The future of transport

Recently, I found myself talking to a scooter salesman. I don’t begrudge anyone their choice in transport – be it a Hummer or a skateboard, or anything in between – but scooters aren’t really my thing. I was interested in the technology of this particular scooter. It was a Vectrix scooter and for those of you who don’t know: they are driven by an electric motor.

It’s very clichéd, but the stone-age didn’t end because the world ran out of rocks.There are several well-known competing technologies vying to replace the internal combustion engine run on fossil fuels. The least removed from the current technology are traditional engines run on ethanol (plant based) fuels. Rubber hoses and seals quickly perish from contact with pure ethanol and as such some degree of new components are required to make the technology possible. This technology is not without its downside: There are concerns over the ability to produce enough ethanol as well as food crops to sustain the Western world’s way of life. Also, engines run on ethanol still emit carbon-dioxide – thus contributing to greenhouse gasses.

The second technology uses Hydrogen fuel cells. This offers a huge potential energy source and is clean burning (the exhaust is water). Hydrogen however, is reasonably hard to contain, has the notorious reputation of being highly explosive and would require a huge infrastructure overhaul to support its widespread use. Ten years ago, those predicting widespread adoption of the technology thought it would require around ten years to mature. These days, those candidates are predicting the technology will take around ten years to mature…

The third technology uses electric motors. These vehicles may have once had a stigma of being slow and boring, but they’re doing their level best to throw off that persona. The biggest problem the vehicles currently face are slow recharging times (compared with the time it takes to fuel a car/bike) and the range obtainable between recharges. The price of the batteries is still quite high and this is probably the area where the vehicles are most “immature” but scooters such as the Vectrix are a viable proposition as a commuter vehicle. Whether electric powered vehicles “mature” enough to be the successor to the internal combustion engine remains to be seen, but so far, it seems to be the most likely to.

For me, commuting is not why I ride a motorcycle and so scooters such as the Vectrix will be little more than a curiosity to me. I wish the company well on their endeavours and look forward to seeing what progress they make.

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