Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rinspeed's EV rental car-train combo

Rinspeed's EV

Every year, Swiss tuner Rinspeed dreams up another wild car for the Geneva Auto Show, from tuned Porsches to a submersible Lotus to last year's iPhone-controlled EV.

This year's car is tame, even — gasp! — production-capable when it goes on display in March. At 8.2 feet long, the two-seat electric UC? (Urban Commuter, you see) is Smart-sized, yet takes design cues from the larger Fiat 500. The car's 75-mile range and 68-mph top speed don't break any EV barriers, a helpful way to trim costs for Rinspeed's grand plan: an electric car-sharing service integrated with an elaborate electric train network.

Should you wish to travel more than 75 miles, simply drive to a designated station and pull up to a reserved spot on-board, where the QC? can be charged as you're whisked away to your next leg. With Europe's high taxes and sophisticated mass-transit systems, it actually sounds practical.

So far, other companies have taken small steps. In October, an California fleet company said it would rent electric cars at Danish train stations by 2010. Last month, Daimler began producing its electric Smart ForTwo in France, and also started a pilot car-sharing service in Austin, Texas, of gasoline ForTwos. In June, Ontario battery manufacturer Electrovaya
offered hourly EV rentals in Baltimore, and Paris is trying to build a rental fleet of 2,000 electric cars by 2010.

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