"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Life in the technological fast lane

I haven't owned a car in a decade. Living in Tokyo, I don't really need one. Public transportation and taxis get me everywhere I need to go in the city with a minimum of fuss and expense. Back in Canada, I nearly lived in my car, putting 20-30,000 kilometers a year on the succession of old jalopies I owned. Living out in the countryside or in the suburbs in Canada, a car was an absolute necessity and given the totally inadequate nature of public transit even in the largest cities, having a car even in an urban setting was mighty useful. And expensive ("gas is how much a liter this week?"). And stressful ("traffic is backed up how far?"). And dirty and smelly and noisy and all the other things that go with a gasoline powered vehicle. Traffic in Tokyo is insane and the air is already nearly unbreathable anyways, so as long as I'm here, I don't want a car.
I write about a lot of pretty nasty things on this blog - politics, hypocrisy, war, pestilence, corruption, stupidity and petty meaness and ignorance (and that's just Canadian Prime Minister's office) -- so its really nice to mention something positive for a change.

MDI is a French company that is going to save the world if people give them half a chance. They have created a radical new reimagining of the automobile industry, based on building small local plants that manufacture cars for a local market. Imagine a car built right at the dealership. Their labour-intensive plant design allows for an environmentally-friendly car to be built every half hour at a very, very reasonable cost - meaning lots of steady, decent-paying jobs building non-polluting products where they will be sold. No more having to head to the big city for a factory job. No more stinking industrial hellscapes. No need to ship vehicles thousands of miles to market. Hopefully, their cars will be available in Europe and the US this year.
Oh, and did I mention the cars run on compressed air? No need to waste food crops on biofuels, no need to mess with superflammable hydrogen or propane, no need for gasoline. There is a hybrid model that will run on anything from gasoline to alcohol and give you about 80 km per liter of fuel intended for highway driving, but for city driving, you just hook them up to an air compressor and you can go about 100 km before you need a refill. The bodies are mostly fiberglass, so they never rust. Hook that ordinary air compressor up to a neighbourhood windmill and you might never pay to run your car again. And the basic model sells for between $7000 and $12,000.

They may never replace the gasoline-engine roadster for long-distance highway driving, but think what it would do for air quality if you replaced every taxi, delivery vehicle, commuter car and bus in a city like Tokyo or Los Angeles or Mexico City with something that has zero emissions. Think how much money could be saved in fuel costs. And the loudest thing in them is probably the car stereo.


Shinigami Kayo said...

Wow. I like this idea. I commute daily 15mins to work. Quite literally a short hop. The thing I could never figure out with many of these animals was there ablities in the winter (coming from a cold climate). -40 C. how warm will the drive home be, or what power will drive me through a snow drift. Still, I am sure someone has already considered that and applied it to their design.

the rev. paperboy said...

I have no doubt these vehicles were probably NOT designed with plowing through snowdrifts at -40 in mind, but that won't really be a factor in horribly polluted places like Mexico City, Beijing and Calcutta. Though I did read somewhere they have an excellent heating/cooling system.
I don't know if they have the power to get through a drift, but since the basic model only weighs 220 kilos, they will be whole lot easier to push out of the ditch.

Skal said...

Hey Rev..

Love this twist toward the hopeful in your blog... and especially love this one! The idea of locally produced "anything and everything", including the darn electricity itself is the way we need to go. Personally I think it would be tons of fun to bank one of these fiberglass babies off of snowbanks on my country road. :)

Gazetteer said...

The rev turning hopeful?


(nice post, and cool concept)