The automotive industry is creating the most energy efficient cars and trucks ever manufactured. While our new eco-efficient drive trains are fantastic, the cars are still much larger than they need to be for most trips. This results in an inefficient use of land for mobility. In our new Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) age, there is an opportunity to create a new type of narrow car that carries two passengers and couple them with car sharing services for when the consumer needs a vehicle with greater capacity.
Denver, Colorado, is like most US cities, where the average car travels with 1.1 people. Considering the average car has five seats, most cars travel at a 20 percent load factor – this is very inefficient. If major airlines operated at such a low level of inefficiency, it is possible that the business would only survive for a week.
In the past, it made sense for consumers to drive over-sized cars, as they had no ability to share a larger car when needed, but with car sharing available in most world cities, it is possible to transition to a new model of right-sized personal mobility.
With a large number of narrow cars in operation, highway lanes can be split and get two cars for every one, which saves space and improves freeway speed in major urban areas. In addition, the narrow car has far less wind resistance – which improves aerodynamics and saves energy or fuel.
Narrow cars: innovations from around the world
There have been a number of narrow cars proposed in the past, but only a few car sharing services were available for up-sized vehicle needs. Some of these designs utilize a leaning body, for great handling features.
One of the earliest proposals uses the heavy weight of conventional batteries to enable great handing with the narrow wheelprint. This concept uses the battery weight as a kind of ballast.
Another automaker that focuses highly on safety created a narrow car proposal. The engineers were able to offer the same level of crash safety for the occupants for their larger, more conventional cars.
An entirely different approach is to create an “enclosed motorcycle”, and use gyroscopic technology for stability and performance. This is a grey area, as the level of safety for the consumer is less, and only a few to none consumers would want to wear a motorcycle helmet inside a car.
If narrow cars become popular, it is likely that there will be a new type of mobility station where consumers can switch from one car type to another. The process will be facilitated by both automation as well as valet attendants.
Would you prefer to own an over-sized car or a narrow car? Tell us your reasons in our comment section.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.