Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Free Car, Anyone?

If you got a free car offered to you, wouldn't you?  This article says that financial wizardry can somehow make that happen, that you can own a car for the same cost as repayments on a conventional vehicle.

I'm going to go a step further...

Imagine for a moment, that you are one of the countless suburbs dwellers who commute to work, using the bus and train services or your own car or a carpool car.  Whichever way you travel will cause pollution and greenhouse gas emission.  Electric trains are some way towards being much friendlier, and many cities have them.  But suppose you're not in the service area for a local train?

You'd take a bus.  Now I've seen diesel buses, petrol buses, natural gas buses, and hydrogen fueled buses.  Except for the last, they still emit unacceptable amounts of pollution.

So - suppose that an entire city decided to "green up."  What can they do?  Well - how about banning anything other than approved electric vehicles in the city centre, and major business centres?  Most businesses only need to transport staff around, and have a commuter workforce that generally comes from the suburbs, an average of 5 to 25 miles each way.  If you could put those people into the buses and trains, you'd achieve a major reduction in pollution.

Now suppose you gave each household (excluding flats and apartments) which is within the city a free electric car. It's not transferable, is permanently assigned to the house.  You can take just yourself, or yourself and your car pool friends, that's up to you.  You will have to pay electricity to recharge the car, and a surcharge fee to the local council or shire, and pay for damaged or lost vehicles.  But essentially you have a free transport.

Now make the city's centres a "no go" area for conventional vehicles.   Also, make major commute routes a no-go zone as well, cut down on conventionally-fueled vehicles in long queues.  People with their own ZEV/PZEV vehicles are permitted, people with their free electric vehicles will be permitted, and anyone who absloutely requires to use a conventional engined vehicle in those no-go zones may buy a permit by the year.

It would take only a few months to make a place green this way.

Where to get these vehicles?  Well, one of the reasons electric vehicles are so hella expensive is that they are competing on the road with much heavier, much faster conventional vehicles.  They have to be designed to resist a 250km/h impact even though any two EVs would only ever have a combined impact speed of about 150km/h, because conventional vehicles share the road with them.  Since you're taking the majority of those off the road with the permit system, you reduce the problem to near zero.  Most major roads have the capability to have an isolated "high speed" lane for permit vehicles, thus separating the traffic

Also - consider smaller electric buses.  LOTS of them.  Since most places already have a transit card system, you can make the electric buses a cheaper fare, afford to run tens of thousands instead of thousands.  Rely on the fact that work on new ultracapacitor batteries will reduce the time taken for recharging a bus down to a minute or two, and give enough juice to make it a viable means of transport.  Your old fossil-eating buses? Sell them to the people who want a mobile home.  (And can afford the cost of running them...)  Or turn them into emergency facilities that can be moved to where they're needed.  Nothing fancy, just kitchens and small surgeries and so forth.

One last thought.  Thousands of people lose their lives every week, in city traffic accidents.  The leading cause of these accidents is excessive speed.  If you want to reduce that death toll, this is another way to that goal.

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