Transportation Tuesday: MIT’s Stackable City Car

by , 11/13/07

TRANSPORTATION TUESDAY, MIT Stackable City Car, Folding City Car, Green Public Transportation, Car Sharing, city car, MIT, electric, lithium, ion, battery, batteries, last mile, public transport, car sharing

While public transportation is a great green urban option, the “last mile” problem is a real shortcoming- referring to the conundrum of the extra distance from your bus or train stop to your doorstep (while this may seem trivial to some, Midwestern commuters can attest to the annoyance of this problem). The folks at MIT think that they may have a solution to that problem: The City Car, a stackable electric two-passenger city vehicle, would combine the best features of mass transit, car-sharing, and personal vehicles in a high-density, high-convenience system.

TRANSPORTATION TUESDAY, MIT Stackable City Car, Folding City Car, Green Public Transportation, Car Sharing, city car, MIT, electric, lithium, ion, battery, batteries, last mile, public transport, car sharing

Meant to work more like a car sharing service than that of a personal vehicle, MIT hopes to change the way that we think about personal transportation. Stacks of vehicles could be placed throughout the city to create a small network that is linked to the existing mass transportation systems within the city. When a person comes gets off a bus or train, they can just hop into one of these vehicles and go about their business. They can either drop it off at the vehicle stack at their destination, if there happens to be one, or returned to their original stack, where the vehicle will be recharged and wait for the next person to take it.

The cars are electric two-passenger vehicles. Rather than using a single engine motor, the car comes equipped with four in-wheel electric motors, powered by lithium-ion batteries. The electric motor and suspension system of the vehicle eliminate the need for traditional drive train configurations, like gear boxes, thus removing the need for a large engine block, thus making the cars smaller and more maneuverable. Furthermore, the vehicle is designed with 360 degrees of steering capability, allowing it to maneuver in small spaces and even park sideways.

This is an idea that makes sense. Think of how much time you spend not using your vehicle. Most of the time, for most people obviously, public transport should be more than enough to meet their transportation requirements, but by solving the last mile problem, MIT could change the way that we do our traveling. A prototype is expected next year.

+ The City Car @ MIT

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  1. juan-fe November 5, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Estaria interesante que tambien hubiera transporte de este tipo para motos. He visto algunos que van a tener mucho futuro.

  2. juan-fe November 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I wanted to comment that there are other projects also about to take place, although this seems very interesting. Hopefully soon news. Thank you.

  3. Ecolect July 14, 2010 at 4:12 pm


  4. JonathanRV November 23, 2009 at 5:40 am

    My idea;
    The car will be available in metropolitan cities and a potential user will just have to find the nearest car. Users can then pickup any electric vehicle from the area. On reaching the destination, once the passenger disembarks from the car the vehicle will automatically join with the nearest car, without any transferring. The vehicle is powered by a set of batteries that fuel the hub motors present in the wheels of the car.
    If this cars could join for travel more then one person.. example 8 people peak 4 cars and 1 driver..
    If you car is between, just get the first car .. An example for this project is like working as Vélib of France Company or bicing in Barcelona… “is about bicycles”.. I come with this idea in my project specification when I use this picture.

  5. Joshua September 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I’m personally very proud of MIT and what they are trying to do. I live less then two miles from MIT and know many engineers that work and a lot of these projects. I only hope they succeed and if they are to do so they are in the right city.

    Thank you as always Inhabitat for share/hosting a great source of green information.

    ~ Joshua

  6. Cru July 23, 2009 at 10:19 am

    You’re never in the middle.. you’ve gotten out by then… You come back and grab the first one, just like a grocery cart.

    Read the Neanderthal Parallax by Robert J Sawyer. Very similar concept, stacking cars. We use up too much space paving for and parking these hyper-expensive objects that we only use for an hour or two a day. The only problem we have as humans, is not having the surveillance to keep people from littering or worse inside the car anonymously.

  7. Stackable Cars « ... June 19, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    […] The smarty pants over at MIT have come up with a design for a stackable city car ideal for large scale car sharing programs, or integration into a city’s transportation system. The City Car is a stackable two person electric vehicle that they hope will revolutionize the way that urbanites conceptualize (and use) personal transportation. Take a look at the Inhabit Article here. […]

  8. Regina March 4, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    If you are looking for more information regarding the City Car, William Mitchell, the MIT professor who led the team of architects and engineers who designed the City Car, will be leading a discussion on the City Car Project at the MIT Museum on Wednesday, March 19th at 6:00 pm as part of the museum’s Soap Box discussion series. Here is the website if you need more information:

  9. Christopher P. February 1, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Until the system is ubiquitous, it would parallel the existing private car usage. As with grocery carts, which do end up in alleys, apartment entries, curb-side in odd surroundings, etc, a trailer company will have to go out and periodically retrieve and redistribute the strays back to higher-use venues as part of the cost of doing business.
    And do some hygiene and maintenance, while they are at it, as part of the contract service. The corporation that does the better job of service will have more card customers. (We’ll just hire lower echelon people who can only afford bus service and “last mile” hikes to maintain the system for “us” creative design types who can afford an MIT education! Even in a co-op, there is a smaller percentage that “do” compared to the % that “share”.)

  10. mike g January 16, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    i think the car idea is great but people are picky. the idea is like the smart car. we need cars like this with gas or electric motors. but we need a 4-seater .

  11. Stupid December 13, 2007 at 12:57 pm


  12. Amanda December 5, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    O my goodness I think that what you are trying to do is amazing and a great way to help out the enviorment. My class and I are doing a project to show what we, as students can do to help out our enviorment as well. We are making our own “business” of our own to show that we can come up with ideas as well as ways to help our enviorment rebuild itself

  13. nkq0rs November 24, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    I think it is a good idea, and since all the cars are the same, it would be easy to manufacture something like a “car washing machine” similar to a dishwasher etc.

    Its also possible that MIT could successfully implement an artificially intelligent system into the car so that it could find its own way back to the storage or find its way to you. You could request it via mobile phone account. the user cards for the cars could be linked to an account via phone or even a pay card (like phone pay cards).

  14. Traci November 21, 2007 at 8:37 am

    I think the difference with car sharing (verses public transport) is that people are held accountable (the company knows who is driving it) and fined if they damage the car so people behave more responsibly.

  15. Traci November 21, 2007 at 8:34 am

    I was surprised to hear so many ignorant comments on car sharing. There already is car sharing in many cities in the world (and the US) and I am a car sharer in Boston with Zipcar. I don’t own a car and simply ‘check one out’ when I need one (which is rare). Its no different than renting a car and I’ve never had a problem. People may treat their own vehicles poorly but car sharing vehicles are always clean and read to go (at least for me).

    I think the idea is not that you own a particular car but take the one at the front (like a shopping cart). How my car sharing company works is that you are a member with a key card. You sign out the vehicle you want (say for three hours), go to that car, use your key card to open it and drive away. Then you return it to the same parking spot at the end of your reservation. Insurance and gas are paid for and the company cleans the interior and exterior on a regular basis. I’m disappointed that so few people know about car sharing…

  16. links for 2007-11-16 at... November 19, 2007 at 1:41 am

    […] Inhabitat » Transportation Tuesday: MIT’s Stackable City Car don’t care if it looks like the urkel mobile. we need it. and i want one. (tags: car transit environment future) Filed under Links.  | var blogTool = “WordPress”; var blogURL = “”; var blogTitle = “YakShaving”; var postURL = “”; var postTitle = “links for 2007-11-16″; var commentAuthorFieldName = “author”; var commentAuthorLoggedIn = false; var commentFormID = “commentform”; var commentTextFieldName = “comment”; var commentButtonName = “submit”; […]

  17. Car sharer November 18, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I already share a car as part of a successful car share in the UK. You get a swipe card to get into the car. You pay a deposit on the swipe card. If the car is in poor condition you report it and the previous user loses some of their deposit. It works.

  18. sophie November 17, 2007 at 9:21 am

    great idea for the not-so-fit, the pregnant and anyone else who would like to use public transport but isn’t good at long cold walks. swipecards + heavy fines for misuse + people actually bothering to report litter etc might help on the not-being-a giant-ashtray front.

  19. RenaissanceMan November 17, 2007 at 2:23 am

    How about insurance? Will you need a license to drive it? How will it know you have a license? What will it cost? Will it be a flat rate or by distance? Will you be driving it on roads or sidewalks and if you’re driving on a road, what an accident that will be if you get hit. I don’t see that it would be close to renting a bike or getting a cart at the airport. This thing is going to be on the road!! And, yes, how will it be cleaned after use?

  20. Butch November 16, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    I think that in less than a week these would smell like an ashtray in a urinal full of coffee grounds.

    This might work in Europe, but people are too selfish and self-absorbed in America. They don’t even share the road, how are they going to share a vehicle?

  21. EFriendly November 15, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    this is a great idea. Love the comments left by everybody. Good for a chuckle or two.

  22. mindy November 15, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    i live in chicago. the cta here is going to be raising fares and cutting services all over the city in coming months. luckily for me i only live a mile from my workplace so I walk both ways. But I can see how this would be useful for running errands like grocery shopping as long as it was affordable (i can’t afford zipcar and i pretty much have to walk a mile to get to one anyways).

    Also, living in Chicago, I think some of the naysayers have some valid points. People leave all kinds of disgusting things in the trains and buses. Used tissues, fingernails, spilled drinks and/or piss, chicken bones, etc. and i have a feeling that this service wouldn’t be offered in the communities that are inaccessible via public transportation. I already know that this would only be offered to the neighborhoods that already have bountiful public trans options…to people who never, ever HAVE to walk a mile from the train or a bus.

    so yeah, i like this idea if it means yuppies will learn how to share…might as well try it if it doesn’t hurt anything.

  23. Stackable sharable cars... November 15, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    […] Read and see more @ Inhabit. […]

  24. Chris November 15, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Yah, this is great, but how do I get my car out once it’s in the middle?

  25. Erik van Lennep November 15, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I think it’s moving in a positive direction. All you folks who can’t think beyond the negative possibilities, well….thanks for reminding us, but could you try to work on how to change behaviour a bit (start maybe with your own) ? We need not just sustainable transport solutions, but sustainable community thinking. Obviously there are places in the world where people have a bit more civic and neighbourly smarts, will mostly not leave the car as an ashtray on wheels, not rob it or vandalise it. What else is going on there (or NOT going on in the UK, USA, Ireland, etc) that makes for a culture where people behave more responsibly and thoughtfully? At this point in time, if we cannot change our bizarre antisocial attitudes, no amount of gadgets will pull us back out of the hole we are digging. Dare to imagine being different than you are. Dare to imagine you are not the only one…..

  26. Johnny November 15, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Bike sharing services have been around for quite a while in major cities outside the U.S. and car sharing services are rapidly taking hold. I am willing to bet that nay-sayers are from the U.S. where sharing is not tolerated nor understood.

    Thank god there is more than just the U.S. and its weak dollar…

    good luck !

  27. Mr. Today » Blog ... November 15, 2007 at 7:26 am

    […] create a small network that is linked to the existing mass transportation systems within the more | digg […]

  28. ChaosFreak November 15, 2007 at 6:46 am


    OK, retards, listen up because I’m only gonna say this once… This is a SHARED service. You don’t own any particular car, you just take one from the front of the stack. When you’re at the airport, and you need to rent a “SmarteCarte” baggage cart, do you sit there for hours trying to drag a cart out of the middle? Seriously, you people need help…

  29. MIT | Work Guide November 15, 2007 at 5:27 am

    […] create a small network that is linked to the existing mass transportation systems within the more | digg story Tags:  Share […]

  30. marcus haha... November 15, 2007 at 1:08 am

    If you are in the middle how do you get out?

    What happens if your car is in the middle? How do you get it out?

    once your car is squeezed in between the others, how do you get it ou??

    How do you get your car out of the middle

  31. Lawrence the photographer November 14, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    it looks like a disaster ready to happen. nice picture though

  32. chb November 14, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    badMike– I’m having a good guffaw at all the “my car in the middle” comments too. have people really not heard of ZipCar (or other outfits like them)? i mean, the stacking car is a new idea, but car sharing is not. plenty of people are doing it and loving it all over america. if only we stuck with the first lesson of kindergarden: SHARE!

    bill mitchell presented the stacking car at dwell on design– here’s a recap:

  33. everyday » Blog A... November 14, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    […] via: Inhabit […]

  34. badMike November 14, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    First, no I want MORE people to leave “how do I get my car out of the middle” comments. Those have been hilarious. Also, I love all the naysayers. No wonder nothing ever gets done in this country anymore. We’ve become so short-sighted. Doesn’t that make you sad when all you can think is “No, we can’t do anything new here!!”? It makes me sad.

  35. Parker November 14, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    What prevents people from driving these vehicles as if they were racers in a destruction derby? What happens if i spill my drink in one; Does the next guy get a soggy seat or does someone clean up my mess? What happens if someone steals one ( that hasn’t purchased the service)? What motivations does anyone have to treat these vehicles as good as their personal ones? This idea is preposterous when you think about the fact that the communal aspect of the system removes any real accountability or worth that a driver has on the vehicle. Sure the system could mimic that of the rental car industry, but rental car systems are ran under the assumption that if you break it you buy it. Basically to make this work you would have to make someone completely accountable when they are in possession of the vehicle. Good idea, Very doubtful of its implementation.

  36. g-man November 14, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Well, this is nothing short of brilliant… In Oslo, we’ve had a system like this for bikes for years. There’s a lot of little “bike stations” all around the city, where you can borrow a bike for up to 24 hours a time if you need one. I guess it’s common on a lot of major cities around the world, but the basic concept is great. Share stuff, and the cost for each individual of the society plummets :)

  37. Stackable city cars com... November 14, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    […] via (geekologie)- (inhabitat) […]

  38. Blogs &ra... November 14, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    […] create a small network that is linked to the existing mass transportation systems within the more | digg story addthis_url = […]

  39. Luis November 14, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    The whole idea , while totally foreign to Americans, is awesome. You don’t go back and get “your” car, you simply get the first one in the queue. You would probably need to have some type of subscription card that would limit who would have access to avoid the “public toilet” problem. Vehicles could perform “snap shots” of the interior or some other self diagnostic to determine what constitutes “normal” wear and conversely, excessive wear. Having something as necessary, yet bulky, as vehicle readily available could be quite lifestyle altering if given the opportunity.

  40. God November 14, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Ok, first off, please quit asking how you get out of the middle. The answer is you would take one from the end…not the middle. This is a sharing program, not ownership. You couldn’t say “that’s my car in the middle”, cause they are all yours and everybody elses who has purchased the service. This does seem to be more of a European or Asian idea than one for America, however America should and needs to change it’s habits and wants.

  41. Stack ‘em up! &la... November 14, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    […] to support our way of life. MIT is a taking a step in the right direction with their prototype of a stackable City Car. The City Car is a combination of mass transit and personal transportation, resolving the issues […]

  42. Stackable cars November 14, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    […] Inhabitat reports that transportation researchers at MIT have developed a last-mile stackable car for urban transportation. The idea is basically like airport luggage carts that stack and help get your load from the terminal to your car or shopping carts to get you from checkout to your vehicle on the other side of that expansive greenfield, big box parking lot…but for the city. Planning — — — Share This Close […]

  43. thorny_sun November 14, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    how does this solve the “last mile” problem? if i take one of these home with me no one else will be able to use it til i bring it back to the station the next morning. And if everyone works 9-5, then you’re gonna have to make one for every single person anyway

  44. jon November 14, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Sorry but the idea of a car sharing service is just….disgusting! It will end up being the equivalent of sitting in a public toilet.

  45. Leathersoup November 14, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I had a chuckle to myself imagining hitting the brakes and the car folds up resulting in everyone smushed up against the windshield.

  46. Josh Meyer November 14, 2007 at 10:37 am

    How do you get your car out of the middle without setting off eight car alarms?

  47. WJUK November 14, 2007 at 10:12 am

    O-M-F-G! It sounds like a great idea. But can they pull it off? I, for one, would definitely use these. Would be awesome.

  48. Jon November 14, 2007 at 9:58 am

    once your car is squeezed in between the others, how do you get it ou??

  49. MIT’s Stackable City ... November 14, 2007 at 9:56 am

    […] read more | digg story […]

  50. Mark Penix November 14, 2007 at 9:56 am

    Interesting, but what happens when a crime is commited using one of these? Interesting lawmaking would have to occur, even if there is ID swiping etc it would still present a huge hurdle for this to take affect.

  51. Rob Hayward November 14, 2007 at 9:52 am

    What happens if your car is in the middle? How do you get it out?

  52. Ciao Filo! » Blog... November 14, 2007 at 9:50 am

    […] create a small network that is linked to the existing mass transportation systems within the more | digg […]

  53. Oed0 November 14, 2007 at 9:27 am

    yes i can see people dropping their 7 seater MPV’s for a 1 seater crisp packet. complete waste of time. Nothing new just people polishing turds

  54. Clayton November 14, 2007 at 9:26 am

    If you are in the middle how do you get out?

  55. Jay November 14, 2007 at 9:09 am

    I will take a dozen! Imagine when you hop into a waiting car and sit in a puddle of coffee and crumbs the previous driver left for you. As a society we dont respect others and wont take care of property unless it belongs to us personally, sad but true…

  56. Mahesh Basantani November 13, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Read the following article for more information

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