Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Is the Future of Transport in Niches?

Transport occurs in fairly stable patterns.  People commute to and from work, school and stores each day within a known range of miles and load. However, these stable patterns do not define the vehicles people buy. People tend to buy vehicles which cover a large array of contingencies.  Daily commuter vehicles are more often than not heavier than needed for a daily commute as they are purchased for events such as a once every month journey more than 200 miles with 6 people.  This contingency-link to vehicle purchasing creates a lot of fuel inefficiency.

(source: US Census Bureau)

As transport fuels become more diverse and expensive, powered transportation devices may also become more customized to fill niches.  These niche vehicles will be more efficient as they would just cover the vast majority of daily transport in the most efficienct manner.  Services such as car sharing Zip Car would meet the need for less frequent vehicle uses.

In cities, people tend to use taxis, subways and buses.  Taxis are expensive. Subways and buses, while most often the quickest way around, can be slow and infrequent at the edges of a city.

I was passing a motorcycle store the other day and saw this Ultra Motor A2B electric bicycle which can travel 20 miles at 20 miles per hour between charges.  It is an urban commuting vehicle.  One can pedal if the batteries have been drained.  The vehicle can be stored inside an apartment or an office which is an advantage over gasoline-powered scooters.  I am not endorsing this bike, it is simply interesting that products which would once have been considered gimmicks are now slowly at the edges of becoming more mainstream.

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