According to a recent Datamonitor survey, consumers worldwide are becoming increasingly interested in energy efficient cars. However, congestion remains a concern, and in an attempt to tackle this issue, a revolutionary new type of bus is set to be pilot tested in Beijing, which will address the problem by simply driving above passenger cars, without the need for a separate track.
Datamonitor's Green Consumers Series has revealed that a vehicle's green credentials have a big influence on purchasing decisions. Incentives such as exemption from the congestion charge in London, lower tax, and government subsidies on green car purchases are all contributing factors to the popularity of a new breed of electric cars and hybrids.
To address this increase in demand, a whole raft of new, more economical and greener passenger cars are set to be launched shortly, or in some cases, have been launched already. Nissan's Leaf is a fully electric car, Toyota's Prius is a hybrid, Fiat has introduced two-stroke engines and GM has developed the Volt, an electric car with an extended range that runs on both battery power and petrol.
Tighter environmental regulations in a number of countries are another reason to build greener cars. Both the US and Europe have stringent emissions restrictions in place for new vehicles, and car manufacturers have to meet fleet emission targets. In addition, regional regulations such as California's vehicle emissions standard impose limits on a passenger car's greenhouse gas emissions.
Datamonitor has also discovered that sustainable traveling is much more difficult to achieve than procuring green energy or carrying out green shopping, for example, as there are typically more barriers. Even consumers that consider themselves to be 'green' are reluctant to minimize their personal car use, and as a result, severe congestion (either at peak hours or, in some cases, permanently) is a persistent problem.
One company looking to address both green motoring and congestion is Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment, which has developed the 3D Fast Bus, soon to be pilot tested in Beijing, China. The bus will be six meters wide and four and a half meters high, effectively creating a tunnel for cars to drive beneath, although it will also be low enough to go under overpasses. Its estimated speed is an average of 40kmph. It will be powered by municipal electricity and solar power, and can hold up to 1,400 passengers. It will cost 90% less than building a 40km underground system, and will go into production by the end of the year.
Such groundbreaking and radical thinking may be what is required to solve the many problems that come with commuting and transport in general. The average car speed during rush hour in London is just 12kmph, and in Beijing it can be less than 7kmph on some roads. The automotive industry is currently enjoying high growth in new markets such as China, and many consumers are demanding greener vehicles. However, greener vehicles do not alleviate congestion, and the automotive industry needs to work in partnership with sustainable travel organizations, town planners and other creative minds to find radically innovative solutions, instead of simply relying on incremental innovations of a mature product. Developments such as the 3D Fast Bus will leave the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and GM Volt overtaken. Literally.