As gas prices reach record levels and fossil fuels diminish over time, consumer demand for alternative energy technology will do nothing but increase. In fact, urban electric vehicles, while rather novel in the United States, are more common in Europe, where population densities in metropolitan areas necessitated a search for alternatives to driving full size cars long ago.
The urban electric vehicle is essentially a very small car, typically a two-door hatchback designed to hold two to four passengers (and not much else). Relying on electricity as their primary power source, these vehicles are ideal for urban dwellers who need to get from point A to point B in cities crowded with full size vehicles. They are probably especially attractive to those who live in cities with poorly developed or unreliable public transportation systems.
According to the US Department of Energy, urban electric vehicles are considered regular passenger vehicles. Most contain the normal safety features and amenities American consumers have to come to expect: airbags, safety belts, and heaters and air conditioners. Current urban electric vehicles can reach top speeds of somewhere near 60 mph, and can go nearly 12 hours before needing to be recharged. This represents a significant improvement over earlier models, and should increase the acceptability of the technology among the general public.
Both Nissan and Ford are testing urban electric vehicles and Daimler-Chrysler is in contract to bring the original urban electric vehicle, the Zap! Smart Car into the United States. Previously, Smart Cars had to be imported from other countries, especially Canada, and modified to meet U.S. safety standards. Urban electric vehicles offer a range of benefits to drivers. Urban electric vehicles produce no emissions, which means they have the potential to reduce the harmful environmental impact of other forms of personal transportation. People who live in smog-filled cities may find this benefit especially attractive.
Second, urban electric vehicles, like hybrids and other advanced energy powered cars, often qualify for state and national tax credits. Some argue these credits can make up for the additional cost related to purchasing electric or hybrid vehicles. Finally, the urban electric vehicle’s small size make it an ideal choice for commuters in crowded cities. The compact nature of the urban electric vehicle makes it easier to drive in heavy traffic, and requires much less parking space. As cities become more crowded and gas gets more expensive, urban electric vehicles may be positioned for a massive jump in popularity.