Microcars

Brian Anthony Clough

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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    Abstract

    The motor car as we know it is just over a century old and during its existence it has changed little. In the early days there may have been competition between electric power and the internal combustion engine but a plentiful supply of cheap oil and two World Wars saw oil dominate as the most reliable fuel and the commodity upon which much of the world economy developed through the 20th Century. However the early years of the 21st Century have been fraught with new realisations; that oil will not last forever given the current rate of consumption and that emissions from burning petrochemicals are causing irreparable damage to the planet and changing the climate. The energy consumed in creating and scrapping automobiles far outweighs that consumed in their operational life. As new, populous economies emerge and grow wealthy their inhabitants want to share in the freedom the automobile brings. However the future of the car as we know it, a one ton steel box with four seats, four wheels, top speed in excess of 100mph and range of 350 miles is unsustainable. As experts predict that peak oil may be reached in the first half of the 21st century (Aleklett K. et al) there has never been a greater imperative to change the way that we design, build power and use motor cars. Possible solutions may include: • downsizing cars to use less materials and take up less physical space, • creating more efficient vehicles that are fitter for purpose and that provide flexible packaging solutions • making use of sustainable materials and processes in manufacture • creating longer life vehicles • using alternative or renewable fuels to power vehicles • applying telematic systems to guide vehicles and prevent collisions, to reduce stop-start energy wastage and to allow vehicles to travel in closer proximity making better use of existing road space. • changing attitudes to car use and pricing entirely. And so, if we accept that the contemporary fossil-fuelled motor car is unsustainable then we must also accept that the car industry is on the verge of a paradigm shift of unprecedented proportions. We simply cannot continue to expend so much energy in creating one tonne steel cars which will be scrapped after ten years. Not if the world car population is set to double and the oil supply is set to decline in the next fifty. There is simply too great an energy investment in each unit and too great a CO2 output from the production and life cycle. The recent history of the design of microcars is one of repeated attempts to address these social and consumer needs and wants, in circumstances where energy supply has looked increasingly precarious. There has been increasingly an ethical and political need to develop transport solutions which reduce our carbon footprint. Publisher statement: Used by permission of the Publishers from ‘Microcars’, in Design for Transport edited by Mike Tovey (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 201–251. Copyright © 2012
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDesign for Transport: A User-Centred Approach to Vehicle Design and Travel (Series: Design for Social Responsibility)
    EditorsMichael Tovey
    Place of PublicationFarnham, Surrey
    PublisherGower
    ISBN (Print)ebook, ISBN 978-1-4094-3326-2, 978-1-4094-3325-5
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

    Bibliographical note

    Used by permission of the Publishers from ‘Microcars’, in Design for Transport edited by Mike Tovey (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 201–251. Copyright © 2012

    Keywords

    • Microcars

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