From walking to riding on horseback to sitting in the comfy cars we have today, mankind’s long and varied history of commuting has been consistently influenced by our desire for comfort. However, we are entering a time where such age old truths may no longer hold water. Indeed, the emergence of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) has drastically shaped the way we think about personal transportation. These consists of devices which are powered by electrical motors, such as electric scooters and unicycles, but nonetheless require a degree of balance and coordination on the user’s part.
These alternative transportation methods fill a specific niche between cars and traditional bicycles. In fact it can be said that they provide the best of both worlds, what with their killer combination of portability and power. As such they are rapidly gaining acceptance with the urban population. As these nascent trends continue to develop, let’s delve into some of the impacts that a PEV centric world would have in store for us.
That report you stayed back to complete. That late night meeting you had to attend. That ‘last beer’ that never was. Ask yourself, how many times have the commitments of school, work or even play come between you and your plans to ‘hit the gym’? Well all that is set to change with the proliferation of PEVs.
Perfect for those with hectic schedules, PEVs allow for exercise to become a standard feature of your daily commute. In today’s world, one oft-quoted argument against the usage of bicycles for transportation is that people do not want to show up to work and social events all hot and sweaty. This conundrum is easily solved by products such as the BionX electric bike kit, which transforms any ordinary bicycle into a smart E-bike. This means that you now have the choice of when and how you want to exert yourself, perfect for the lazy and the health conscious alike!
Another typically underserved market segment that benefits from this technology is the old and the infirm. Electric Mobility Scooters provide a degree of mobility to those with certain movement disabilities. Gone are the days of the walking stick and helping old ladies cross the road, as technology has successfully given the elderly a renewed sense of independence. So while nowhere as glamorous as the more technologically advanced offerings in the market, these devices serve as a welcome innovation for those that need it. As a whole, this paints a pretty rosy picture for the future of PEVs and this will certainly factor into the mainstream adoption of such technologies.
Imagine yourself as a hot shot executive rushing to your client’s office to close an important business deal. What are your options? Walking is out of the question. Hailing a cab in the bustling streets of the financial district would be a futile endeavour. Even calling an Uber driver would involve at least a good ten minutes of waiting around, far too long for your tastes. In situations like these, having the option of whipping out your ZoomAir electric scooter would surely be a lifesaver. On a side note, those who enjoy being the centre of attention will certainly relish the looks you will undoubtedly garner as you weave through the human traffic.
However, such convenience comes with a reasonably hefty price tag, with a standard PEV costing anywhere between $500 to $2500 depending on the company and model. Nevertheless, this is small change when compared to the cost of a car, which also incurs additional costs when fuel and servicing are taken into account. In addition, learning to use these machines is a relatively simple matter as most can quickly get the hang of it within a week. Perhaps more importantly there is no need to acquire a license for their operation, which as many Singaporeans who have driving licenses can attest, can take up a significant amount of time and money. With such a potential for cost savings, there is little room for doubt that PEVs will continue to remain popular those who place style and practicality in equally high esteem.
Environmentally speaking, it isn’t difficult to see why electric vehicles are seen as the future of transportation. Much like Tesla’s electric cars, PEVs are far more environmentally friendly than traditional cars as they do not rely on fossil fuels which produce harmful CO2 emissions. Transportation itself accounted for approximately 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. While the honour of emitting zero emissions still remains with bicycles and other such mechanical transportation methods, vehicles such as electric cars emit less than half of the greenhouse gases that comparable fossil fuel vehicles do.
On the other hand, PEVs rely on electrical energy stored in batteries and thus need to be charged at regular intervals. Thus a common gripe amongst users is the constant need for charging and the short battery life, with the average battery needing to be charged after every ride and with a lifespan lasting 2-3 years. This is not just an issue relegated only to the more dubious producers, as even established brands such as Airwheel and FalconPEV frequently face complaints about performance issues. Even so, we can expect continuing advances in technology and energy efficiency to address these issues and take us closer to the dream of a greener world.
While it remains to be seen whether mass market adoption of PEVs will ultimately occur, their social, economic and environmental impacts are already well underway. If anything, I would recommend giving them a try solely because they are a whole lot of fun to ride, falls and all. Just remember to bring a helmet!