Smart Takes

Designing cars to fit each city

Posting in Cities

A concept car has been designed to fit the needs of people living in Amsterdam. Should more car designs be city-specific?

As any city-lover knows, each city has its own character -- but I'm not talking culture, I'm talking transportation infrastructure. Traffic is moderated by traffic lights in some, while others are more heavy on the stop signs. They come in different sizes with different amounts of sprawl, straight or curvier roads, more or fewer hills. And some have more or less cyclist and pedestrian activity.

So instead of trying to squeeze the same car into all city streets, why not design a car to fit a particular city?

That's the question raised by Vincent Montreuil, who has designed a concept car fit to Amsterdam, submitted to Shell's GameChanger DRIVEN competition for energy efficient cars.

The car itself is similar to many other energy-efficient car models out there: small, futuristic, and battery-powered.

But Montreuil considered Amsterdam itself in the design of his car, as you can see in his video below. Analyzing a map of the city, he considered the travel needs of a single person, a couple, and a family of four within the city limits to determine that the battery needs to be able to power the car for 100 kilometers on a single charge.

He also thought deeply about the transportation culture in Amsterdam, which is famously bike-heavy. Montreuil modeled how his vehicle would fit into the bike culture, even redesigning bike and car lanes to "relieve the city center to allow better circulation and better coexistence with the bikes."

His proposal also includes a credit model to promote bike use, wherein a kilometer biked would earn you a kilometer driven, and additional car kilometers could be purchased for a euro. Overall, the concept aims to have the "further consequence of eliminating the emission of greenhouse gases and so, in terms of mobility, to have a totally ecological urban center."

I love the idea of city-specific cars, designed to save energy and also mold to the city's infrastructural cultures. But Amsterdam is an extreme example; few American cities have such extreme road culture.

What features would you look for in a car designed for your city?

Photo: Vincent Montreuil

[via PSFK]

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Hannah Waters

Weekend Editor

Weekend Editor Hannah Waters is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. She writes a blog on the Scientific American network, and has written for Nature Medicine and The Scientist. She holds Biology and Latin degrees from Carleton College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure