Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The road to electric is filled with tiny cars (restofworld.org)
171 points by jimmy2020 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 260 comments

This is something I realized recently. I am in India and the number of small manufacturers who are making electric people movers is very high.

These are not high speed vehicles, they are below 40 KM/h speed as I see them, but the big shift is that hundreds of small companies around India are producing and maintaining small electric vehicles, mostly locally. The drivers charge them at home at night or during longer lunch breaks.

Surely one can say India has had these many companies making the foot Richshaw or body parts or other commercial ICE vehicles. But there is a big difference that lighter people moving EVs bring to the roads or intra-city transport. They are silent, do not pollute on the roads and most importantly, I think these companies will continue to integrate better motors and parts to build many people/goods moving EVs in the next decade.

What I conclude is that EV revolution is going to be way more democratized than we realize.

The critical part that is playing its role as I understand is that DC motors and batteries are plenty available from decent manufacturers.

Very soon, as I see articles around the web, there will be much better quality motors and batteries available across the country from brands say Yamaha or LG. Making the shell of a vehicle is not hard. ICEs have a ridiculously higher parts count compared to EVs. And not all EVs have to go above 60 KM/h.

Another big difference to ICE is that all quality differences of electrics are highly relevant to their users (range, range, range and the amount of charging hassle required to fulfill your usage pattern), whereas ICE can already be good enough for a user that doesn't want/need/can go fast at an extremely low level of sophistication. Any quality metrics beyond "the engine reliably starts and goes tuk tuk until I arrive where I need to be" are mostly about externalities (noise, stink, other forms of emission) not directly relevant to the user. Cheap BEV manufacturers will see a wildly different incentive structure towards better tech than their ICE brethren (or former selves)

The only thing stopping this democratization would be crash-worthiness. While this is more true for Western markets currently, regulations will come to India as well.

However many Indians ride in the 3-wheeled death-traps called auto-rickshaws so I don't know... I've personally been in one which almost rolled over when the driver made a sharp turn at (relatively) high speed.

> The only thing stopping this democratization would be crash-worthiness.

There is no trouble making small crash-worthy vehicles if the standard vehicle is no more than a few hundred kilos and is limited to 30-50 km/h.

On the other hand, the current trend for western vehicles has been to make vehicles that are more and more dangerous for their environment, but which are themselves well-protected.

So there is a good argument that regulation could move towards western standards by banning small cars, but banning larger cars could also produce good safety norms.

> vehicles that are more and more dangerous for their environment, but which are themselves well-protected.

Don't be fooled by what they tell you. A heavier vehicle is more dangerous to its occupants as well.


I’m confused. The article you linked to says the opposite:

> Ironically, much of this trend is fueled by the fact that safety sells, and the biggest, heaviest cars are the safest—for their occupants, at least.

Sorry about that. I'm slightly confused too.

Size doesn't make much difference in case of a full-stop (wall or similarly-sized car). It could help with bigger crumple zones though. In the end, I am not sure what proportion of passenger injuries is affected by car weight, but would love to see the data.

And being heavier makes a car universally more dangerous to its surroundings. Which might be part of the appeal.

>banning larger cars could also produce good safety norms.

It's a classic tragedy of the commons situation. Individual safety means endangering others. You can't get rid of all the transporters and trucks from businesses, vans for families, etc., so people will continue to want that individual safety, meaning bigger cars.

What's ICE?

Internal combustion engine

See also these commonly used abbreviations:

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

Battery-Electric Vehicle (BEV)

Good rule I learned from the guy that taught writing for engineers, no matter what spell out acronyms the first time you use them.

Stink mobiles.

This happened 10 years ago too when there was a flood of manufacturers who were importing and assembling low-powered two-wheeled electric vehicles, but for some reason they never took for whatever reason - lack of range or too expensive etc.

The new generation of small manufacturers assembling electric people movers face different challenges. I talked to one assembler who had no previous experience in this industry and their biggest challenge was getting safety permits from Indian regulators. Which makes sense, honestly.

I think the real challenge is on the demand side - the comparable electric two wheelers are at least twice as expensive as their ICE counterparts, which makes it hard for consumers to justify their purchase, even after a web of state subsidies.

This a good point. If you ask me, I think there is a difference between the product and the market demands. 10 years back my friend had purchased an e-bike. But India is filled with ICE bikes that have decent city performance and lower prices. So an e-bike is just a novelty.

While Rickshaws and other people movers do not have many cheap + motorized alternatives (ICE or EV). They also run for 100s of Kms per day and the cost saving from going electric is significant. No one will care too much if the vehicle is not "racing" at 80 Km/h. Doing just 40 Km/h is good enough.

Thus the same electric battery and motor found a much better market I would say. And I have been keenly watching the growth of these machines. First I say foot Rickshaws being retrofitted with motor about 8 years back, early prototypes from market demand.

Now there are hundreds of manufacturers across multiple cities, 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier including. There are even big brands like Mahindra, Bajaj, Exide in the e-Rickshaw space. I witness this across West Bengal and Sikkim as I drive (with my ICE car) the odd 700 Kms stretch.

Product - Market fit may I say?

Cheaper batteries will change everything.

If batteries drop enough in price that e-bikes are no more expensive than ICE bikes, the changeover will be fast.

I don’t think I ever drove above 40kmh in an Indian city if I wasn’t off the expressway or whatever they are called in India.

It’s the perfect solution for everyday life. Hopefully they become pervasive and help reduce air pollution dramatically.

Where I live 50km/h is the speed limit in urban areas. In city centers it id often 40 or 30.

The effects of air pollution has just begun to dawn I reckon - it is indeed a welcome solution.

Also the frickin' grid is there! Transporting oil and refined gasoline around the world seems like a crazy proposition in comparison.

I'm still surprised how hard that perspective shift seems to be for people: Everywhere there is an outlet is a potential place to charge a vehicle. (Maybe not quickly, but that's a different matter, and people greatly underestimate what you can do with a steady trickle.) Everywhere there is a street lamp or grid-powered parking meter or stop light is a place that maybe doesn't have easy to access outlets today, but potentially could quite easily.

Meanwhile we've been driven to think that the incredibly complicated logistics dance of liquids being shipped and trucked all around the world to pumps is a "simple" supply chain that is easy to run and will be around forever. Gas stations run on very low margins, the supply chain is ripe for disruption (in the bad way) and we've seen in the past (for instance, the 70s oil crisis) how quickly stations and pumps will close at the slightest disruption, and how easily that can snowball. ICE range anxiety will return, the gambles right now are on when and how quickly/how bad. (My money is on "surprisingly soon" and "very quickly, a lot quicker than most people seem to think".)

I lived on a tropical island for a while where the roads were so bad, narrow and busy that speeds above 40 km/h almost never happened (there was a one km stretch on the opposite side where I could reach 50-60 if lucky).

Turned out that the low speed combined with short drives (it was a smallish island) was bad for the engine: the oil never really mixed well and had to be replaced much more often than expected for such low milage.

> low speed combined with short drives (it was a smallish island) was bad for the engine

Low speed or low RPM?

> What I conclude is that EV revolution is going to be way more democratized than we realize.

That's what we all hope. What tends to happen instead, is that mass market stuff gets monopoliged/oligopolized quickly, because there's just too much money on the table.

It just looks "democratic" during the scramble, before the winners are decided.

If anything, since EVs are simple, we're going to see <<more>> centralization, not less. There will be a huge race for the cheapest/most efficient engine/battery and all these efficiencies will come from huge scale (in research, development, production techniques).

Look at what is happening with electronic circuits production. There are what, 4 state of the art producers? TSMC, Samsung, Intel, I'm probably forgetting someone.

>Look at what is happening with electronic circuits production. There are what, 4 state of the art producers? TSMC, Samsung, Intel, I'm probably forgetting someone.

what of it? We don't have hundreds of airplane makers. Are circuits less efficient/compact then we need them to be? are they overpriced? if not, why should we need more than a handful of manufacturers to do the job?

Make cars less necessary, do away with half of the legacy brands, (which are anyway owned by the same company) problem solved.

That's a funny moment you should mention airplane makers. You know, 737 MAX and all.

Since when are semiconductors anywhere near "simple"? An EV can be made in a garage. Look at airplanes - small companies indeed are successful.

Advanced batteries are not simple. Electric engines are somewhat simple. But they're not the main source of complexity.

What do you mean by "advanced batteries"?

Battery cells are a commodity. Lithium iron phosphate cells last through 8 times more cycles.

Battery management boards can be bought off of amazon, aliexpress etc.

You can find plenty of youtube videos of people spot welding 18650 cells together with nickel strips and wiring a BMS to make their own battery pack, then putting it in their own scooter, electric bike etc. You can even buy full battery packs from actual electric cars and hybrids off the internet.

This is not something that is difficult for a single person, let alone a company.


The basic EV design seems to be orders of magnitude simpler than implementing exploding dinosaur fumes to drive a vehicle.

None of those companies builds their own motors and batteries. They get them as kits, same as you can get ICE engines.

It’s simpler to integrate, that’s for sure, but not orders of magnitude.

Elektrek has been running a series of amusing articles lately where they review some outrageously cheap vehicles for sale on Alibaba. Think mini jeeps, SUVs, pickup trucks, go carts, etc. selling for something like 1500$. Some of these look like a lot of fun. None of those are street legal of course but they are dirt cheap. That's kind of the point. All you need is some cheap batteries and an electric motor. Most of these vehicles even use lead acid batteries (cheaper). It's not a high tech business and mass production is pretty straightforward.

India and China have several EVs targeted at their domestic market priced around 5000$ selling in rather large volumes. Nothing world shocking in terms of performance or range but they are basically very nice city cars. Mass producing small vehicles with off the shelf cheap batteries and electro motors is going to be vastly simpler than producing a lot of fragile ICE technology in need of frequent servicing, spare parts, etc. Basically, take the engine out of any cheap washing machine (around 1500kw), add some basic mechanics for wheels, steering, brakes and a battery and you have a nice vehicle. That's pretty much all the technology you need. A handy mechanic could probably put together a nice car from parts like that for next to nothing.

Most of those cheap Alibaba vehicles look like what we would call golf carts in the US.

In many communities people don't need more than a golf cart or scooter the vast majority of the time.

Plus, many communities actually use them to get around, e.g., communities around golf courses, retirement communities, etc.

I know someone who bought a house in a community near a golf course in SoCal, and it came with an extra garage door and nook just sized for a golf cart (he didn't have or use a cart, but the house was built with that feature).

ICE engines need plumbing to fuel tank and exhaust, and they need a transmission. They also need a battery and alternator to power the lights, and either a starter motor or kickstarter to get the motor going.

In comparison an electrical motor is just a motor, battery and charger in the minimal setup

I am a software engineer and I am not crazy enough to build a minimal ICE vehicle. But after spending decent teenage and college years in battery and small motors, I am actually confident enough to build a 3 people mover, slow and all, but it will go.

There really is an order of magnitude difference in the complexity.

The typical ICE already has electric batteries and motors. But the EV does not have the ICE parts. No dealing with oils either.

Yet every yokel with a garage, builds an ICE car for fun. Not even college educated. Some disconnect here?

It's a bit of a sunk "skill" fallacy isn't it? The world is full of "yokels" that have (for reasons of convenience/necessity) already built the skill base to (re)build an ICE vehicle "for fun" by doing mechanic work on previous vehicles. That lots of people have learned such skills does nothing to diminish the complexity of them. If anything it probably further shows the imbalance (class divide) in society's value of the skills that rarely are degrees awarded for learning them and people think of highly skilled practitioners of such skills sometimes still as "yokels with a garage".

But you got the point, right?

And the fact that non-yokels also build cars, does not diminish the point.

No, I think you entirely missed my point: there is no such thing as an "unskilled" yokel out there building a car from "scratch" or rebuilding an engine, no matter how redneck their garage. You seem to have dismissed the complex, hard learned skills of a large group of people, presumably because those are blue collar skills you don't seem to respect.

Sorry. I know some personally. I respect them deeply. I know they're yokels. They know it too. We're not all prideful hipsters here in the midwest. We can actually be proud of our heritage and condition. Its something to do with our independent streak.

Yeah, I don't really get the ICE is super complex thing. Simple ICE engines are...simple. Parts are easy to get and they are easy to work on. And, if you don't care about the environment, a 2-cycle engine is even simpler.

Plenty of people buid airplanes and helicopters too.. Established templates and parts compatibility make it possible for people without a great deal of engineering knowledge but a high level of technical skill (which apparently many yokels posess) to build things.

Building an ice vs electric vehicle in the discussion context means design plus build, not a kit or retrofit. It's a bit different.

In 1900 people designed built their ICE and their car at the same time. It isn't hard to design an ICE. What is hard is designing an ICE that will run for years and meets modern emissions standards.

Note that in 1900 the electric car was also seen as viable and people were building it. For "reasons" the ICE took off, while the electric car remained as mostly a thing people did in their garage.

The "reasons" had nothing to do with simplicity of building one yourself, however: neither of the two biggest trends were "simple", from the industrialization of a complex process into an assembly line (notably Ford, but then competitors) to the logistics of setting up a fuel supply chain versus battery chemistry efforts of the time.

(Most diaries and reports at the time seemed to imply that the DIY car people of the early 1900s much preferred the simplicity of the electric car and had some miracle happened at the time in battery chemistry the world would have shifted a much different direction.)

In practical terms the GP poster is wrong. If you consider an internal combustion engine to be a single unit, an ICE-powered vehicle is of equivalent complexity to a battery electric vehicle. They both need body, suspension, steering, seats, etc. etc. The “ice-ness” adds effectively nothing to the build complexity from the overall vehicle builder’s standpoint.

You're forgetting the various fluids : oil, coolant and associated tubing, filtering and pumps, the radiator and fan, the starter/alternator, the gearbox, the transmission, the air filter, various belts ... Quite a bit more complex than the electrical alternative.

I'm not arguing that the internals of an ICE motor aren't more complex. From the vehicle builder's perspective, though:

- The oil lubrication system, starter/alternator, various belts, and gearbox (if front wheel drive) are typically part of the engine package so don't really impact complexity.

- Liquid cooling is required for EVs if they're going to perform equivalently to a modern ICE car.

- EVs contain high voltage / high current wiring that needs to be considered carefully in terms of crash safety.

I'm not against EVs here, I think they're great. But if you want more than the old "drop a forklift motor and some batteries into a donor car" DIY build, an EV isn't actually that much simpler to assemble.

Very few yokels with a garage "builds" an ICE. Many yokels modify, maintain, make the vehicle tasteless, yes.

It’s good and almost all of them assemble the small EV from ready made CKD (completely knocked down) kits from neighbouring country (imported legally or illegally due to policy ban to show as produced in India).

The value addition is in terms of making an outer body or assembling the imported battery cells and wheels (comes with inbuilt motor), depending on the capacity.

India lacks basic manufacturing capability at present and is still a decade or two behind major players in this industry. Indeed almost all EV including the much celebrated local brands rely on supply from other countries (mostly from an immediate neighbour especially for battery cells, wheels with motors, PCB and power management electronics). India makes only vehicle body based on local needs.

Hopefully this kind of car manufacturer are directly allowed to setup factories in India, instead of those middleman who try to get a large cut in India for substandard products, just for moving products due to restrictions and complications due to government policies of indigenous development, promoting inefficient indigenous manufacturers.

I am not sure where you get this idea from but India is a huge automobile manufacturing hub, globally speaking. Yes India started very late but there is probably no part that is not manufactured inside the country. I am speaking of less than luxury brands of cars here.


> there is probably no part that is not manufactured inside the country

May be before commenting go and look for statistics yourself if India is even considered a player in EV manufacturing market. Most of its EV startups and manufacturers rely on China, Korea and Japan for motors, electrical drive train, battery cells, PCB, elctronics and many core parts. India even imports electrical transformers from China, the most basic equipment for building electrical distribution network. [1]

May be talk to any auto manufacturers even most celebrated one's in India, have supply chain mostly from China. Go and ask Tata for its cars ECU, steering wheel and even steel. Indian mfg mostly are assembly and marketing company. China only recently became a manufacturer in EV and high speed train. It took over 3 decades of continuous improvements and development of close nit supply chain eco-system, India started opening up with an earlier government but with current government focusing on protective policies to enrich billionaires', it might take longer.

[1] https://tradingeconomics.com/india/imports/china/electric-tr....

> is still a decade or two behind major players in this industry

Not likely. India produces a huge array of high tech goods like iPhones, vaccines, pharma products and so on. I doubt they can do all that yet somehow be two decades behind when it comes to EV parts.

> goods like iPhones, vaccines, pharma products

May be look into more details of it's supply chain and you will notice all of these completely depend on China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan imports. Also most of them are low end production. Pharma is a bright spot in India given the patent policies promulgated in India during earlier government resulting in innovation in formulations, but here also India depends heavily on API (Active product ingredient) imports from China.

As I mentioned China only recently became better in last 10 years after 3 decades of continuous assembly and production improvements, India did well under earlier government, but as mentioned in earlier comment protectionist policies of current government whose policies benefit the rich in India, will slow down that process.

Lack of regulations will do that. Meanwhile over here the only EVs from small producers are e-bikes because the regulations don't have a concept of low powered cars, and everything that doesn't qualify as an e-bike or a motor bike is regulated as a full car.

£500,000,000 wasn't enough to get James Dyson's electric car company off the ground. The future of cars will not be more democratized. The proposed democracy will rest in electrified non-cars. Which is not a bad thing. But what's to convince a Western person to give up his car? Making them more expensive won't help. Making tiny, very cheap things more socially accepted and desirable will. (Note: this CANNOT just be done by punishing car owners)

In Venezuela we've had a crippling gasoline shortage since last year (Don't vote for communist dictators). Within months we saw EVs appear everywhere. Tiny Fiat EVs imported for the rich who could buy a new car on a whim, sure, but also thousands of scooters and Ebikes popped up everywhere. Really small, 40km/h tops, cheap from china; exactly what you say happened in a few months.

> Don't vote for communist dictators

The first time you vote for a communist dictator, is the last time your vote will count.

How much of the shift is to ev from nothing vs from scooters and mopeds?

I have a Renault Twizy. It's a tiny 2-seater car (one behind the other). It's so tiny that the battery is only 6kWh and thus you can only go for about 80km before needing a charge (which lasts 2h30).

But I love it in fact. In my european city it's the best car to go around because you can park anywhere, it costs nothing to operate, and it's so much fun and quiet.

Sadly it didn't take on, but other cars are starting to emerge, like the Citroen AMI, which I would've bought if I didn't already had the Twizy.

I drove a Twizzy around Manchester once it was so cool! Like a little go kart. And got loads of positive attention from passers by. Cold though, mine had no doors!

I would love to own one. I mostly use a bicycle, but sometimes I buy groceries and I would prefer not to get wet on rainy days. Time to explore options.

I've gotten a decent system down for shopping and rainy days.

For the shopping, I have basket on the front of my bike, which takes care of most small amounts of groceries. Next I have two pannier bags that fit on the rear luggage rack, and easily attach/detach for carrying around. A large backpack can be added for shorter rides with little discomfort. Beyond that, I do have a bike trailer, but that is only needed for truly large purchases.

For the rain, I've found a common rain poncho to work quite well, by draping the front over the handlebars and sitting on the back part, which keeps it in place.

Obviously this is not the end-all be-all solution, but it does make those shopping trips in the rain a bit easier and a lot less wet.

What's the point of "cars" that can't do at least 50mph/80kmh?

You can't really use them in the city, because you get stuck in traffic just like everybody else. Here, a bicycle or a scooter / moped is the way to go - or public transport.

You can't really use them on city speedways or circular roads, because you are too slow and hold everyone else up. And you can't use the cycle paths either. And motorways - just forget it.

The Twizy has the minimal speed, so you can at least use it around town. But the Citroen is completely useless. Maybe, if you could use the bus/taxi lanes, then maybe... but if everyone had one, then stuck in traffic again.

Price of purchase, price of ownership, price of use, is all a lot lower versus a car.

Protection from rain as well as some traffic protection versus scooters/mopeds/bicycles, as well as speed versus a bike or slow moped, especially at certain times of the day and certain areas.

Also easier to go with two people and to move more luggage or groceries, than on a bike or scooter or moped.

More comfortable, too, e.g. having music on, heating, navigation.

Conveniently, no helmet or motorwear requirements. You can lock things away in your car.

And finally, because they're smaller, electric and have a higher occupancy percentage, congestion, sound, pollution and parking are all improved if more people would use them versus a car. Most 4-6 seater cars have an average occupancy per trip of <2, which means a ton of extra space and weight being moved around, which means more pollution, costs, sound, as well as more congestion and parking issues.

Tiny cars in combination with decent cycling / moped infrastructure, decent public transportation, and a high-tax on personal 4-6 seater cars and SUVs (which still makes economic sense if you actually seat 3-6 people, but don't if you're just sitting alone in your SUV tank) would make the streets safer, less congested, less polluting, less noisy, cheaper and better for the environment.

This model where the norm is to sit in traffic in a giant and heavy ICE car seating 4-6 by yourself, makes no sense. These cars have a place, but only for the niche 15% of trips that actually seat that many. Tiny personal cars, and public larger ridesharing cars, makes more sense.

I believe heating is most problematic for daily micro EVs in winter due to lower battery capacity, but adding capacity makes it not micro.

Fair point, should probably have removed that. Still it's so much easier to stay warm if you're out of the wind, with doors closed, and can wear a jacket that doesn't turn you sweaty like biking 20min in warm winter clothes often does for me, due to not working out.

To me the biggest downside to all these electric vehicles over bikes is that walking and biking is super healthy, and a city focused on infrastructure to accommodate it (with public-transport for larger trips) is a net benefit. The average American gets 3500 steps or so per day because they get transported everywhere by a vehicle, meaning probably a hundred million Americans get just 1000-2000 per day, when we ought to really be somewhere in the 5000-10000 range. If these things displace (ICE) cars, great. But I've never owned a car in my life and just bike/walk, but with electric vehicles becoming so convenient, cheap and useful, I see it displacing that very soon. A washing machine or water faucet displacing manual labour to clean clothes or get water from a well is great, a machine displacing even just walks and bike rides... not so much.

> Here, a bicycle or a scooter / moped is the way to go

This is the street outside my window this morning: https://i.imgur.com/ObMrzMn.jpeg

That street is perfectly fine if you have studded tires on your bike. I've ridden in those conditions. A car is more comfortable of course.

The Ami is designed specifically to be driven without a licence, from 14 yo. I think those regulations exist in France, Italy and The Netherlands. As such it has a lower speed, it's also as stated weatherproof and can haul a friend / toddler or shopping safely.

Tbh the idea of a car is a bit redundant compared to a proper smartrail system. Hang the rail from streetlights to free up ground space. You can run AC power and cat6 in the rail, it's separate from pedestrians so driverless is easy, no parking issues, no need to store power so you can run a pod at 300mph to take a family/ palette point to point, and hanging means you can run it straight into factories or halfway up buildings.

> But if everyone had one, then stuck in traffic again.

Not if the lanes, or the rules for existing lanes, change somewhat.

I love these small cars and see them all around where I live, some even smaller than the modern tuk tuks that we get from China.

I have looked online at some cool designs I've seen and most are in the $1000-$1500 range new. That sure beats a 2000+ lbs hunk of metal that is so prohibitively expensive to buy, maintain, refuel, and store that only 1/3 of Americans actually own a car, while living in the land of highways and sprawl.

Old people, young children, and the disabled can not just hop on a scooter.

You can own more than one mode of transportation. I have a couple of bikes - one is for trails, one is for roads. I have an ICE vehicle, but I would like to have a small cheap city EV in addition to the ICE vehicle.

You don't get wet in a car.

You also don't risk falling off. If you get hit there is some protection between you and whatever hits you. There's frequently AC even in smaller vehicles, so you don't get super hot during summers or freeze during winters. They also have more cargo capacity. Etc, etc.

Sadly 2 seater vehicles won't ever happen en mass. There's a lot of people with families who will need at least 3 seats.

So what? The vast majority of vehicle trips have only one driver, 2 seater or 1 seater vehicles need not cater to families. And you're already incorrect, there are already millions of 2 seater vehicles, be it pickups, trucks, sports cars, or extremely compact cars.

The vast majority of trips don't count. Anyone buying a car is looking at the entire lifecyle of their use. They don't care that 95% of the time they are alone driving to work, the car needs to cover the one time per year they need to pickup grandma, so it better have more room.

Two seat pickup trucks are mostly sold to delivery customers. 50 years ago they were more common when you put the kids in the bed, now that isn't considered safe (for good reason) and so those customers buy the extended cab for the family. Sport cars and Compact cars exist, they are a small niche (and often sold to people who have a larger car for "the wife" to drive alone to work)

Maybe not en masse, but the market for households' second vehicles is still pretty big. I think there's a lot to be said for subcompact electric cars appropriately sized for solo commuting and shopping. It's limitations don't matter so much when the primary car can do all the bussing and long distances.

How about we start regulating ship engines? There are currently no regulations involving large ships' emissions. But they are extremely dirty, emitting tons of unfiltered sulfur in per voyage. They use different fuel, with much 3.5% sulfur content while road cars' fuel is 0.001%. This all goes in the air. I find it unacceptable that we consumers bend over backwards changing our habits, but the largest emissors don't change one bit and emit literally tons of sulfur in the air per voyage.

Shipping only count for something like 2% of human caused release of CO2 and the pollution isn't local (cars inside a city is worse for humans). I agree something should be done ASAP but it isn't a low hanging fruit (hard to regulate worldwide shipping) so I doubt it will happen anytime soon.

Since when is 2% of global human CO2 emissions "only"? What single concentrated source has anywhere near such an impact?

Concrete alone is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-...

Also the problem with the cargo ships isn't the CO2 - considering the amount of work they are doing they are the most efficient transport method we have. It's all about the sulfur emissions which are horrendous.

in comparison to getting rid of concrete, changing out a few big engines seems like a fruit that's practically fallen off the tree.

Animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of global anthropogenic emissions, over half of which comes from cows.


Fashion industry is responsible for 10% (Aviation is 2.8%)

If it was only shipping it would be small enough to not worry about. The world was slightly CO2 negative long term before modern burning of buried fuels, so a small amount (but probably not 2%) could be called useful.

You are comparing Apples to Oranges, CO2 is only one of the things contributing to Global Warming, CO2 gets the most headlines because that is what most individuals produce and have a realistic chance of curbing

Shift upstream however and other types of pollution becomes larger, I fear the focus is so much on CO2, that we have lost the plot that CO2 is just one part of the pollution problem

Doesn't much of these sulfur emissions disperse and break down before it reaches land when they're out to sea?

There's already a lot of activity to reduce emissions when ships are near land. In Norway there's a big push to provide electricity from land when the ships are docked. There are also a very big hybrid ferry that has enough battery to run electric for the first and last few minutes near land.

Maersk wants to have its first carbon neutral vessel by 2023, and be net zero emission by 2050. That's probably going to be done with ammonia as fuel, which I don't think has big problems with emissions.

So it seems like there's already a good amount of pressure to solve this problem. Could be better of course. But "the largest emissors don't change one bit" is pretty far from true. Shipping is not really the biggest problem in total emissions, especially for CO2, and seems to be following the development in the zero emission space quite well.

This used to be true, but it's quite little bit less so since about a year:


The IMO implemented a 0.5% sulfur limit on marine bunker fuel in 2020.

Norway was the first country where more than half of all new registered vehicles were electric in 2020. And if you look at the data, Norwegians pick EVs that look and drive like normal cars.


It's not like you can't buy the weird ones too. It's just that people don't seem to want to buy them. Maybe culture plays some role there, but I believe that there are actual valid reasons why cars are in the form factor that they're in. And being electric doesn't change much in that equation. I mean, if there really is a hidden niche of small, slow, weird-looking four-wheelers, there's no reason why ICE-driven vehicles couldn't have filled that niche before.

It is true that the design of ICE vehicles is not arbitrary, but depends on weight/power/size/speed tradeoffs. However, there's no reason that these tradeoffs should be the same for EVs.

Drivers in city traffic can't go fast, but they like to accelerate quickly. This means a big engine, which means a big car, which means more weight so the engine has to be even bigger to keep the car accelerating 0-30 quickly.

For EVs, the relationship between battery weight and acceleration isn't the same. A new tradeoff is now between batteries which store power for a lot of driving, versus batteries which release a lot of power quickly, to accelerate sharply. There's no reason there shouldn't be a new sweet spot of very light weird-looking cars which are only driven around cities, need to be charged a lot (but who cares if not making long journeys) but have good 'driving performance'.

I for one believe that the weight/power/size/speed tradeoffs have a lot more to do with:

- the need to have place for kids with safety seats in the back

- the need to have place for a stroller/a snowboard/a few suitcases/something else in the trunk

- the need to use the car to travel at highway speeds and dynamics at least occasionally.

I don't see any of this being changed by having an EV. Even as a second car. Especially the last point.

Some of that last point will be based on how you define "occasionally". If it's a once a year trip down a highway (for a vacation, for instance), you can make the intentional trade-off in your planning to use a short term rental or other mode of travel (plane, train) for that once a year trip to save the cost/wear/tear on your "primary" vehicle [1].

Sure, a lot of American cities in particular are not built very conveniently and often have lots of "necessary" trips on/across "highways" or roads that run at highway speeds that probably shouldn't if you were to intelligently (re)plan those neighborhoods. But that's a somewhat unique worst case to American (lack of) imagination and decades of profit-motivated dismantling of public transit options.

[1] Most accountants and engineers will even suggest that you should already be doing that even with ICE vehicle primaries that are capable of such trips, the associated costs of wear/tear add up on a primary vehicle and it often is far more cost effective for short-term rentals.

People living in cities that have been (re)built to make them convenient like that, such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam, tend to use bicycles to get around a lot. Going from bicycles to small EVs would be a step back on pretty much any metric imaginable.

Which is a digression from most of the main discussions here. Though in lieu of that digression other threads around here also point out the usefulness of pedal-assisted e-bikes and how the same trends leading to small EVs are causing an explosion in e-bikes right now as well.

Sorry, I was not meaning to digress, I think it's very much on-point.

My point all along is that miniature EVs are a solution in need of a problem. I used to live in Oslo for some time, and the ratio between Buddy cars (Norwegian made miniature EVs) and normal-sized EVs was really small. And Buddy manufacturers went out of business. Because it goes something like this:

1. If you live downtown, you walk places, ride a bicycle, or take public transportation.

2. If you live further away, you need something that can be used as an actual car on Ring 3 around Oslo.

Miniature EVs are not a good fit for either of those groups.

Small cars make more sense in other cities. It's a digression because the thread above is more on why they couldn't work in cities where they would be beneficial overall, especially as a transition tool while (re)bootstrapping public transport. While I can mostly only speak to the American experience, obviously China is seeing some niches today, and parts of Europe that aren't quite as well adapted to biking and public transport may see them as well.

I can mostly only speak to the American suburban diaspora, and small EV cars could be an incredibly useful transition tool where scales are far too big for comfortable biking (much less walking), little to no public transportation exists, but small enough with some speed limit changes to common streets may be perfect for small EVs in theory. Which is why most of the other conversation above (and in related threads) is about the challenges in using it as a transition tech in America: that family size averages might be too big to be comfortable in small EV cars, that Americans have grown accustomed to cars being the only generally available means of transport whatsoever between destinations, that Americans heavily rely on primary vehicles for long tail secondary functions (hauling, cargo, long distance trips), and that the American "dream" is entangled with this notion that one's primary car should be able to serve every part of that long tail of rare/unusual secondary functions, and that every American is indeed trapped in the tragedy of commons that vehicles "must" get larger and deadlier to feel "safer" and "more in control".

It would be wonderful if America were able to rebuild cities to be more like Amsterdam/Copenhagen/Oslo magically overnight so that biking and public transportation would serve most uses. It's just unlikely to happen magically, much less overnight, and small cars could be a convenient transition tool to bootstrap something better. (But probably won't be given current American sociopolitics.)

Regarding speed limit changes, since September last year all streets in Bilbao have a maximum speed limit of 30km/h (18.5 mph). Now, if you can't legally go faster than 30km/h, then something that can go at 45km/h max starts to make more sense. Yes, that might work!

A capacitor (or two batteries) would improve acceleration performance without the need for as much of a trade-off.

There are probably multiple factors:

  - Norway is a rich country with high standard of living, people are used to drive "big" cars

  – Northern climate and terrain with lot of mountains probably plays a role, capable AWDs are popular

  - Low population density, plenty of space for cars, excluding small city centers

  - Electric is cheap in Norway due to hydro

  – Electric cars are "cheap" in Norway due to low tax & high GDP

I would say the difference is mostly rich. I suspect the poor people in China would prefer the large car too, but that isn't a practice option. The article makes it clear that the customers include a lot of people who can't get a drivers license, and given that China isn't exactly a rich country (they are improving and have a lot of rich, but overall they have a lot of poor people)

> plenty of space for cars, excluding small city centers

EVs are, in fact, more popular in the cities. And Norwegian cities are not very welcoming to cars.

I've heard that Norway/Finland already had block heater pole for car that's basically similar to charging station, is it true?


True, although often the older poles are wired only for 8 amps or so, needing re-wiring for safe EV charging. But the culture of "plugging in" the car already exists.

I live in Finland and drive a Tesla. I often hear people saying that EVs are "city cars" and not suitable elsewhere because of cold winter and long distances. Actually the opposite is true.

- In countryside people drive more by average -> more savings

- Practically every house has at least 3*25A power lines (230V) -> 11 kW charging from "red socket"

- EVs are just fine in winter because of quick remote pre-heating, no need to idle the engine etc

Btw, I just made a long trip in -20°C / -4°F. Of course the range is significantly shorter than in summer because heating needs energy, but there are no fundamental problems with the batteries itself.

Tiny cars... or electric bikes? Two years ago I electrified a normal MTB with a Bafang motor and the total cost was under €1000; many changes of brakes and tires later, it now has 7200 km and is almost as good as new (the battery is not in great shape though and may need to be replaced soon).

This has completely changed my life. I used to ride around in a big motorbike but now use it very rarely if ever.

An electric bike is simpler, infinitely quieter, and almost as fast in congested cities such as Paris.

VW has trouble selling electric cars in China. There are too many low end competitors and VW simply doesn't offer the right kind of car for price sensitive customers in China.

Tesla is doing well in China, precisely because their cars are primarily luxury cars.

I don't know where you got this idea. VW sells twice as many cars in China than it does in Europe.


Not just tiny cars, but scooters. I visited a friend in Beijing before the pandemic, and riding her scooter around town was the best way to travel. Cheap, faster than any alternative, and you can park it anywhere.

A tiny car is in fact in-between a scooter and a regular car.

Slightly bigger than the scooter but you can have one passenger, more luggage, and you're protected from the weather.

Also there are handicapped people who can't ride a scooter but can ride a small car.

What's the hack to get something like this in the US? I don't want to drive my kids around in it, but I have a short drive on 35 mph roads to my co-working space and I would love to go electric.

There is no hack. Low-speed vehicles are legal in the US


I’ve seen maybe 2 or 3 in my life outside of Florida.

In TFA they made a big point of you not needing any kind of license to drive one in China. I guess that's true of ebikes in the US, but above that point I think is a regulatory line that will never be relaxed. If it has indicators you'll need a license in the US forever, IMO, even if limited to city speeds.

I suspect higher interest rates might change the calculus too. If you can get a low-interest, long-duration loan like people get these days in the US you're more likely to go big.

And, to be fair, a major part of why the US has bigger cars is that people can afford them. Compare the median wage between the US and China.

> And, to be fair, a major part of why the US has bigger cars is that people can afford them.

What about European countries with similar median wage to the US but where most people choose small cars? I think big cars in the US is partly a cultural thing, and also partly because roads in the US are bigger. Driving a big car in most Asian cities would be a horrible experience, so I expect smaller cars to be more popular.

> What about European countries with similar median wage to the US but where most people choose small cars? I think big cars in the US is partly a cultural thing, and also partly because roads in the US are bigger

While I agree with you overall, I have a small thing that, I feel, you forgot about.

While the median wages in European countries are the same, are they taxed at the same rate as their US counterparts? What about cars themselves, do they cost higher (MSRP+sales tax+fees+etc.)? And what about the cost of ownership (higher gasoline taxes+annual registration fees+etc.)?

Mind you, I don't own the actual information about most of those, those questions I posed weren't rhetorical. However, I have a gut feeling that median wage Europeans are taxed higher on their income than their US counterparts, and I know for a fact that some things when it comes to car ownership in Europe (like gasoline) are indeed noticeably more expensive.

P.S. I am not trying to start a flamewar about which approach to taxation and pricing of goods is preferable, I understand that Europeans might be getting more worth out of their taxes, even if they are being taxed more overall. There are pros/cons to both, but that's not what this conversation is about, so please don't take my comment as trying to take a stand on that debate.

Americans live in cities with grid systems, wide roads and lots of parking space. They also primarily live in suburbs or towns.

Europeans live primarily in cities with much less urban planning, narrow roads and not so much parking space.

And European are 99% poorer than the average American (even in places such as France or Germany; they have similar per hour productivity but they work fewer hours so their total productivity is lower, thus their salaries are also lower, even gross salaries), while gasoline/diesel fuel, as you noticed, is much more expensive.

US tax on $50k median wage is about 20%, take home about $40k

U.K. tax on $43k median is about 20%, take home pay $43k, but no health care costs

Average car cost in US 60c/Mile


In the U.K. is 41p/Mile or 58c


Fair, but you didn't address the part about the cars themselves costing more + the fact that the gasoline is still significantly more expensive per gallon (UK people just seem to drive much less miles per year than those in the US).

In that second link you posted, it lists the starting price of base VW Golf as £38k (around $53k), while in the US the same model costs about $23k. Even if you tack on all the taxes and registration fees and such, you won't get even close to that $53k. After all the taxes and fees, even a midrange Tesla Model 3 (not the base model) costs less than that $53k in the US.

I think that statistic is a mistake, or skewed by high spec versions. The starting price of a VW golf in the UK is about £22k - no where near that £38k.

Cars are more expensive, but not _that_ much more expensive.


Thanks for pointing it out.

I assumed those stats would be correct, but after being prompted to look into it by your reply, they were not. It even says in those stats "starting OTR cost of popular models", so not a beefed up maxed out version. But nope, I checked the official VW website for UK, and the prices are along the lines of what you were saying, £22k-24k.

Now I don't know if I can even trust the rest of the stats on that page.

A guy in jalopnik.com imported one of these mini electric cars from China and detailed the whole process, he was very happy with how it turned out [0].

[0 - one of many articles on the car] https://jalopnik.com/unboxing-the-worlds-cheapest-new-car-re...

This was a great read last summer. I'm eager to see a follow up, so thanks for reminding me!

Found some follow up articles:

First Drive: https://jalopnik.com/heres-what-the-worlds-cheapest-electric...

3 Months: https://jalopnik.com/heres-how-the-cheapest-electric-car-in-...

New Version: https://jalopnik.com/holy-crap-the-new-2021-changlis-have-be...

Makes you wonder if it's possible, and theres demand for it, why some Silicon Valley entrepreneur hasn't tried building a business for it? Especially with capital for EV being so hot right now

Gem has street legal cars that go up to 25 mph

"GEM Vehicles are classified as Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs). LSVs are street-legal, four-wheeled electric vehicles with a top speed of 25 mph. Learn more about LSVs here."

I wonder if you could "overclock" them and get them to go 35? No one would even notice...

Given the excessive hand-wringing around e-bikes that can go over 28 mph in NYC, someone would definitely notice

Electric assist bikes could serve you well if the distance works out

I've got a cargo electric bike. My route has a few 35 mph roads that wind through rolling hills and no bike lanes. I've tried biking it, but the cars are aggressive. I really want a car for this commute.

There are definite cultural problems to blame for this. A significant number of drivers get angry or offended at any non-car vehicle on "their" roads, because they see them as a threat or an impediment them.

There are probably many reasons for this that are not directly related to cars or traffic, but rather to general worldviews, politics, prejudices, aspiration and many others, including seeing bicycles in particular as toys and for recreation by Tour de France-inspired cyclists.

However, I think one of the biggest factors is the insistence on "vehicular cycling"[1], which is the foundation for forcing bicycles to follow traffic laws in place for motorized traffic, instead of having bicycle-specific laws that take into account the properties and limitations of human-powered transport.[2][3]

Forcing cyclists to "take the lane" and perform left turns as if they were cars (and having to cross multiple lanes of traffic) is ridiculous, because of the speed and weight disparity. It's extremely dangerous to the cyclists and aggravating to motorists, because of the huge speed differentials and because a collision will almost always result in severe injuries for the cyclist.

Even the most basic changes, such as making hook turns[4] the mandated method for left-turning cyclists, would make a gigantic improvement in safety and traffic flow. After that comes the bike lanes and paths, plus tweaks to intersections to avoid right turn accidents and reduce the number of times different types of traffic have to cross paths.

The cultural issues of entitlement and refusal to share common infrastructure are a separate issue, but I believe at least some of that tension could be reduced with a few sensible tweaks to traffic laws and road planning.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicular_cycling [2] http://shifter.info/vehicular-cycling-is-dead-just-dont-bury... [3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H75jnRW23X8 [4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hook_turn

> making hook turns[4] the mandated method for left-turning cyclists

We might admittedly not have the same kinds of roads in mind, but from the perspective of the city I'm living in (where most city streets have just one or at most two lanes per direction excluding turning lanes, which I guess might shape my perspective, as it naturally makes reaching the left turning lane easier) – please, no! Every hook turn means I have to wait an additional traffic light cycle on the cross street as well.

That is exactly the same situation with the streets in my city, primarily one lane in each direction, sometimes with turn lanes.

Cyclists have to ride on the bike paths where present, and keep to the right in the rightmost lane anywhere else. The reasoning is that you want different types of traffic to mix as little as possible, because of the size and speed differential.

Even reaching the left turn lane means crossing a lane of car traffic, which is basically impossible in moderate to heavy traffic, which is why the hook turn is prescribed.

In practice it works quite well. Cyclists don't have to shoulder check for traffic that is potentially closing very fast from behind, and drivers don't have to worry about slow traffic cutting across their lane.

The light cycles usually aren't overly long, so by the time it takes to go across from sitting at a red light to the opposite corner, you'll only have to wait a few seconds for the light to turn green in the other direction. If you roll through a green light to the corner, the wait is even shorter.

Compared to sitting exposed in the middle of the intersection waiting for oncoming traffic to let up or stop at the red light, I would much rather take the 2-3 seconds extra and do a hook turn.

People don't like bicyclists because they are observably more dangerous. I think cyclists should have their own paths where possible. But honestly, I think the cyclists are the ones being selfish by disrupting traffic, endangering themselves and others so they can feel "green" or workout or whatever.

Honestly, for third parties reading, this is just utter nonsense. Just go pull SWITRS data from CA and look at it yourself. The last time I looked at it, it was easy to get, and the schema was trivial to analyse in a REPL. Car-bike collisions are overwhelmingly car-driver-at-fault (60-40), and bike-only collisions are rare.

Car-only people identify so strongly with their cars, it's weird. And for some reason they are over-represented on the Internet and argue all this "they are dangerous" nonsense about everyone else. In real life, people commonly accept small inefficiencies in order to perform small acts of kindness for each other.

I drive an SUV, ride my motorcycle, and also bicycle so I've had the fortune of seeing how people interact with me on all these modes of transportation. In San Francisco, most people are kind¹. Here are some anecdotes from the last couple of months:

* Riding in the Richmond to Hawk Hill on my bicycle. At most stop signs, drivers prioritized not forcing cyclists to stop. They do this by approaching a stop sign slower so that they force themselves to not have right-of-way and wave. This is what I do, and I notice it in a lot of others.

* On my motorcycle on a steep hill, I stalled right as the light turned green (engine wasn't anywhere near warm enough for me to have taken the choke off, old bike). No one honked. They were fairly patient.

* Took an exit off the freeway into the city late at night and there was a car wedged on the median. Got off to go help the driver and the three of us got it off. Most people let me in when I signal. It's so much the default that I get mildly offended when someone doesn't. I always let people in.

¹ or at least if they're angry they hide it behind the interface with others, which is enough

> Honestly, for third parties reading, this is just utter nonsense. Just go pull SWITRS data from CA and look at it yourself.

I'm glad you brought this up because according to SWITRS cyclists are involved in ~8 percent of injuries while only making up ~1 percent of commuters.

Almost everything I can find online claims that cycling is more dangerous per mile, per hour, and per trip. Additionally, I am willing to bet that most cycling accidents are not reported to the police.

> Here are some anecdotes from the last couple of months:

While were using anecdotes, here mine - I know many more people who have been hurt cycling than driving. This doesn't even adjust for the much greater miles/hours spend driving vs cycling.

Even besides the statistics, you should be able to use common sense to understand that bicycling is more dangerous than multi-ton steel cages equipped with seat belts and airbags.

Ah cycling is dangerous. Cyclists are not dangerous. Okay, not going to argue with that.

Yes, I'm just talking about the mode of transportation I see how my original comment is confusing.

I am all for better cycling infrastructure and have no beef with cyclists themselves.

They aren't disrupting traffic, they are traffic.

Sure. Just like how a reckless driver is traffic too. Doesn't mean cyclists or the reckless drivers are automatically justified.

I'm not even sure how to respond to this type of lumping.

> Good drivers and reckless drivers are both traffic. Doesn't mean they are both automatically justified.

Your original point seems to be: "bicyclists are not disrupting traffic because they are part of traffic"

My counter point is that "being part of traffic does not preclude you from disrupting traffic. See reckless driver example."

Did I misunderstand your original comment?

I have a similar issue although only a two-mile each way journey, perfect for an e-bike or scooter but other drivers are the problem.

CSC's city slicker might do the trick. Or it might not. Needs you to have a motorcycle licence, though.

FWIW, video titled US Electric Bike Laws Explained[1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v71dkOM4NuE

Clive Sinclair was right.

His nephew has created an e-trike and is taking pre-orders: https://www.grantsinclair.com/

Timing matters.

Whoever designed the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism was smart, but some of the things inside it only provided practical benefits 1800+ years later, so none of their children, grandchildren, great-great-great-grandchildren benefited from them.

Did you see any of the tiny cars being low slung torpedoes with a safety flag stick up back? Otherwise, no.. Clive was wrong.

It's interesting how people think Clive was wrong rather than the decision to let two ton vehicles race down the road at excessive speed.

Right now we're trying to electrify cars, but replacing cars with something else would probably work better for a lot of journeys. I think Sir Clive was correct about the concept of personal electric vehicles. The form factor of the C5 was nothing more than an implementation detail - with a few iterations it would have been significantly better.

Clive was useless at the "few iterations". I had a stereo amp kit from his earlier days, it was unbelievably bad.

Right idea, wrong time though.

This is kinda expected, in many parts of the World mobility is going towards smaller vehicles, with limited range and load capacity, to be used in crowded cities (or small rural villages, for example here in Italy).

In Rome for example the Smart EV is already quite popular and thanks to the favourable weather in recent times a lot of electric scooter rental companies have emerged (see https://www.ecooltra.com/)

Also electric kick scooters are gaining popularity.

One of the main drive to adoption is the fact that restricted traffic zones for ICE vehicles are increasingly larger, especially in city centres, but EVs can circulate freely and are often exempted from on-street parking fees.

Tesla are not the solution to the mobility issues these vehicles already solve.

Love my e-up. Small cars can do so more than you think. My girlfriend and I just used it to drop our kid off in kindergarten and then go skiing. Am currently sitting in a tight supermarket parking space half way up a mountain- very easy in a cheap, small car.

The e-up is only cheap as long as you don't compare to other cars equal in size. VW is far behind in EVs for now sadly.

VW is far behind in EVs for now sadly

I don't know, the ID.3 looks competitive to me, it starts at £30K in the UK which is similar to most of the competition.

Also, the cheaper VAG alternative, Skoda has a decent looking EV SUV starting at £31k [0].

[0]: https://www.skoda.co.uk/electric-hybrid-cars/enyaq-iv

What the world needs is fewer, smaller and slower cars. In that order. This is even more important than the fuel they run on. Better public transport would go a long way towards making that more viable, of course ...

almost sounds like... wait a minute... an electric bicycle!

Internal combustion could be with us for a long time.

This is much better for the environment vs gasoline I'd assume?

It's also much better for the environment than Tesla and other 2 tons electric cars, because it's using less materials and energy to make and less energy to run.

If you care about people instead of inanimate objects, it's significantly better because of the lack of air pollution (especially if coal isn't involved).

It's probably much better for the urban environment, in terms of people not breathing gasoline exhaust (doubly so for breathing two-stroke gasoline exhaust from a motorcycle, which is more of an alternative than a big car). The lead-acid batteries on some of the cheapest ones are a little iffy, though, and the carbon consumption isn't a huge win.

I think most places have banned two strokes Vespa certainly stopped making two stroke scooters years ago.

Where can you buy these in the USA? ATV stores seem to be all ICE. Golf carts are way overpriced and often not enclosed and have little cargo space. The only way I can see to get a small electric utility vehicle that costs under $3000 for packages and yard work is to order one shipped from China on Alibaba and similar web sites. There are $15,000 UTV's in the USA, but that is a ridiculous price.

i think the way forward is electric scooters. Some like the xiaomi are cheap, have really decent figures and are actually very useful for getting you places in town. But they are not road legal. For some inane reason the answer to pollution in cities has been banned and those who dare ignore the ban endanger their licence. So we are left with bloated, overpriced, electric cars which benefit the fewest possible number of people.

It's very hard to make an electric scooter competitive with 150cc which is a mode of transport for probably a billion people.

150cc will be better, and cheaper no matter what you try. I researched the problem extensively when I worked in a number of companies working in the electric scooter space.

Cheapest 150cc scooters sell for $500 — that's the price of a battery pack to make a scooter with comparable range to 150cc on one tank of fuel.

Prices ease in 250cc-300cc segment significantly. $1500-$3000 for low end scooter in this segment, but the majority of scooters in this segment are not that low end.

You can sell 300cc for $3000-$5000 easily even in places like Vietnam, and Indonesia.

> I researched the problem extensively...

Just curious: Did your efforts identify the sweet spots, given misc costs. Like the "makes sense" price as carbon costs rise and battery cost per amp fall. Factoring weight, distance, speed, recharge times, etc.

Why I ask: The most interesting part of the Tesla origin story, to me, is the recognition that laptop battery cost per amp trends would make full-sized EV automobile viable. So they jumped in to catch that wave.

Timing is important.

Separately: I'm also curious what the market segmentation line is between bike and scooter. eg Maybe bikes can peel away some of the scooter market. I've observed that biked wheel sizes are getting smaller as well as getting cargo features. So why not?

I did.

First is still the same 150cc replacement since the niche is sooo big.

Even if you cost as much as best 150cc on the market, somebody will still buy it for electric convenience, so load it up with cheap fancy features too like cruise control, seat heater etc.

A good 150cc has around 7-8kw of power, and it is the upper limit of a hub motor, and passive cooling, which you should capitalise on.

4.5kwh battery for 50-60km range. 6kwh premium option for around 80km.

Air cooled motor controller for a completely liquid free design.

Screechingly, you can fit into $5000-6000 premium 150cc segment.

Second is 250cc-300cc equivalent. Basically an Nmax, or Xmax killer.

From that segment, people do expect real speed, and some semblance of a highway rideability.

This definitely needs above 10kw motor, which means liquid cooling, and bye bye hub motor.

Batteries need to be MUCH larger since what's the fun of riding on a highway if you can only drive 60km? Think of up to 10-12kwh options.

Huge batteries also assume longer charging, or higher currents. Since we already went with liquid cooling for motor, liquid cooling a battery pack is the next logical step, and same is for motor controller.

Charger circuit will likely have to be dedicated as you will likely go above 16 cells.

Weight will be an issue. If you go above 180kg (Xmax 300) you will scare off a lot of women buyers.

The dynamic options of the chassis will also become important, so more will go into non-powertrain parts.

Try to squeeze into $8k USD. In Asia, it's quite a luxury segment, so fit it accordingly.

> I'm also curious what the market segmentation line is between bike and scooter.

If you mean bicycles, than very obvious, you want to drive on the road? In much of the world, you cannot legally, or would not risk doing so anyways.

If you mean motorcycles, than its just well taste + expectations of better dynamic qualities.

Scooter is more of an urban vehicles, where motorcycles has appeal in rural areas for use on dirt roads. There bigger wheels, and higher seating is a plus.

Are you working in this field by any chance?

Hi. Sorry, no. Just trying to make sense of things.

That's why we need regulations that will ban the sale of any new non-eletric vehicle in the next 5-10-15 years. Thankfully Europe is going in this direction. Asia not so much.

if you can get 150cc for 500 then i'm living in the wrong country. In london they are ideal.

An Asian 150cc is definitely not what you get in London.

It would be the most barebones scooter you can imagine, with motor making less than 10hp, body made from very thin metal, and it will rust to nothing in 5 years.

Worse than that, it would probably have 0 particle filters of any kind, so the fumes will probably be horrendous.

Stand up scooters (as opposed to motorcycle-style scooters, for clarity) are best suited to short-distance travel, as an alternative to walking more so than an alternative to cars, bicycles or motorcycles/scooters.

That makes them very well suited to last mile transportation, getting you to and from the nearest public transit point, especially since most models fold for easy transport on a bus or train. As standalone personal transportation, they are handy for going a few city blocks while carrying at most a shoulder bag or backpack.

Compare this to (e-)bikes and electric motorcycles/scooters, which can carry significantly larger amounts of cargo, are inherently more stable to ride and cope well with less optimal road surfaces that would be troublesome for the small wheels on a stand up scooter. Especially for parts of the world with less-maintained roads or a high amount of dirt roads, a basic bike is vastly superior to a stand up scooter.

Similarly, the tiny electric cars mentioned in the article have more carrying capacity and as a bonus feature they shield you more from the elements. Personally I don't mind throwing on a rain poncho and rain pants when riding in adverse conditions, but not everyone is comfortable doing that. Getting people into these tiny cars is much preferable to them driving a large (possibly electric) car in the city. They're an affordable and gentler alternative to traditional cars, not a replacement for low-profile personal transport like stand up scooters and bikes. They may displace motorcycles/scooters, but I count than as either a wash or perhaps a win, if they get 2-stroke scooters off the roads.

As for the legal issues surrounding stand up scooters, I understand why some scooter sharing apps and companies have been called out and in some cases banned. They litter the cities with scooters, don't care if they're just strewn around everywhere, blocking sidewalks and bike paths, and they use barely-paid gig economy workers in open ugly competition with each other, as their recharging "solution".

But in some places even personal electric stand up scooters have been banned or at least have not been made explicitly legal on bike paths. That is an absolute travesty, we need as many people as possible to use low-impact transportation instead of their cars.

Smaller is probably better for evs. In this class of vehicles evs stand to get the full benefit of a considerably lighter and less complex drivetrain, that ice cannot come close to. Furthermore marketing them as short range, low speed people movers means the overall battery weight, which is likely the biggest impediment to ev replacing ices, can be better compensated for.

A problem with such tiny cars is that they cannot absorb enough kinetic energy in a crash. Although they cannot go very fast compared to traditional cars, a frontal collision between two tiny cars going at full speed will likely have severe outcomes for the drivers and passengers. Of course, it might get worse when they get hit by a faster driving traditional car.

As you sort of suggest, the real problem is the gigantic cars filling the roads these days. Why do we allow this? You can't even see out of them properly:


This escalation of destructive potential in vehicles, sold to us as increased "safety", is absurd and horrifying.

The picture also shows seven kids! Now, that doesn't mean they're his but lots of kids would still be a pretty good reason for a gigantic car.

People used to transport lots of kids in smaller cars. These new larger SUVs are also more likely to get into accidents so it's probably a bad idea to use one if you want to bring your kids around.

All cars used to be much more dangerous than even the worst ones today.

That's such a red herring. Bigger cars are safer for the people in the bigger car, but way more dangerous for everyone else. Faster cars are more dangerous for everyone. The solution is smaller and slower cars. Not an arms race of whose tank has the best armour.

Geez, what nonsense. Obviously, smaller cars serve only a specific market segment. There will always be a need for bigger vehicles for various reasons - big families, deliveries, etc. I'd say the red herring is your post.

I grew up in a family of 6 and we never had cars as large as the ones on the market today and we were just fine. These larger cars actually have higher rates of getting into accidents so they're less safe for the people inside the car as well as for the people outside them. And just because there will be a need for bigger vehicles for a small set of use cases doesn't mean the majority of people should be driving in them day-to-day. (SUVs now make up about 50% of market share apparently)

Proof by example. Just because it worked well for your family growing up, that does not mean it does for everyone else. For instance, when I was a kid, there were all kinds of stores in walking distance from our house. All of them are now gone and replaced by much bigger stores on the outskirts of the same town. Also, my grandparents lived close-by, so my parents could drop us off quite easily if necessary. A lot of the things that could be done on foot now require some form of transportation in that area, and PT is too sparse to be a real alternative, especially when you have four children.

If SUVs make up 50% of the market, it is not surprising that they get into accidents more, but of course it's unclear what exactly you mean by "higher rates". But in any event, just because they are involved in more accident does not mean that they're less safe for people inside the car - I would think that the safety features of elaborate cars are an order of magnitude more developed than those of these tiny three-wheelers.

And those 50% of SUVs will not go away over night to be replaced by tiny cars. So that's why the reply to my original post makes little sense: as long as our streets are filled with huge cars, it's without a doubt more dangerous to drive along in a tiny one.

Usually rates like this are calculated "per mile traveled" or using some other normalising factor to make them comparable. And yeah, I don't need to go get your citations for you but you are now using "I would think" rather than looking at numbers and I'm telling you that the numbers say they are less safe.

They could go away pretty quickly if there was the political will. We have made large overhauls of societal infrastructure quickly in the past and we could do it again but people are too comfortable to take these matters seriously.

Arms race is bad but anyway we need trucks for logistics.

Trucks are trucks. Cars are cars. Their use cases have virtually zero overlap.

That being said, a lot of trucking could be replaced by freight trains or by ships, depending on which part of the world we're talking about.

> A problem with such tiny cars is that they cannot absorb enough kinetic energy in a crash.

It's not about absorbing kinetic energy. It's about spreading out the deceleration to the human over a longer period of time. The total energy imparted to the human will be the same (the integral of force over time), and even the same as if you used the brake to stop the car.

> a frontal collision between two tiny cars going at full speed will likely have severe outcomes for the drivers and passengers

Wouldn't the lower mass of the vehicles mean less forceful impact of the crash? Momentum, kinetic energy, impact - everything scales linearly with mass. If that cars weigh half as much they only need to handle half as much impact.

> Of course, it might get worse when they get hit by a faster driving traditional car.

The real problem, as you mentioned, is when they get hit by a bigger car. The same problem we have where regular cars get hit by trucks, or trucks get hit by semis. It's pretty obvious size matters.

In a potentially deadly collision, what matters is the humans inside, not the car. Initial and final velocity are generally fixed, and the process of decelerating the human is what needs to be done safely. This is why cars have "crumple zones", decelerate the car overall more smoothly, and why airbags are used, to decelerate the human more smoothly. (We're talking "my neck didn't break" smooth.)

You can easily imagine a large truck formed as a rigid body that actually crashes worse than a tiny EV with a few feet of crumple in front of the driver. But all else equal, it's generally easier to design a survivable crash when there's more car to work with. Though EVs make it easier, by being able to use the "frunk" as almost purely crash mitigation, instead of also needing rigidity for the engine.

Though the biggest factor by far is relative speed. It's 10x safer for everyone to be going 25 mph instead of 40 mph.

The fraction of the total mass that you are is larger though which makes the whole analysis complex.

> Of course, it might get worse when they get hit by a faster driving traditional car

as a counter example, in Rome a lot of people drive scooters to escape traffic jams, these vehicles offer improved safety over a two wheeler.

Given that many of these only have three wheels and to my knowledge regulation on “cars” only applies if the vehicle has four wheels- I wonder why these aren’t available in the USA at the same time.

The regulations on "cars" apply if they drive on most streets.

We've regulated our way into being forced to buy $20,000+ vehicles weighing thousands of pounds, and somehow see this as normal and natural.

Aptera, a failed EV startup that has un-failed and is now super hot stuff again, wants to sell you a three-wheeled electric car that was, at the time, legally a motorcycle, but now sees new regulatory categories in many states that don't need a motorcycle license. (It's got two wheels in front, one in back.)

The good news is that it doesn't weigh thousands of pounds, the bad news is it's still a $26,000+ vehicle.

Go take a look at any graph showing road fatalities per million km from 1960 to the present day, and rethink your perspective regarding all that regulation ;-)

I assume that 3 wheel cars have a bad stigma attached to them dating back to the Reliant Robin- at least the single-wheel-in-front variety.

Since most of these cars have low top speeds, they also face a usefulness problem. Parking is too expensive in dense cities for super cheap cars to have a large market, and they are too slow to be useful in suburbs or the countryside.

> ... Reliant Robin- at least the single-wheel-in-front variety.

To be clear, this is because the single-wheel in front vehicles will roll over if turned sharply or at too high a speed. The single-wheel in back designs are much more dynamically stable.

True. There is a picture of a wheel in front version in the article, which is what made me think of it.

I do have an irrational desire to take a Polaris Slingshot for a drive, though.

The various three-wheelers available in the NA market are kinda cool, but don't particularly appeal to me. Except for the Piaggio MP3 and similar that allow the rider to lean into turns.

I'm not following the cost of parking comment. What does that have to do with the cost of cars?

If you can afford parking in some cities, you probably aren't buying a cheap car.

If you are, you probably are commuting or at some point driving enough to where you need to be able to get up to highway speeds, and are better off buying used.

There is a market here for cheap city driving only cars, but it isn't terribly big, hence the trouble breaking into the US.

For me at least, parking for 8 hours near my office (back when that was a thing) would cost more than taking the bus to work and back, meaning that from a commute point of view a car would never make financial sense no matter how cheap. If parking was free then a really cheap car for commuting might make sense, financially.

They get classified as NEVs and are capped at 25MPH. If you want one they are available.

Where can you purchase in the usa? Trying it out could be neat

Where I live many people have "Golf Carts" that they run around the place in.

Many of these are so ugly. They should be closer to the ground to look more natural, like a modern velomobile[1].


I remember.

A 7 seat Japanese Kei car, Suzuki Every.

How to fit all 7 people into it?

probably not meant for the western high score bmi population

Nice to see there are places that get it.

But but but... making EVs is VERY VERY complicated.

You need to understand the S-curve.

Exponential change!


Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy[1]. They even have an "open source philosophy to patents[2]." I believe, based on what I've seen, all this makes Elon happy to see -- it's the world he envisions and, at least in [no small] part, helped spur on.


[1] https://www.tesla.com/about

[2] https://www.tesla.com/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you

I won't assert to know Tesla's motivation for open patents—and there is no doubt some goodwill involved—but do consider that it is not absent strategic advantage.

First and foremost, it's a form of deterrence. The presumption is that others will utilize Tesla's patents to compete, which in turn guarantees that said competitor can't sue Tesla for infringing on their patents. (Such activity is denied in the open patent promise.) It's kind of an informal, de facto patent sharing.

Depending on your opinion of mutually assured destruction, this is either a good thing or a bad thing. Good, perhaps, because of accelerated progress. Bad, perhaps, because this advantage is imbalanced towards Tesla. (They get to use any other company's patents—those that also use Tesla's—but those other companies do not by default get to use other competitors' patents.)

I mention all this free of ethical opinion. Just want to clarify that it is almost certainly not just a simple act of goodwill. Despite this, we can all—at least for now—benefit from such generosity.

> I mention all this free of ethical opinion. Just want to clarify that it is almost certainly not just a simple act of goodwill. Despite this, we can all—at least for now—benefit from such generosity.

I agree. It's still refreshing to witness as it's not something you see every day (ever?). Things are impossible to do a certain way until they're not. If everyone shared patents, we could focus on innovation. Yes easy to say, and easy(er) to do in a new field like Tesla's when they started, but again, it's a refreshing respite from the status quo, that is all.


This rings a bit hollow given how notably poor Tesla’s customer service is.

Ok this is just false.

That Tesla has bad customer service? Check out any forum for Tesla owners; there’s tons of love for the cars, the software, etc, but even the most die hard fan forum will admit that they haven’t prioritized their customer service.

There are constant horror stories from people who were pressured into accepting delivery of cars with defects, only to spent months fighting with the service center to repair glaring issues. Or users who reached out to support for account issues and receiving no response.

That’s because the only people posting are the ones that have issues.

I wonder if the real progress will be in traffic management. A huge amount of waste comes from the legacy lights and stops. Whenever your alone on a long strip in sync with green lights, you can just coast and reach your destination in a few minutes at 35mph. With small ~smart or even SDV you may be able to rethink the principles. Higher density, higher liquidity..

These vehicles are more like golf carts than cars. Top speed of 56km/hr. No safety features. What is interesting is that the batteries, converters, and motors are so cheap that they offer a golf cart with a vehicle body for $2500.

Cities probably should be filled with max 56kph tiny vehicles rather than max 249kph vehicles. Space is limited and standard cars take up a lot of it.

And shouldn't let in the massive SUVs/Light trucks that Americans love.

When I was in Nice for a couple weeks, it became very apparent that small cars fit far more vehicles on the road, and it was definitely in greater proportion that the relative size to SUVs in america.

Smaller cars can drive much closer together. Something about the size, but also if there's a lot of cars around, you can see through the windshields of the car ahead of you to gauge traffic.

Raised trucks seem to have poor sight lines, which is weird because people buy them to "lift up" above traffic.

Also traffic circles are about 2x more efficient with European cars than SUVs. I think that has to do with the fluidity of letting in cars vs trucks with their strangely larger "personal space" on roads.

Traffic circles are even more efficient elsewhere, French drivers don't indicate when using them so you need to be more cautious about joining one when there are already cars on it.

If we ever get to a world of on-demand, self driving vehicles, This might be one kind of vehicle that you could request. Maybe the default, unless you need a high speed or long distance ride.

What's interesting is that society continues to make the deadly mistake of being hauled around by over-powered, over-sized, gas-guzzling monstrosities while obviously better solutions exist.

Isnt it safer compared to a bike?

what isn't safer than a bike? i feel like even being on foot would be safer

A motorcycle.

Those don't look too safe. I can't imagine you'd survive being hit by anything bigger than a mini in any of those boxes. Of course people are buying unsafe alternatives for a fraction of a price...

disclaimer: not a tesla fanboy... I don't think they have the right hardware for FSD and that Musk is a bit too wrongheaded to admit that.

Think of these as replacement for Motorcycle and cycle. As safe with some added convenience.

But safety is legitimately why I don't own motorized two wheel vehicles. This is a real impediment to widespread adoption.

Interesting how people are so quick to judge whether something is safe by whether someone else driving something less safe (for everyone but themselves of course) were to hit you.

The alternative is usually a motorcycle, and they look a bit safer, though not as fun.

I think these are just the electric versions of tuktuks.


The next innovation would be to bring down the cost of lithium ion batteries. Most of these are powered by lead acid batteries because they are cheaper.

Cheap light slow vehicles that aren't intended for even 100 mile trips are primed for LFP chemistry, and especially removable ones.

Very long cycle endurance, very good temperature range, pretty good density (and getting better), no cobalt or nickel.

,,Most of these are powered by lead acid batteries''

That's sad, I was shocked to see how much more often people change batteries in their cars in latin America, but I guess this is normal in countries with high cost of credit :(

They don't go that fast. If auto manufacturers designed cars that would go max ~25 mph, the safety concerns are completely different and much less. A Tesla is WAY overbuilt for going 25 mph.

Elon Musk said that Tesla would never build these because they aren’t safe but I do think it would be an interesting exercise to design one that is even cheaper yet also safer.

Anyone who’s been in any poorer-than-median Asian countries knows the status quo of traffic is mostly very unsafe.

These might work in a regulatory black hole in China, but they won't anywhere in the West. Smart has had a small electric car for sale for nearly a decade and you never see them around.

Maybe when the alternative is a scooter an electric golf cart is a step-up, but the electric scooter market isn't exactly throthy in the West.

Electric cars aren't that popular because the range is still mediocre for entry level ($25-$30K) cars, the charging rate is simply too much of a stepdown vs. topping up on gas, and there's no good crossover/small SUV offering.

So not true.

The Ami from Citroen is going to be quite the thing in Europe: https://www.topgear.com/car-reviews/citroen/ami

Review from UK perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUEKtOGmpVI

The only viable place for something like Ami is car sharing in my opinion. The thing is, car manufacturers have been doing this since long before Tesla. They make something that screams 'look, I'm a weird thing that resembles a car, because I'm electric'. And the general population just wouldn't buy them. And then Tesla came along and showed that you can actually make a car that is electric and that people would want to own. In my opinion the market really has spoken. And what it says is loud and clear: "We want electric cars that look like cars and can be used accordingly."

I mean, if there was a huge market for small, slow, weird looking things on four wheels, there's no reason why ICE power-train driven devices couldn't have filled that niche a long time ago.

The Ami seems fine to me as a replacement for the only thing I'm using my ICE car for right now, going food shopping once a week, it would probably still work out cheaper to just get food delivered and never leave the house at all though.

In Europe the Smart for 2 managed to fill a nice niche despite being as expensive as a regular, 5 people car.

The AMI is much cheaper and can be driven by teenagers at 14, so I suspect it can really find its place between the regular car and the electric bike for city. Typically this can be the 2nd car for a family, instead of having the family car + Twingo, you can get this one which is cheaper, easier to park and can be used by your teenager.

But yeah, Americans tend to associate their personality with their cars and drive a car as big as their garage can accomodate so it's probably not for them.

I'm not American, so can't speak for them.

Pretty much all kids in my relatively small town have scooters. The girls have Vespas or some Vespa lookalikes, whereas the guys do wheelies on theirs. Some seem to like a Mad-Max style where they get an old scooter, and strip it almost naked, some have nifty ones that look very sports-bike like. Bigger kids have 125cc motorbikes. Some look like dirt-bikes, some look like sports-bikes. You could say that Ami would resist the elements better. But it doesn't seem like the kids mind rain much, or that Ami was particularly well suited for winter months.

If I was 15, you'd see me dead in one of them Amis. I'd take a 'naked' scooter I can do wheelies on any day.

This seems to be a general problem with these small EVs, people always believe there's someone else that will surely buy them. As long as it's not them.

> If I was 15, you'd see me dead in one of them Amis.

Yes, at least the Smart looks ok. But that Citroen thing is totally ugly: it reminds me of the car that the billionaire was using in one scene in Silicon Valley when leaving the restaurant, where it's actually only half a car. But Silicon Valley is satire.

It's weird that a country like France so well known for its luxury brands and "savoir faire" can come up with such an ugly car.

I'm not 15 and yet there's no way I'll ever use something as fugly as an Ami.

A Tesla Model S or a Porsche Taycan looks good though (and also looks like something that as a higher probability to save your life in case of a frontal crash).

But then... As the (french) saying goes: to everyone's bad tastes. My bad tastes are Model S and Taycan, pick yours!

I have a conspiracy theory that the established car manufacturers wouldn't make normal looking EVs as they couldn't justify spending so much on R&D that would yield something that would cannibalize sales of their other models. So they'd try hard to come up with a new niche for EVs. So it literally took an outsider to come in and start eating their lunch to hit them out of the cozy equilibrium they found themselves in.

Looks like Citroen didn't get the memo though.

Somehow the French have never made pretty cars. On the other hand, you have the Twingo.

The Ami costs 6,000EUR to buy, a Porsche Taycan or Tesla S depending on spec easily 100,000EUR. Why you even compare those? They're not even in the same world.

car magazines always exaggerate the positive qualities of their test cars. If they were objective, they wouldn't get free press cars.

That's a very US centric view. These are also popular in other countries, such as the Netherlands: https://expatinfoholland.nl/help-guides/transport-mobility/d...

Another example from France: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35210572

Applications are open for YC Summer 2021

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact