This Is How to Get an Electric Car

January 29th, 2014

Tangos sharing freeway lane

Did you ever think you could drive an electric car for about $25 a day?

That probably sounds like a cheesy ad for a low-priced rental-car company, and I guess there’s some truth to that. When compared with the costs of buying or leasing a new EV, this brilliant little plan seems like the way to go.

Selling electric cars in the traditional manner will take decades before enough are on the road to make a real difference in air quality. Speeding that process up will require some thinking that challenges conventional wisdom. We all know that nothing changes when things are done the way they always have been.

So what’s the most economical, efficient and accessible way to get electric vehicles on the road? For that answer, we should look to China.

We’ve mentioned the idea of selling cars from a vending machine here in the recent past. That label was a bit of an exaggeration used to convey the idea of selling cars without much human interaction.

According to Top Gear, a new plan to distribute the Kandi EV in China truly fits the vending-machine characterization, in name and function.

With typical British flair, TG said,

Like a combination of Boris Bikes and those Kit Kat machines you had in sixth form college, this giant EV rental station in Hangzhou allows people to insert their credit card, then out comes one of Kandi’s 120 zero-emissions, Panda-faced cars. Each of which is capable of 75 miles per charge, and costs £1.96 per hour.

Brilliant, yeah?

China is no stranger to air pollution and needs to find ways to reduce the amount of smog hanging over its cities. Electric cars are a great way to contribute to that goal, but they can’t just be added to existing traffic—they have to replace gas-powered cars. Renting them cheaply through an easily accessible vending system makes perfect sense as a viable way to get city commuters off of their single-occupancy gas-powered car habit.

I can see a system like this working in U.S. metropolitan areas. Take America’s own Tango, put a few of them in stations located across big cities, and watch people rent by the day to get where they need to go. It could even be taken a step further and offered as an alternative to public transportation. Imagine if cities owned fleets of electric cars and charged a monthly fee to have access to them during certain commuting hours, then allowed those cars in special commuting lanes. With enough participants, congestion and pollution would start to fall.

Would you rent an EV by the hour from a machine?

-tgriffith

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