Cushman custom electric passenger vehicle, manufactured in Augusta, Georgia, USA. Image credit:Cushman
Anyone who's been to a golf course has seen electric golf carts. If you fly, you'll have seen electric vehicles transporting older or disabled passengers across the terminal. Amusement parks and big hotels have them as well. Variations on these familiar but overlooked designs - representing a category known to industry as 'electric utility vehicles' - exist for dozens of uses. There are ambulances, "stock chasers," lunch carts, "bell hops," and so on. For a pictorial review of around 40 variations from just one firm, have a look at the Cushman company's custom line in this slide show.
Obviously, electric vehicles are already a widespread technology. The question is: where else will they be in the future?Print media stories treat EV's like they are some prototype curiosity but they are clearly common and important now. More are coming.
Efficiency is high.
Electric utility vehicles are much more efficient than the propane powered ones. The..."cost is 2 cents per mile vs. 22 cents per mile for gas-powered units" according to this story in Smart Planet.
Adaptability is key.
Battery technology improvements - the kind that make the Volt or Leaf acceptable for general use - are already making electric utility vehicles even more reliable and efficient than they were when most of us formed our stereotypes of them.
There are settings in which these would be compatible with or even superior to other ways of moving around. Just as in an airport, these slow, and utilitarian EV's can be compatible with foot and bicycle traffic. Extensions of this idea would include: where trail systems interconnect with mass transit, on malls, on downtown thoroughfares shared by electric trams, next to or in pedestrian walkways, adjacent to bike lanes,and shops, and so on. Especially good where tourism and short term interconnection is important.
With an aging population, we can expect to see a lot more of these around.