The Audi Snook – concept vehicle

Pay close attention, there is a revolution brewing on the personal mobility end of the transportation spectrum.

Nothing symbolizes personal freedom more than our ability to travel from one place to another quickly, and efficiently. But for the most part, we’ve been putting all our eggs into one basket – the basket of automobile transportation.

In this post I will try to spell out the reasons why transportation is on the verge of dramatic change, and show you photos of a few of the unusual personal mobility devices that will play a key role in this revolution.

Transportation varies tremendously based on the country. As an example, in China, non-motorized transportation accounts for roughly 50% of all trips, and in India, the number is around 30%. But when it comes to public transportation, over 60% of the Indian population use bus and trains compared to 25% in China. The China and India statistics are vastly different from the U.S.

Some will argue that an efficient transportation system in the U.S. has led to a healthier economy. The US Bureau of Transit Statistics now shows over 243 million registered passenger vehicles in the US, which amounts to more than one for every licensed driver.

But cars are expensive. The average cost of car ownership in the US combining payments, maintenance, insurance, and licensing has mushroomed to over $10,000 per year, with California and Hawaii pushing the high end of $12,000 per year.

According to the U.S. Dept of Transportation, commuters in 2007 drove their vehicles over 3 trillion miles on a road system consisting of over 4 million miles of roadway. This is a dramatic increase from the 458 billion vehicle miles on 3.3 million miles of roadway in 1950.

The average car in the U.S. is driven 12,345 miles per year, or about 34 miles a day. Assuming an average speed of 30 mph, the average car is only in use 68 minutes a day. That means the remaining 95% of the time the car is sitting idle. From the standpoint of how well we are utilizing our natural resources, cars represent a hugely under-utilized resource.

As of lately, people and their love of cars has been shifting to a craving for something better. However, the “perfect car” doesn’t seem to exist. The perfect car is one that doesn’t pollute, is highly efficient, is only as big as necessary for the demands of the moment, makes virtually no noise, is extremely safe, and collapses into the size of a suitcase when not in use.

It is this quest for something better that is priming the market for unconventional vehicles. Below are a few of the alternative transportation vehicles coming out of the woodwork.

Capella – The Electric Backpack Motorcycle

Huvo Electric Pod

Hecheng Scooter

Peugeot Hymotion 3 Scooter


The Ecooter

T3 Motion

The Suzuki Pixy

The Uno

The Hawk

The PUMA by Segway

The Monotracer

Brammo Enertia electric motorcycle sold in Best Buy

Chariot Skates

Honda’s walking-assist device

Winglet by Toyota

Honda’s U3-X

The Electropositive


These represent just a small sample of the hundreds of vehicles now available. Since they fall outside of the current requirements for automobiles, many cities have chosen to ban them altogether until they can figure out what to do with them.

Our current infrastructure, the highway system, is all about cars. Whenever a smaller alternative transportation vehicle drives onto a highway, it’s at a significant disadvantage in terms of safety and risk. Currently there is no infrastructure – roads, trails, or pathways – designed for non-traditional forms of transportation.

Most importantly, any city that does not actively promote alternative transportation, will by default, encourage more car usage. The one-size-fits-all thinking about cars has left some gaping holes in the transportation market, holes that some very ingenious entrepreneurs are attempting to fill.

Manufacturers and distributors of these vehicles are search desperately for alternative transportation friendly communities to work with. Therein lies the opportunity.


  • Within the next 5 years we will see over 1,000 new alternative transportation vehicles hit the marketplace. (Non-gas powered, light weight, smaller than car vehicles)
  • Much like the “green movement” cities will begin to compete to become the most alternative transportation friendly city.


Presently alternative transportation vehicles come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. There will be a significant opportunity for someone to develop a classification scheme around size weight and speed of vehicles.

Currently there are no associations that provide market data or industry statistics. There is also a significant need for someone to lobby on behalf of the industry and create industry standards.

The first city to firmly establish itself as an alternative transportation friendly city will be able to leverage it as an economic development opportunity. The entire industry is presently looking for a place to call home.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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8 Responses to “4.) Trends to Watch in 2010 – The Personal Mobility Explosion”

Comments List

  1. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Steve Meyer</a>

    Hi Tom, that is a great article. It is obvious that the opportunities of better transportation modes await us. It has always been said that Americans "love" autos. I think what's true is that Americans love mobility and now that we are stuck in traffic all the time with our autos, it is time to look for other modes. It will be interesting to see how readily governments and other entities interested in maintaining the status quo will allow new modes to exist. Even cities that call themselves "progressive" are hopelessly backward. Something as simple and as practical as electric-assist bicycles are illegal in NYC.
  2. John Wilson

    Perhaps a significant boost to these products is the conversion of the vehicle into an office (and the parking lot into the office). The vehicle could be used more of the day and would solve the privacy unavailable in cubicles.
  3. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Steve Meyer</a>

    I think with mobility changing so dramatically, urban infrastructure will have to change dramatically as well. No more need for 8 lane highways and a lot of paved over surfaces for parking lots.
  4. Improbus

    Things will get even better when we have automated cars (cars that drive themselves). That will be a glorious day. For the most part people are horrible drivers. They are easily distracted and many of them are just plain stupid. I would love for a transportation device to show up in front of my house and take me to work. Just pay a monthly fee or a per mile fee and get all the transportation you want.
  5. John Threlfall

    Great pleasure to stumble upon your blog. I have been having many of the same thoughts, and envisioning small alternative vehicles. I had no idea there was so much innovation going on. I believe the key transition will be to have small, light, low speed (say 20mph) vehicles that can be driven or lifted onto mass transit options. The existing street grid will be divided into two overlapping grids: One for existing dinosaur cars and trucks, and the other for the all the little guys. There will be strategic "chokepoints" that only the little vehicles can pass through. This allows cars and trucks to go anywhere they could before, but cannot get far without returning to their own grid. So without building new roads, two overlapping ecosystems come into being, which would allow the alternatives to flourish and become truly feasible and attractive. Without loss of urban mobility and convenience, you could go from $10K a year to $2K a year in transportation cost.
  6. Different

    No offense but these vehicles are hideous. We need to get out of the habits of futuristic and focus on past looks a bit more. Cars driving themselves.. seriously? The fun in driving is driving something fast, mean, and muscley.. not a rolling toothpick that can electrically glide you from point A to B.

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