SE Vehicles

New iSetta ~ Why would you? Why should you?

Feb 14, 2016

And now for that quintessential, all-encompassing question most commentators have asked me: "why would I, why should I buy... rent... or share-use a reduced footprint vehicle?"Most cars carry only one occupant, the driver. How would a three-seater fit in demographically? It may fit two out of three types of households - a HUGE market. Check below what type of household you represent.

Economics
Despite energy prices being at a historic low point, ask yourself "why pay more?" As explained in my previous blogs New iSetta is lightweight and streamlined, able to squeeze more performance and range out of every joule energy, regardless the 'type of juice' you fill her up with (from a nozzle or out of a wall socket). Per definition, a lightweight vehicle does not need a lot of materials to be put together. There are new materials that look promising. New iSetta can be manufactured simplified and low-cost, preferably cradle-to-cradle, with various options that can be modular-added ('auto-piloting' being one of them), rather than come as standard. The greatest engineering challenge will be to have New iSetta tilt during cornering (lift the outside, dip the inside - see my previous blogs), and steer in a safe, linear, predictable way - to deal with the weight shift.

Autonomous drive ready
Expectations seem to be toned down quite a bit when it comes to fully autonomous cars that will take you from A to B without you having to interfere with the actual driving. As the person who 'operates' the car, you will probably stay responsible for how the car 'behaves' in traffic for a very long time, longer than Google initially anticipated. What all engineers, focused on the implementing of self-driving, seem to forget is that going from A to B is still very much a physical process, requiring a tangible transportation mode of some sort. Ergo: better shave off some weight and width in order to streamline the process of going from A to B. Thén start implementing self-driving. For instance, New iSetta has well over 50 percent less surface area than that of a Tesla Model S.

Car sharing?.. What about lane sharing?
Main arteries like California's 405 Freeway have multiple lanes to handle traffic. As we all know, more throughput can be achieved by people ride-sharing one car. It's why we have carpool lanes. Permission to take the carpool lane or, even better, to use a separate (small-width) lane would be nice, but is not strictly necessary. In a more distant future one may envisage sleek vehicles utilize existing freeway lanes in a way that is depicted here. Size will matter too in and around town. It's just a matter of time before city governments will start to differentiate (road pricing, parking fees) between types of cars that are used to drive around town. Very much like they already do when it comes to emissions. Think of cities like London, Paris, New York, Beijing, to begin with.

There's a limit to reducing a vehicle's width. Impact safety is one reason. To opt for substantially sleeker, for instance by creating tandem seating (passenger sitting behind the driver) means that the vehicle cannot meet regular car safety standards anymore. It's why Toyota's i-Road, that has a maximum speed of 45 km/h (28 mph), cannot be used outside city limits - which makes it unfit for medium- to long-distance commutes.

The only (semi) three-wheeler with a NCAP 5-star rating...
Theoretically that is, for the time being. New iSetta is sleek, approx. 1.52 m. (60"), but not thát sleek, for a very good reason. Since having only two seats may cramp your style, I insisted on creating seating for three. Think of it as an enclosed motor scooter with the side-car seating fully integrated within the hull. The good thing is that, regardless whether four wheels (twin rear-wheels) or three-wheels (single rear-wheel) are used, New iSetta will be able to qualify as a regular car. That's what you want to instill confidence with prospective users and buyers. ALL three-wheeler manufacturers opt for (reverse) trike underpinnings, because they know that their vehicle will never pass car crash safety testing - hoping that it will qualify as a three-wheeled motorcycle or tricycle of some sort, for which safety standards are far less strict. That may proof to be an iffy strategy.

1 out of 750 will suffice
If only two seats are needed, you can fold New iSetta's third seat to store luggage or two folding bicycles. With global car sales well over 75 million annually, attracting 1 out of 750 prospective car buyers seems quite doable. Will require a global player though. Does not need to be a car maker per se. A scooter brand, an electronics producer, media conglomerate, rental agency or TNC (transportation network company), etc. may step up to the plate. More throughput. More efficiency. More flexibility. More choice. More money left in the kitty. Sleekness offers the possibility to make vehicles substantially lighter, therefore more economical, even safer, and to use freeways and parking spaces more efficiently. Need more capacity? Borrow, rent, share-use a big car, or pull out whichever TLC'd four-wheeler you keep in the garage.

Ralph Panhuyzen, sevehicle@gmail.com

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