interest based economic system that is dependent upon exponential growth, will not produce a solution.

We need to stop amusing ourselves with technological solutions that amount to little more than window dressing; regardless of how much fun it is, and address the underlying causes.

If a doctor prescribed this sort of treatment for a seriously ill patient, the doctor would be charged with malpractice. We need to recognize snake oil treatments for what they are and prescribe effective treatments in their place.

As long as we buy into the argument that technology will save us, we are still part of the problem.

I'm simply SHOCKED that you didn't send this message to all of us using appropriate technology then, Greg.

There are a lot of unemployed scribes out there who have been waiting for an honest day's pay for Centuries!

Come on.

AND... I think the malpractise analogy needs work. "Bob, you've been overeating. But instead of telling you to decrease your diet by 80%, I think I will set you up with a surgeon this week to simply bypass your entire digestive system, because clearly food is the problem, and it would be criminal of me to allow you to eat anything ever again."

We need to stop amusing ourselves with technological solutions that amount to little more than window dressing; regardless of how much fun it is, and address the underlying causes.

We discuss "underlying causes" on the Drum most of the time. I don't consider discussions about possible solutions as a waste of time. If we address "underlying causes" without looking beyond them, then the whole discussion is just an exercize in futility. Most folks stop listening when you don't present possible solutions. Just telling people "you're screwed" or that it's TEOTWAWKI is pointless. May as well go fishing. Even "false hope" can help promote change.

I agree that everyone needs hope and that we need to provide solutions; however, I see the Trev and similar technologies as false hope. They perpetuate a form of personal mobility that we won't be able to afford much longer. Already, many people can't afford new cars and many who can need more space than small cars provide. For many it will not be economical to have two cars, one for commuting and one for the whole family. Cars are an evolutionary dead-end.

We need to shift our focus and make the best use of the fleet of cars that we have and compensate by driving less and slower. It will take in excess of ten years to replace an entire fleet of cars, by that time we won't have the money to maintain the roads. Beyond that there is the cost of producing an entirely new fleet of cars with expensive energy.

We need to divert our energies and money to mass transit, public awareness and education, and conservation. Technology is expensive and it needs to be used judiciously. It needs to be used in ways that offer a better ROI to society than producing more automobiles.

I agree with much of what you say, so my choices are to move to town or buy a horse and buggy.

Greg C,

We need to divert our energies and money to mass transit, public awareness and education, and conservation

Yes, agree, but would you not agree that mass transit has the best chance of actually working if people have workable/practical/economical means of traversing the distance from home to train (or whatever)?

I think bikes and trikes could serve that purpose for many, but the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle idea seems to have a lot of merit.

If a doctor prescribed this sort of treatment for a seriously ill patient, the doctor would be charged with malpractice.

That would depend on what country you are in!

If you think the scientific method is a good approach to problem solving then this is how we will do it.
In small imperfect steps. Or were you one of those 'clever' babies that just stood up, opened their mouths and spoke?

No. This car is not 'perfect'. No, it does not instantaneously 'solve' every issue of the socio - economic status of the personal auto.
So what.

We can not move from perfect state to perfect state now can we!

The transition to the ICE took a couple of generations... why should the transition away be any different?
It won't be a 'perfect' or optimal path but that should not discourage us. No, technology won't "save us".
But are we after 'salvation'?

There's a lot to like about the TREV. But, doesn't the "renewable" designation depend entirely on how the electricity is generated? This very nice looking and boldly designed vehicle might be more fairly described as simply "electric" in a very efficient way, but not necessarily recharged from a renewable energy source. Or have I missed something here?

I am a bit curious. What does this vehicle do about internal climate control? I don't see any to open windows for those blisteringly hot Australian summer days. Is there a heater? Is this a spring and fall, fair weather only solution?

I'm in Portland Maine, and we've got Bicyclists on our roads all year long. Being in an enclosed vehicle and out of the wind should make all sorts of foul weather more tolerable. (But adding functional Pedals would help keep you warm, too!)

I can't imagine adding a vent or a fan for hot weather would be a huge hurdle, but it does raise the point of all the 'Bubble Canopy' designs out there, which can leave the driver Overexposed to the sun in a little fishbowl. Sunshades and Visors are not just creature comforts, but can be essential to keeping the thing operable.

Peter Pudney;
Did you have an issue with this on that big trek across the country? How has the air handling been in there?


It is good to hear that you are in robust enough health to withstand a Portland, Me winter on a bicycle. Presumably, the idea behind developing smaller, lighter vehicles is to induce their use by a fairly broad spectrum of the population who don't ride bicycles in the winter in cold climates. In addition, there is the issue of defrosting the inside of the bubble in cold weather. If you can't see, you can't drive. Finally, it looks like the bubble is shaped so that it would focus the sun's rays on the occupants which probably wouldn't be welcome in sunny, warm climates where much of the population lives.

I'm interested to hear if there has been any development or thought about this problem. Thanks.

Presumably, the idea behind developing smaller, lighter vehicles is to induce their use by a fairly broad spectrum of the population who don't ride bicycles in the winter in cold climates.

Speaking of cold climates, I live in Canada and I know a lot of people who ride their bicycles when it's 40 below (C or F, doesn't matter).

It requires a certain amount of determination and endurance, but all you really need is enough warm clothes. Cars, on the other hand, often don't start at 40 below. Actually, I think that was why they rode their bicycles. Their cars wouldn't start.

I don't think there's much hope for an electric car at -40. Seriously.

Again, I'm happy to hear that your friends are in robust enough health to ride bicycle at -40 F. I don't see much merit in the supposition that they were unable to start their vehicle as justification for choosing to ride in those temperatures. I've operated vehicles at that temperature and below. The chief impediments to getting a vehicle to start at cold temperatures are 1) not having enough money to get regular maintenance done 2) remembering to plug in the block heater.

My point in asking about climate control remains the same. If this vehicle is to achieve wide usage, details like climate control are important. Is it necessary to where your gloves when it gets down to the 20's or 30' s F? Are you in danger of getting heat exhaustion when the temperatures climb into the 80's F? Is there enough warm dry air flowing past the windows (or the interior source of the bubble) to prevent fogging or icing? Is your mother-in-law going to complain about her feet being cold for the whole trip when you take her shopping?

The basic concept of this vehicle is interesting. Perhaps, it is just too early in the development cycle of this vehicle for these questions to have been addressed.

You can add small ceramic resistance heaters if you need warmth. You can embed a defrosting circuit in the glass. You can Option window tinting to keep the heat out. You could always use some Ice and a small fan to keep cool. Just guessing, but less than 50 kilos of ice or near-zero ice-water would probably last long enough for the average commute, and not detract substantially from TREVs performance envelope. It takes a surprisingly long amount of time to get a 5 kilo bag of ice in an esky up to room temperature.

I've never owned a vehicle that wouldn't start at 40 below, even if the block heater wasn't plugged in, but I do proper maintenance on my vehicles. A lot of people don't.

There is one day that sticks in my mind when I had to jump-start four of my neighbor's vehicles before I finally got out of the back alley. One of the engines had a carburetor fire while we were starting it, but the owner just blew it out and said, "Oh, this happens all the time." These people were the reason that when it was 40 below I would see people riding bicycles, and the buses were jammed with people who never rode the bus when the weather was good.

Heating and defrosting in an electric car is going to be a problem. With an internal combustion engine you have surplus heat from the engine to provide the heat, so it comes more or less for free. In an electric car you have to use the battery, there isn't any waste heat available for car heating, and the efficiency of batteries is much lower at cold temperatures in any case. That was the real reason the neighbors' cars wouldn't start - at low temperatures the batteries didn't have enough power to crank the engines.

An electric car would be reminiscent of the old air-cooled VW Beetle with the optional gas heater. On cold days the heater would burn more fuel than the engine did.

I think Bellistner (one post back) might have some good ideas on the heating problem. If the vehicle is efficient enough that waste engine heat can't be used for climate control then it is probably better to put in an extra power source rather than sacrificing driving range. Perhaps a battery driven system with fan and heat strips could be set up. The battery could be charged either separately or when the batteries driving the vehicle are charged. It would take a bit of engineering, but the vehicle probably could be made tolerable between 25 and 75 F without too heavy a cost. I suppose that it would be possible to extend the upper end of this range by making the bubble reflect sunlight and providing very good venting to remove excess heat.

Somehow, I suspect that this is not a vehicle that is likely to come with air conditioning.

Dealing with lower battery efficiency and greater friction from snow covered roads might limit the usefulness of this vehicle in very cold and snowy conditions, but they probably could be used on warmer winter days as long as the roads have been plowed.

Even with these limitations this vehicle would be useful for a large part of the year. It should be noted that the vehicles that are really of much use during a heavy snowfall are very inefficient for use at other times. SUV's and Hummers are not noted for particularly good gas mileage.

The heat problem is very solvable. Electric motors produce quite a bit of waste heat and (as mentioned above) with a small fan and ducting this heat could be used to heat the compartment. I have two different dog dryers that have no heating coil. The heat comes from the motor. I measured one and after a few minutes of operation there is a 26f temp rise through the dryer at 130cfm. This is only a 1/6 hp motor. I'll bet that the motor in an EV produces plenty of heat.

Batteries get warm (sometimes hot) when being charged, so in cold weather the batteries could be kept warm if left on charge overnight. Most charge controllers have a temp sensor to prevent battery overheating. The batteries could also utilize waste heat from the motor to keep warm, sort of an electro-regen system.

Cooling is another problem I'm still working on. In dry climates perhaps a small evaporative cooler would work. Of course, all of these things add some weight, reducing efficiency some.

A post above expressed concern about idle battery discharge. Much of this could be offset by incorporating PV into the roof of the vehicle.

We were talking forty below here, at those temps a medium sized ICE engine with a light work load cruising down several mile long grade barely sends enough heat to clear the windshield in a rig with a couple, three of occupants in a fairly large cabin area. Two years ago my little burg registered only one day where the temperature climbed to one above zero F in all of February and March. Some places where it really does get and stay cold, that support a really small fraction of the driving public, likely won't go electric anytime soon.


old air-cooled VW Beetle with the optional gas heater

I had one without the optional gas heater. I recall a day that was about 20 below - definitely a cold ride!

Do you have any thoughts about my suggestion that a velo (enclosed tadpole form, perhaps) would possibly be a tolerable ride in (Some) colder weather, as the rider would warm themself, and the wind and snow/rain would be kept off?

The Canopy might have to lift and have steady laminar airflow against the insides to keep the breath from fogging things up.. but I think it's a start. It would take some testing and experimenting, but if we can do it on XC skis, there must be a workable combo.


Hi Bob,

Sometime back we had a similar discussion on TOD and there were some nice videos of velos in conditions of cold and snow - like in Denmark (I think). It was pretty impressive.

The photo I posted up thread is pretty much what you are describing: enclosed tadpole trike with windshield wipers.

As I recall with that VW Beetle, fogging inside was a real issue. It was a very long time ago, but I think I had to keep the windows open a bit and an ice scraper handy (for using on the inside of the windshield).

Airflow would be critical for me as I perspire like a fountain just looking at my bike. I also think that road slop coming up from the bottom would need to be addressed.

The primary advantages of such a machine seem to be 3:

- aero dynamics - even with the extra weight it seems that these enclosed trikes are pretty speedy.

- although one might get wet with sweat, you would be protected from rain and road spray. Your clothing could concentrate of being breathable versus waterproof - for some of us, this is a big issue.

- protection from cold and wind. Wind is big factor in getting chilled (ie - wind-chill). I suspect that less clothing and less specialized clothing would be needed. For many people, this might just be an extra layer or two of everyday clothing. As opposed to all the high tech stuff I have for riding in the rain and cold.

Of course the disadvantages are more weight, cost, complexity, and storage. Also there is the issue of traveling in the dark - but, we do have super efficient light systems for bikes now. And, finally the legal status - is it just bike with fancy fairing or is it a "vehicle" that must comply with numerous regulations.

I would try one of these in a flash if it were not for cars. Honestly, where I live, riding one of these in traffic in the winter would most likely be a death sentance (unless I was arrested first).

But, given the right motor vehicle traffic environment (basically absence thereof) I think this type of machine would be great. Couple of links:


I knew someone who drove an old air-cooled VW van up to the Yukon Territory, and tried to sell it to pay for a plane ticket home. She could hardly give the thing away. At those latitudes it was sort of okay in the summertime, but in the wintertime it wasn't much more comfortable than a bicycle.

The funny thing is that diesels were popular there. They wouldn't start in winter, so they'd start them up in the fall, and turn them off in the spring. In the winter they just idled all day and night.

No, I don't think electric cars would be a winner in the Yukon. Selling refrigerators to the Eskimos would be a much more viable market.

I bet I could build a wood fired stove small enough to easily fit inside a geo metro duct work and all that would keep her toasty as long as the body shell is tight enough to keep out drafts.

I would incorporate a draft control that uses the slip stream to fan my little fire. Of course it would be a royal pain to empty and fill it, and you would need to haul a few pounds of very dry and very small pieces of wood all the time- plus you would need a co alarm.

On old air cooled VWs it was much more convenient to use the gasoline fired after market heaters in those temps, but like mentioned earlier they burned as much fuel as the driving die. That they should have had CO alarms with them I can testify to. We are talking seven months and more of winter with multiple months where the temperature seldom if ever cracks Zero F and finds minus forty with regularity. Not something most who have not experienced it can really appreciate.

They still leave all the diesel pickups running day in day out up on the slope when the temp drops, after all diesel is free for the taking there.

I like the little vehicle. The price for an electric vehicle should only be a few thousand dollars to sell to the masses. I wouldn’t buy one. I have three automobiles. Even if the price of gasoline was $10.00 a gallon. I would just sit at home and drive to town once a week. I rode a motorcycle for thirty years winter and summer to work except for the period that the company provided me a truck. Today my son rides his Honda 250 scooter to work except when it rains. He says he gets about 70 mpg. You can pick up a good used motorcycle for less than two grand and still get better than 50 mpg. Only a person with more money than brains would buy an electric vehicle for $10000.00 to save money. The only bad thing about motorcycles & scooters is you always have to a car if you have a family. I like the little electric car but it will only come to market in the U.S. if it is mandated by law.

Hi lineman,

son rides his Honda 250 scooter to work except when it rains.... good used motorcycle for less than two grand .... Only a person with more money than brains would buy an electric vehicle for $10000.00 to save money.

As much as I love bicycles, I suspect that scooters and small motorcycles will dominate when gas prices are very high - at least as long as gas is available. When I worked in India I saw the overwhelming use of scooters and motorcycles over bicycles.

A very similar two-seat three-wheel vehicle is in development by Meyers Motors here in the US. They already make a single seat model.

Some good EV sites. A lot is going on these days:

John Howe's very informative site:

Ghung, are you in Maine?

You've put up a few Maine links today.

We just met with our tax acct yesterday, and he says his neighbor just converted a pickup to Electric, a few miles from Portland. A lot of DIYers in our state!


No, I'm in NC. I did live in Bath for a while. Loved it! It just seems that there are a lot of forward thinkers up there, or perhaps it's just that Maine pragmatism and independent spirit ;-)

May I start with a general observation...?

In these blog sites there is a noticeable absence of business pragmatism - if not experience. Probably because business people are too concerned with trying to make a living to post on TOD:-(

Trev is at best only an interesting idea. But it comes from people who clearly don't have a grasp of business reality. If they did, they would realise that they are arguing against human nature. The reason that people drive large heavy cars is because that is what they want to drive. Anyone who sets up in business to supply a vehicle that no-one wants (and including ZENN, Aptera etc) is likely to be condemned to failure.

Yes lithium-ion is dumb for cars too - at this time. It is simply uneconomic. If (like me) you believe that peak oil has arrived, you may (unlike me) be inclined to say that we will have no choice but to drive these impractical and unsafe vehicles. Other alternatives are appearing including bio fuels CNG, LPG and there will be a drive to improve electrical storage technology and reduce the cost of both electricity and in-vehicle storage. The latter is my preference and I have put my money where my mouth is. Wouldn't it be better to rely on Moore's law than expecting drivers to change what they want?

Most business people start with defining what the consumer needs and then try to find a niche and look for a product to fill it. So perhaps I will define what I want and see if you know any way that my requirements can be met?

I want a solar collector that will provide me 8kw. And cost USD1/watt to install.

I want a vehicle that will allow me to harness electrical energy that - although generated - is presently wasted. This consists (iner alia) of the following grid waste:

Night-time wind power
Off-peak nuclear, hydro and geothermal power
Buffered solar power
Off-peak electricity from gas fired, coal and other fossil fuels.

I want a vehicle that is driven by electric power and that has the following characteristics for my standard family car:

That can travel for 250 miles on a single charge (ergo, full use of 52kwhr of battery storage)
That can be recharged within 3-5 minutes (if I install adequate charging mechanisms)
That doesn't have a significantly higher purchase price than an equivalent ICE car.
That doesn't contain toxic materials
That lasts the lifetime of the car - i.e. more than 200,000 charge/discharge cycles
That is charged from my home storage system - preferably off my own solar/storage than grid.

In other words, I have a dream. But frankly, my dream has a better shot of success than Trev or the Aptera, or the about to be terminated ZENN Car. It is not only a dream for my car of the future, but also for my home's independence from the grid, and for scalable storage that will assist utilities to better balance their grids and more effectively buffer from renewable supplies.

My dream is on the horizon, and I have put money on my choices. But Trev is only likely to be conceptual rather than real.

Will my dream - and consequent investments - pay off?

LOL, Ask me in two years time.

kind regards

I like some of what you say, but:

So a smart business person lets others take the risks and then captitalizes on their vision and failures. Where's the fun in that? How many things do you use every day that are the result of someone elses trials and errors? We will remember them. Folks like you? Most of my sense of accomplishment comes from my risks and failures. Profit and success are always secondary. Are you a great business person? Maybe. Explain to me how special that is. "There's a place in the world for a gambler."

Just some thoughts ;-)

I agree.

The fact is that there are those who achieve something and then there are those who merely watch and take an opportunistic bet when things look good.

I have had a long business career which includes developing new technology among other things - but am now retired. I have since then spent years watching, learning and analysing renewable energy technology in its many forms. My opinions come as a result of that - and my investment is my only way of supporting promising new technologies that have a prayer of competing with oil etc when it becomes cheap (for supply and demand considerations).

But my investments are also at risk and I do not take for granted - for one moment - that they will succeed.

People will (and do) judge me for what I did during my working career. I suppose my family will ultimately judge me for my investment choices since health issues stopped me in my tracks:-(

kind regards

If folks like you and me don't take a chance on promising technology and support it through discussion, promotion and investment, much of it will never have a chance. I'm a tinker and came up in the Homepower DIY school of renewables. My first three PV panels were 75 watt Siemans salvaged from a defunct business (legally) when PV prices were over $10/watt (they still pump our water 15 years later). I've seen premium panels well under $3/W recently. Someone had to prove their viability. I could have brought grid power in for 1/2 of what I have invested in PV, but as I said, where's the fun in that?

I see the EV market the same way. Someone's going to have to take a chance on the technology and some are going to loose financialy, but they can say "I did it first" when there are 400 million of them on the road. When EVs are sold with their own charging plant (PV, Wind), can carry 4 adults 160km on a charge, with powertrain warranties of 10 years/ 200,000 mi. and the buyers figure out that they won't have to spend a cent on fuel for years, electric cars will become a "profitable venture" even a Ferengi could love, and we'll see a lot of them on the roads. As I've posted often, I see some level of battery standardization as an important step. But, "the road to success is paved with failure".

Here's to good health!

Think you are a bit unreasonable with the charge-discharge cycles requirement - 200,000 times 250 miles will get your dream car to 50 million miles :))
Think 1,000 cycles/250,000 miles is a reasonable life expectancy for a car/battery in US and even more for elsewhere. It is also well within the capabilities of modern Li-ion batteries.
The 250 miles range and the 3-5 minutes recharge time all at a reasonable price will pose problems though.

I appreciate your detailing your perspective, but some of your preferences remind me of a truism of our age that I think will soon be undone.

It seems to me that "The Customer is always Right" is probably predicated on the guaranteed assumption "The Fuel is always Cheap", and as such will not be the norm for long.

For your sake and everyone's, I hope your wish of 1$/watt installed cost for an 8KW system comes about, but I suspect the prices of PV today, not unlike the continued affordability of Gas, are more a consequence of the recession and demand, and not an indication that we are actually progressing towards the kind of prices you are waiting for. It might be worth hedging a little and getting some PV capacity while you can.. in case a recovery sees those prices skyrocket, or a deepening of these hard knocks starts killing off the manufacturers, or your ability to buy anything..

Anyway, sorry to hear about your heath.


"Business reality" has nothing to do with "Human Nature".

for those who want a fossil fuel burning ride ....

Congress OKs making 3-wheelers eligible for funds

From Oregon comes ... the Pulse ...

jmygann, thanks for the links - very interesting.

Freight bikes available today

Sorry in dutch

The ultimate plan is to drop personal transportation altogether. Including bikes. Bikes aren't necessary for most people in a properly designed city. How many people are there in New York City or Paris, who don't own a car, but who use a bike regularly? Not that many, maybe 10%. Mostly, you get around by walking, supplemented by a subway/"heavy rail" (best), light rail (not nearly as good), or bus (ugh).

Like this:

See? No cars. No electric cars. No bikes. No scooters. Just people walking around, the way they have done in cities for five thousand years. Put a subway or train station every mile or so (20m walk) and YOU'RE DONE for the next thousand years.

You might as well do it the right way the first time, so you don't have to redo it later when you figure out how much your electric gizmos suck.

(Dieppe, Germany)

Life Without Cars, 2009 edition:

What a real train system looks like:

Live like Harry Potter:

The problem I have with a point like yours is that it relies on oversimplification.

Sorry you don't like buses. Sorry you think bikes are unnecessary.

We'll have very good uses for both of these, bikes in particular have been extremely heavy lifters in relation to their weight. They carry a human more energy efficiently/mile than any other vehicle we've ever had. They use less energy/mile than walking.

It will take all sorts of tools, including Cars, Vans, Cabs and Wagons of all sorts.

I know a lot of gizmos in my life that have sucked, but the ones with a battery, a motor and a speed control circuit have almost NEVER been in that category. I still have my first Makita from College, I have this dinky little beard-trimmer with one sub-C Nicd cell in it, and I can't kill the thing!

Now, those gizmos that are leaking Tritium all over my country, those suck AND blow! Good riddance!


We sure do love our cars.
Ran across this the other day, and it ties in with something written about in Donald Walsh's book, 'Conversations with God' I forget which volume, about using pneumatic tubes as transportation.
Imagine, 2 hours from Reno to Vegas, and at 200 mph, and cheaply...
Lotsa potential here IMO.

Hi econguy,

I can appreciate your desire to have "Life Without Cars", but why do you have a problem with bikes?

How many people ...Paris, .... Mostly, you get around by walking

Maybe we are talking about a different Paris, but the one in France is has lots and lots of cars - see those pedestrians trying to cross the street:

And Provence, France, has many roads that would make waiting for the train a long wait - here is popular road with cyclists:

And, those nice walkable villages - my wife has a walking disability and we do great on our trike:

And, I do like going to the beach - here is my trusty bike on the way to the beach - I'm really not interested in walking from my place of lodging:

I'm all for trains and other types of mass transit and I really dislike cars - but, hey I do like my bike.

The Poodle on the left is "Maggie", one of my puppies. She moved to Paris last week. She doesn't like cars very much either. Her new owner sent me this picture. She had never seen a bicycle before she got to Paris and she was totally amazed! If you see her, give her a big hug for "Pappy".


Hi Ghung,

That looks like Notre Dame in the background? Very nice dog. We just got our new Irish Terrier puppy - but, must refrain from more personal photos on this thread (although I have sufficient bandwidth to enjoy any and all photos/graphis others publish here).

Funny to hear the Paris/Bikes conversation. When I was there on a vacation with my wife.. sort of our first 'big date', in 2000, I saw my first 'Critical Mass' ride from a cafe' on Place de la Revolucion, I think. Some sound had changed, and I looked up and the Avenue was filled with thousands of bikes passing.. and it went on for some 15 minutes, finally fading, and then the cars started up again.

I'm afraid you're not very well acquainted with bicycle modal share in many European cities. Here are the percentages of work commute trips made by bicycle. (This data is from 2004--the numbers today are likely higher. Also, if all trips, not just commute-to-work trips, were taken into account, the percentages would be higher.) The second number in parentheses is the % of commute trips made on foot:

Aarhus--27% (7%)
Amsterdam--22% (4%)
Bern--11% (11%)
Bonn--13% (9%)
Bremen--19% (7%)
Copenhagen--36% (6%)
Eindhoven--24% (3%)
Freiburg em Breisgau--13% (11%)
Hanover--13% (9%)
Malmo--24% (6%)
Rotterdam--14% (5%)
The Hague--22% (5%)
Utrecht--21% (3%)

As much as I agree that public transportation is very important, I personally prefer riding my bicycle. Because I can usually take a more direct route to my destination than on public transit and because there's no waiting involved, for distances under ten miles I've never had an experience where bicycling wasn't faster than public transit. Because it involves exercise and being outside, bicycling is almost always pleasanter than public transit. Bicycle riding has doubled in New York, Paris and San Francisco in the last three years. I wouldn't be so quick to write it off.

"On foot" doesn't mean all on foot. It should include trips using the train or (ugh) a bus, where you can walk to the train and then walk from the train to wherever you want to go. The point is, the city is a walking environment.

The ultimate point is, if you design a city that is BASED ON USING BIKES, then you will probably end up with bike dependency, and probably an environment that is "bike friendly" but not people ("pedestrian") friendly. It's just the same as for car dependency, although maybe not quite as bad. However, if you make a city that is BASED ON WALKING, then you'll get a city that is good for walking. For those trips which are not so convenient for walking/train/bus/etc., then use bike. Go right ahead.

There is still WAAAAY too much focus on the mechanical personal transportation device. There are many cities in the world where people don't use cars. Usually, they don't use bikes either, or at least not all that often.

Modern bikes (chain drive, brakes) came along almost at the same time as automobiles. Before 1880 or so, people lived without bikes just as they lived without cars.

In fact, I would consider a high ratio of bike usage to be evidence of a FAILURE of proper city design -- namely, a city where one can get around either by walking or walking to/from mass transit. In short, Copenhagen's high bike usage ratio might mean that it has an insufficient train system, or that its layout is not dense enough for a proper walking environment, etc.

I find it interesting that people give me so much pushback about these things. Whether it is the hulking SUV, the "flying car" fantasy, the 600-pound electro-car, or the bicycle, it's still all the same repetitive thought process: mechanical personal transportation device.

Instead, try to think of an environment that is good for people walking around.

You're cracking me up.

To suggest that designing a city around SUV-scaled vehicles is the same kind of thinking as one that might heavily rely on bikes, and that somehow, the bikes would leave this city with an imbalanced dependency, and would not allow for pedestrians.. that it's the same as the Flying Car Fantasy.

Sorry, Econ. I think the 'Mechanical Transport' connection doesn't account for the significance in energy required and materials required by different forms of transport.. Ball Bearings and Inflatable Tires aren't the problem here.

I'm just saying how a successful city works. The fact that people don't get it just shows how little experience they have in these matters.

Let's take Manhattan for example. It is not the best city, but it is one that people are familiar with. Forget about the other four boroughs and the north half of Manhattan. I just mean the part where the beautiful people live.

Most people don't own cars. But, they ALSO don't have bikes. It is a place that you can get around by walking, and by mass-transit (subway/train) assisted walking. (The people that do own cars use them only every other weekend, to leave the city, not to get around within the city.)

A few people have bikes. But, it is generally not necessary. That's what I'm talking about. This is normal for a successful urban environment.

So, don't worry about the bikes. Make a place that is OK to live in without bikes.

In this case, we don't substitute bikes for cars. We just don't need either.

You're simply wrong here. You really don't know what you're talking about.

I lived in Manhattan for 20 years, and in the final few, they had just completed the 'Full Loop', a Bike/Hike Trail that completely circled the Island of Manhattan. Even before then, a bike was an absolutely INCREDIBLE way to get around NYC. It was great out in Flushing Queens, great in Astoria, in Brooklyn.. I could get from my apt on E62 to the GeorgeWashington Bridge and over into NJ quite easily, and that's a serious hike across town and way uptown. A bike sliced that distance like nothing else. You'd very likely do better than any car for most intown trips.

Now you're right in one respect about NY, since it is SO dense that transit and walking are also extremely effective there, and you don't HAVE to have a bike at all.. but that is where NY is very unusual compared to most US Cities and Big Towns. But that is still miles apart from ludicrous statements like 'We just don't need [bikes]..' There are still just thousands upon thousands of them using the streets. So speak for yourself.

Here in a smaller city, the number of individuals and families that make use of bikes for practical transportation is considerable, including the die-hards who keep bike-commuting through the winter. The traffic setup is the only thing keeping it from ballooning tenfold..(and as was said before, PO might be the solution to that one..)

Having active support for easy, safe bike travel in towns and cities will prove itself to be extremely liberating and uplifting for hundreds of thousands of people. It will hardly condemn these places to an 'unnatural dependency' on bicycles.

"I'm just saying how a successful city works. The fact that people don't get it just shows how little experience they have in these matters." - Frankly, I'm not sure what you gauge as success for a city.. the way they are running today is modeled almost exclusively around the Auto and other High-Energy Inputs, NYC clearly included in this.. I don't see enough examples in your posts to make me believe you really have a grasp on what makes cities work well, and what is expendable.


(A LOT of the Beautiful people were pretty quick to launch for the Hamptons or Rye, it should be said.. my best friend was biking from FDR Drive and 11th street over to Worth St every day, breathing the crap that was getting hauled out of the WTC in the process- a lot of working people down there, and bikes are locked onto everything.. )

econoguy, I hear you but, I've been to Manhattan maybe ten times and, while I walked and rode the subway, it was wall-to-wall cars and busses and cabs and trucks. Thats the main reason I walked.

Hi econguy,

I find it interesting that people give me so much pushback about these things

You have been here on TOD for a couple of years so I think you know that many of us support the idea more walking and more mass transit. And, its probably not useful for us to quibble about things like the degree of walking versus biking.

From my POV, I think you get some "pushback" because it seems a bit contradictory to espouse the the kind of high tech trains in your link while concurrently relegating a relatively low tech bike to a less desirable category.

Before 1880 or so, people lived without bikes....bicycle, it's still all the same repetitive thought process: mechanical personal transportation device.

Copenhagen's high bike usage ratio might mean that it has an insufficient train system

It seems very uncertain if we can successfully powerdown over the coming decades or if a serious collapse is unavoidable. Mostly what we do on TOD is try to offer solutions in case the world gets serious about the problem(s). It seems to me that it is logical to compare transportation schemes based upon a variety of strategies: HPV, NEV, tiny cars, buses, trains, etc. Personally, I think an "environment that is good for people" would have lots and lots of bikes/trikes.

Looking back in time we see that humans have used animals to enhance their ability to move about the planet, and then the wheel led to bikes. Cars seemed like a great idea that has proven to have significant side effects. Moving back a step to bikes (or bike like things) seems like a good idea to me. And, they are enjoyable and healthy.

Don't think of this as "pushback" - maybe just a bit of refinement :-)

Sorry, you're missing my point. A good city environment doesn't need cars AND it doesn't need bikes.

I lived without a car in Tokyo for five years. I owned a bike, but never rode it. This was the BEST.

Actually, I did commute to work by bike for a short while. This sucked. I know it sucked because I did it.

You guys talk a big talk but only 0.5% of the people here have done it. Have you lived in a walkable metropolitan environment without owning a car? I've lived in central Tokyo, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Have you commuted by walking, bike, subway, and bus? And personal automobile?

I think people that have DONE IT aren't fantasizing about battery-powered gizmos. I just want to be able to walk to the train. Believe me, this is the best.

Generally, the LESS bike riding the better. The best cities are the ones where you can do what you need to do by walking.

I love walking in most cities too. The problem is many (most?) of us don't live in walkable cities. If we all moved to the cities, I doubt things would be as fun as you say.

econguy, this is probably getting to an unproductive point of discussion.

I did commute to work by bike for a short while. This sucked.... You guys talk a big talk ... Have you lived in a walkable metropolitan environment without owning a car? ... commuted by ... bike...

Hey, come on now, give us a little credit. I've lived without a car, I've commuted to work by bike, and I've worked in large non-US cities. Some of us really LIKE bikes and just can't buy your hard line on the subject - and, it is obvious you are missing my point also.

Like I said before - why are we quibbling about the amount of walking versus biking when 90% of US citizens think we are both nuts?

Which cities are the best cities, then? Not San Francisco where I live. People are enjoying riding their bicycles all over this city. Not New York. They've added hundreds of miles of bike lanes the past year and half. Not Portland, the highest biking (big) city in the U.S.

I like to walk. Walking is nice for trips under half a mile. Trains and light rail are good, too, but don't provide me with as much exercise and chance to be outdoors. Bicycles are quicker than walking, quicker than public transportation and don't destroy the environment. They are the lowest emissions option around. (Far lower than public transit.) A city with lots of people taking transit, bicycling and walking is a great city. A city choked with nasty, smelly, noisy, huge, environment-destroying cars is a city that won't do well in the twenty-first century. If you don't like riding a bicycle, you don't have to do it, but why would you advocate that others shouldn't be allowed?

The last time I saw a lot of people walking in NYC was when the grid failed. The subways couldn't scrub their air and predictably, the stoplight-based road system locked solid. They were mostly walking out.

ISTM that the cities you are talking about are at unsustainable population densities. At the densities where a mass transit system is necessary I suggest the following are correlates
- air conditioning for business to continue year-round
- powered vertical transports
- switched communications and directory services
- a correlation between the cost and complexity of administration and the quality of service delivery across all human needs
- powered clean water and waste transport systems

Would you live in such a place if the grid became intermittent?

As a non-car owning environmentally friendly pedestrian I am afraid that I find cyclists the biggest pain on the roads, or more often than not on the pavements (sidewalks). Cars may be a good deal larger and more dangerous but at least unlike bicycles they stay where they belong, ie on the road. Cars do also normally have their headlights on at night, have working horns, their drivers obey traffic signals and so on.
Although I have not been to the United States I have visited ultra-cyclist friendly Amsterdam, and must say that I found the masses of cyclists every where to be a nightmare. Although I am a very keen railway buff I must also be a little heretical and say that I found its trams (streetcars) (now found in some British cities but not yet Exeter) pretty lethal as well, since they do not have a dedicated right of way and yet can neither swerve nor stop very quickly. All I can say is pedestrians rule! (and trains)

Hi Sampford,

I do understand your feelings about many cyclists - as a bicycle advocate, I complain about this also. I've often suggested that there is good fodder for a PHD dissertation regarding the goofy behavior of a relatively sane motorist who gets on a bike and rides on public roads with little discipline.

However, there is another side to the coin (isn't there always). Bikes should never be on pedestrian sidewalks, but in far to many cases this is not enforced even where the law prohibits riding on sidewalks (as it does here). The problem is both ignorance on the part of law enforcement and their reluctance to force a person into dangerous traffic conditions. The solution is to make the roads safe for cycling and then enforce the law.

Cyclists should always obey traffic laws - and every cycling organization I'm related to advocates this. Again, the problem starts with education in schools. If educators actually realized what was going to happen with personal transportation in the future, they would teach kids from an early age about proper cycling behaviour - AND there would actually be "Safe Routes to School" that were taken seriously.

I also agree that cyclist should have proper lighting, horns, etc - again a matter of education and enforcement - which is not going to happen until we have a change in our car culture.

I do expect that cyclist behaviour would get worse if cycling suddenly became more popular due to economic reasons - it is a simple fact that you can travel a lot further by bike than by foot if you are trying to save money. I am not thrilled about having to put up with a horde of newbies on bikes - but, it is better than the alternative of trying to continue with a BAU car culture.

I agree "pedestrians rule" - just like sailboats get the right of way. Cyclists should always defer to pedestrians and cars should always defer to cyclists. We have a ways to go on this!

Hi bicycle dave I am afraid that you are right about the lack of enforcement of laws regarding such things as pavement cycling. I have written to the local council about it only to be told in effect that the police have more serious matters to contend with than to bother with such things.
It probably does not help that a large proportion of cyclists are young adult males either. Remonstrating with them for riding on the pavement I have been ignored (often), sworn at (often) and threatened with physical violence (more than once).

Hi Sampford, The village that we cycle to on an almost daily basis is very popular with motorists, cyclist, and pedestrians - it's kind of a trendy place to congregate in this area. In the summertime, the young teenagers cycling on the sidewalk is a real issue - a serious injury is almost certain to happen.

According to our state law, only very young children can operate a bike on a sidewalk - definitely not these teens. I've also complained to law enforcement and got much the same answer. As I said, I'm very passionate about advocating cycling. But, I realize that until folks like yourself stop having these negative experiences, we are just making more widespread adoption of cycling all the more difficult.


A few comments in response to various comments above:

1. Trev is an "open source" car which anyone can build themselves. Plans and design calculations are available online at and Team Trev encourages people to use them and to improve upon them. This is in contrast with typical ICE cars which are far too complex for people to build themselves, and which therefore end up being designed and built by companies which maximise commercial returns by focusing on customer "wants".

2. Trev's low energy requirements make it suitable to be recharged by ones own home solar PV system. So, in addition to being able to build it yourself, you can also power it yourself. Again, very different from an ICE car for which one generally needs to purchase petroleum from a third party.

3. The idea that "I won't drive a small lightweight car because everyone else is driving a large heavy one" reminds me of time I lived in San Salvador, just after the civil war there ended. Most houses in San Salvador were heavily fortified, with high fences, heavy gates and security cameras. With the civil war over, someone needed to take the first step and remove their own fortifications, so others could follow and gradually the city could return to normal. I see small cars vs. big cars the same way. Someone has to start, so others can then follow. I'm one of those starters and I hope others will follow, in due course.

Team Trev's entry into Zero Race ( will demonstrate the viability of a small electric car like Trev. It's actually taking Trev outside of its design spec - it was designed for urban mobility, but it if can drive around the world it can be s successful urban commuter.


Certainly triggered a stimulating discussion, didn't it?

Thanks for the extra points, Andrew! Post some videos if you've got them!

Bob Fiske
Portland, Maine

Certainly triggered a stimulating discussion, didn't it?

Amazing discussion, yes - there's a very engaged and passionate community here on TOD.

Post some videos if you've got them!

We created a YouTube channel here and we've uploaded an initial (very short) video. We're working on other videos so feel free to subscribe to our channel to receive updates in future. Feel free to subscribe to if you'd like updates on our team's progress too.


Many of us have trouble envisioning a future with decreased individual mobility. I doubt that in 10 years many of us will be able to afford electric cars which mimic the mobility of the ICE. We would do best by having a much more extensive mass transit system which might include rail, electric buses (catenary), streetcars, bicycle paths, and increased walkability, car sharing, and van pooling. Unfortunately, our economic system is most responsive in the moment at distributing scarce resources efficiently and does not handle situations which require planning.

Currently I commute 23 miles from a western suburb in Minneapolis to an eastern suburb southeast of the airport. If I think about how I would complete this journey (maintaining business as usual) in a more sustainable way, the only option I can come up with is some type of automobile. In the Twin Cities, we have 1 light rail line which might be a help, but I would need to take two buses as well as the light rail to get to Eagan. I might be able to get there, but returning in the evening would be a small problem since suburban bus service is unavailable after an early hour. My commute which currently takes 30 minutes by car would probably take 2-3 hours using available mass transit.

Of course, the reality is that when the SHTF, I won't be commuting to Eagan anyhow; I haven't the faintest clue what I will be doing. I might be able to sell the property I "own" and move closer in (10 minute commute to downtown by freeway, 25 by bus). If I still have the finances and the option, a vehicle like the TREV, REVA, or Aptera would be ok by me despite the drawbacks.

Some of us have a glimmer of what sustainability could look like, but I don't think any of us has much of an idea of how we get to there from here. It will probably involve blood, sweat, and tears.

I doubt that in 10 years many of us will be able to afford electric cars which mimic the mobility of the ICE. We would do best by having a much more extensive mass transit system

That's quite a good point. The people who think that the electric car will allow them to continue a lifestyle involving large suburban houses long distances from work are probably kidding themselves. The truth is that they will only be able to afford a smaller house, and a much shorter commute, and they might have to use public transit to get around. They won't be able to afford to drive an electric car.

The modern urban structure will be unsustainable in the post-peak oil era. The pedestrian-oriented cities and streetcar suburbs of 100 years ago would be much more functional than the automobile-oriented ones of today.

Mass transit, bicycles and walking shoes. That is it. I don't for a second believe the masses will be driving around in electric cars. We'll hold onto our unleaded fueled trucks and cars until the last gallon of gasoline is pumped.

Mr. Smiley

Who is "We"? We won't all hold onto our ICEs until the last gallon is pumped, because that isn't the way extraction works. More and more will have to find other options. Some will relocate and walk/bike. A few might get cars. I expect many suburbs willadopt more Park and Ride systems. Or Bike/Walk and Ride if you will. That is the easiest solution for non-affluent suburbs so it is what I see happening.


Imagine, 2 hours from Reno to Vegas, and at 200 mph, and cheaply...
Lotsa potential here IMO.