Why and how to joyfully move our butts around town, without mucking the place up.

Personal EV's (PEV)

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Tags: Transportation Technology »»»» TBD

The Personal EV (PEV) is a label referring to a range of EV's that eschew the possibility of being a full size car, and instead go for limited size, weight, and portability.

The typical PEV is the same general shape as a "kick scooter", namely a platform on which you stand, a pair of wheels in tandem, and a steering column having handle-bars at the top. These stand-up-scooters generally go 10-15 miles/hour for a 5-10 mile range. "Mobility" scooters fall in the same category, except they are generally three-wheeled. PEV's can go much faster, and farther, if designed for it.

A notable exception is the (www.amazon.com) Segway scooter. It has the wheels not in tandem, but side by side, and uses a high-tech computer controlled gyroscopic gizmo that keeps the Segway balanced.

Another exception are a type of small motorcycle akin to the Vespa, Honda Elite and their clones. These generally go 30 miles/hour for a 25-30 mile range and come from a variety of makers.

The last exception are electric bicycles. Generally they achieve speeds in 10-20 miles/hour and a range in the neighborhood of 10 miles but which can be extended the more you pedal. These are a hybrid human-electric vehicle letting you pedal with or without electric assistance.

Weight considerations

My opinion is that it's PEV's where electric vehicles, currently, have the greatest chance to shine. The reason is the weight.

What is the energy cost to move your butt around town? With any vehicle, the energy cost to move you around must include the weight of the car, since simple physics tells you that the energy required to move an object is directly related to the mass (weight) of that object. Hence, to move your butt from point A to point B requires a vehicle, and hence the mass being used (and the energy required) is both you and the chosen vehicle.

Here's some ballpark figures: TBD

|| With a full size car || car is 2000 lbs or more, you are 200 lbs || 2200 lbs (or more) || || Small motorcycle || bike is 280 lbs, you are 200 lbs || 480 lbs || || Stand-up Scooter || scooter is 60 lbs, you are 200 lbs || 260 lbs ||

Simple physics says that you're going to get more bang per unit quantity of energy in a small vehicle, than a large one. Given the limited capacity of modern batteries, you're going to make more of that limited battery capacity in a PEV than a full sized EV. Simple physics.

Collaborating with mass transit

While the range (5-10) miles of the smaller PEV's can seem anemic, let's look at a synergistic alternative. The typically under-used mass transit system.

Unlike the gasoline version of these vehicles, a PEV is perfectly safe and legal to carry on mass transit. That is, it is completely unsafe and illegal for a gasoline powered scooter to be carried in another vehicle, by US DOT regulation. In event of an accident the gasoline tank on that gasoline powered scooter can very easily catch fire and amplify the damage to passengers in the vehicle. On the other hand, the batteries used in PEV's are registered with the US DOT, and are allowed to be carried in vehicles, hence they're both safe and legal.

Here's what you would do: Ride your PEV to a nearby bus or train stop. Carry the PEV aboard the bus or train. Ride the bus or train to the stop nearest your destination. Then ride your PEV from the stop to your destination.

As a sometimes rider of my local train systems, I see people doing exactly this all the time. Depending on the transit vehicle (bus or train) it may be more convenient to use an electric bicycle than a standup scooter. Due to space restrictions in a typical city bus, the stand-up scooter simply may not fit since it has to be rolled down the aisle. While electric bicycles will easily fit, and electric bikes let you get to your destination with a moderate amount of exercise (good for the body) while decreasing sweatiness and the need for showering.

Neither the Segway nor the small motorcycle sized PEV's would fit into mass transit.

The unexpected fun factor

I own an EVT 4000, which is an electrified small motorcycle. Its' maker used parts from gas powered scooters, and it even has a vestigal gas cap. I bought it out of the stodgy reasoning above:

  • At $2500 it was cheaper than any full size EV.
  • The performance envelope is good enough to get me around town.
  • In test riding, it's a very solid and capable vehicle. Instead of riding at the side of traffic, you're in the traffic.

Well, little did I expect the biggest gift. IT'S A BLAST TO RIDE!!!

Now I understand why motorcycles are popular. Generally you steer, not with the handlebars, but by twisting your hips and leaning. Ooooo, give a little twist of your hips and you go swinging across the road. Almost the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

The electric has an advantage over gas powered motorcycles. Gas motorcycles are LOUD (right?), and obnoxiously so. I haven't ridden one in ages, but they must vibrate like crazy, not to mention the hot exhaust pipes, etc.

My EVT 4000 has none of that. The motor is whisper quiet, literally. There is no transmission, no chain, both of which would add to the noise if present (instead the motor is built into the rear wheel). This means a quiet ride, with no, and I mean NO, vibration. To me it feels like a magic flying carpet, gliding smoothly above the road.

While it travels at only 30 miles/hour max, it feels so satisfyingly fast. The only dissapointment is that you only get an hour or so of riding, then you have to plug in. But it has far more than enough of a range for my daily commute, so that's cool.


PEV's are sturdy enough to carry you around, and perform well enough for a fun ride. Being small & light gives great efficiency in energy used per mile. As Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway said, these vehicles can ignite a revolution in the design of cities and how people get around them. Mr. Kamen obviously wants his Segway to be that vehicle, but the other PEV's have the same capability.

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