You may have already noticed that cars seem to be getting smaller and smaller. But what you might not know is that they’re not only getting tinier, they’re getting techier as well. All kinds of pint-sized electric and compressed air cars will be showing up on our streets before long. And if you’re into innovative solutions to old problems, that’s a good thing.
But where are these smaller cars coming from? And what makes them so technologically advanced? Glad you asked.
Back to the future with BMW’s i3
Back in the early 1950s, Iso, an Italian company that made refrigerators (among other things), decided to get into the urban car market. The result was the Isetta, a 3-wheeled 2-seater that became known as the “bubble car.” The vehicle was eventually licensed to a number of companies, including BMW. The little Isetta was enormously popular for a while, but ultimately couldn’t compete in an era known for big, brawny cars. Within 10 years, it was out of production … though not without leaving its mark on the world of carmakers.
In fact, it’s likely the Isetta inspired BMW’s i3, the company’s first zero emissions car, which will go into production next year. The i3 will initially launch on the streets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Compressed air cars
One of the newest contenders in the green car arena is the AIRPod. Developed by Tata Motors in India and Motor Development International in Luxembourg, the AIRPod runs entirely on compressed air. The car can go 43 mph and has a range of 125 miles. Though those aren’t great stats, the upside is that filling the tank takes just 2 minutes and costs about $1.25. And for you old-school video game lovers, the car is controlled with a joystick rather than a wheel.
Sounds cool, right? Don’t rush out to buy the AIRPod just yet though. For all its appeal, the compressed air car has been on the drafting board for a long time. Experts say that if you’re seeking a green alternative to a gas engine, electric and hybrid vehicles are much more efficient at this point. But as technology continues to push the bounds of what’s possible (and efficient), all that could very well change in the future.
Origami: not just for paper anymore
With any luck, we’ll someday see the Hiriko CityCar on our streets. This 2-seater car is being developed by MIT’s Changing Places Group and DENOKINN (the Basque Center for Social Innovation). An electric vehicle, the Hiriko has a near-zero turn radius — something we city dwellers will no doubt appreciate.
Perhaps best of all, by eliminating a gas engine and drive train, the Hiriko’s engineers were able to design a car that’s not only 100 percent electric but also folds up when your park it (a folding mechanism tucks the rear of the car under the chassis). Now if only they can get it to fold into different shapes, say a flower or a swan, they’ll really be onto something.
Small, smart, and electric cars
Back in the late 1990s, when the smart car was initially launched, we caught a glimpse into the future of compact city cars. Since then, the MINI Cooper and the smart fortwo have taken urban areas by storm.
Since there isn’t much room for cars to get any smaller, they decided to get techier instead. BMW is currently experimenting with the MINI E, the first 100 percent electric, zero-emissions MINI. And the 2014 smart fortwo will come in gas, diesel, and electric variants.
Insurance for the modern world™
While it may be tempting to insure your futuristic compressed air car before even buying it, we suggest you wait until you’ve got the keys. In the meantime, you can get a quote for your (current) modern ride.