Tranquility of the Electric Car

I was almost tempted. The idea of an electric car has always appealed to me so when I saw that the new Peugeot 3 wheeler is electric I almost thought I would like one.

Peugeot hopes that the safety features, fuel economy and environmental performance of its latest scooter will tempt commuters out of their cars. The Peugeot HYbrid3 Evolution has no gears and is powered by a 300cc engine driving its single rear wheel and two 3 kW electric motors – one mounted within each of its two front wheels motors. The trike offers a range of 10km running on electric mode, but a combination of battery power and stop-start technology delivers 141mpg and 48 g/km of CO2.

The claim is that the three wheel configuration offers safer handling. The Hybrid3 Evolution leans into corners like any other motorcycle, but because of its three-wheels it is supposed to be exceptionally stable, especially in wet conditions. The addition of anti-lock brakes and three-wheel drive offers further advantages over most other conventional scooters.

Then I remembered, it is not always dry or warm. Over short distances I prefer a bicycle. If I wanted an around town run-around I would consider the Smart. Wait a minute I did! But then decided on the four doors, so got the Kia Picanto.

But I am tempted by the C-ZERO.

Citroën describes its latest electric vehicle as ‘triple zero’; a reference to the fact that the C-ZERO uses no petrol or diesel, emits no CO2 at point of use and produces no noise.

The four-seater, automatic-transmission city car will have a top speed of 80mph and a range of approximately 80 miles between charges. The C-Zero’s centrally-mounted 330V lithium-ion battery can be recharged in six hours via any 240V household electrical socket.

It has electric windows (why not go for old window winders to save battery power?), power steering, ABS, traction control, ESP, six airbags and air conditioning (bet that drains the batteries).

The C-Zero is due to go on sale at the end of 2010.

Imagine the transformation of our lives if city streets became quiet as a result of the near silent electric vehicles. There is a snag though. A charity for the blind has been working with sports car-manufacturer Lotus to develop an artificial petrol engine sound for quiet electric vehicles such as the C-Zero. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association believes that near-silent vehicles will put blind and partially sighted people at risk and wants the European Union to set minimum noise requirements for electric cars before they become widespread.

What a shame that as a safety solution there is not more imaginative plan than a sound like a petrol engine. Perhaps owners of the vehicles could choose their own sound (but not a loud one). One person could broadcast classical music, another could emit the sound of seagulls calling (only useful inland), or the sound of singing, or laughter. The list could go on.

What would your sound be? Barking dog, household burglar alarm, opera singer, a prayer…?

One thought on “Tranquility of the Electric Car

  1. I’m sure as a cyclist you’ve experienced the problem of people stepping out onto the road or the cycle lane because people don’t hear you coming, so I can understand the Association’s concerns. But surely in this day and age there are other solutions. Could a wireless signal not be emitted from the cars that blind people could hear through an earpiece?

    Yes, it would be wonderful if everyone used electric cars. Somehow I don’t think it will happen. People love their petrol cars too much. If things are to change, the government needs to take a lead with less timid measures than putting 2p on the price of a litre of fuel. How about doubling the price of petrol and investing the extra revenue in subsidised public transport (public transport needs to be cheaper than the motor car)? How about charging extra tax an a household’s second car? Congestion charges in more cities. Extra priority to buses (in York, why not close Tadcaster Road between 8.40 and 8.50 for all traffic except buses, bikes and electric cars?) – more people would leave their car at home if it took them an hour to get to work! There could be tax incentives for businesses to pay the public transport costs of their staff.

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