2008 has been an incredible year for green transportation as the world’s automakers made strident efforts to green their production lines, cities decided that it’s time to give our car-centric lifestyle a much needed rethink, and some incredible new vehicles proved once and for all that green transportation can be sexier and perform just as well as any other method of transportation. Rather than picking individual stories from the past year, we decided to analyze some of the incredible trends that made 2008 a landmark year in the transportation sector. Read on for an in-depth review of ten green transportation trends, and what we believe 2009 will bring us!
1) THE GREEN CAR WILL SAVE THE INDUSTRY
The Toyota Prius has long been hailed as the hallmark of hybrid vehicles, so we were not surprised to see competitors flock to the fledgling market in an attempt to develop the ultimate “Prius-killer”. This past year, the Mini-e, the Ford Fusion, the Audi A1, and the Honda Insight were all revealed as the latest and greenest, but none caused as much ruckus as the Chevy Volt. General Motors has built an electric platform that they hope can be deployed throughout their entire line, first in the Volt, and then in cheaper and cheaper cars. The Volt is such an integral part of Chevrolet’s future that last month, the General Motors CEO drove to congress on a vehicle outfitted with the Volt’s powertrain. Ironic that the firm that killed the electric car, is now hoping to create one to survive.
2) COMPACT IS COOL
Who can forget this year’s astronomical gas prices (and their now monumental fall)? 2008 was the year that clearly showed how silly it was to drive hulking vehicles for personal transport in our cities. We declared the SUV dead (we stand by that assertion), and we saw all car manufacturers look towards the future and envision smaller vehicles as integral to our way of travelling. Nissan brought us the cute Nuvu and the robot-assisted Pivo 2, Chrysler peeked into their crystal ball and developed their neighborhood-friendly GEM Peapod, and Mitsubishi debuted the I-Miev. 2008 proved that the future of personal transportation is small, cute and efficient.
3) IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT FUEL EFFICIENCY
Everyone is looking at emissions as the greatest contributor to global warming, but there is so much more that we can do to improve our methods of transportation. This past year Mazda showcased the Kiyora, a car that cleans water, while BMW showed a car that not only ran on hydrogen but also cleaned the air as it moved through the city. But none was as exciting to us as the super-environmentally friendly Eco-Elise, which was revealed by Lotus in July of this year. The vehicle was not just an energy-efficient vehicle, but was created with the greenest materials that the company could find. It’s like they read our minds!
4) GET YOUR MILEAGE ON
Every time that we thought that cars couldn’t get more efficient we were pleasantly surprised. We were thoroughly impressed with the Solo by the Hungarian company Antro, which clocked in at an impressive 150 miles per gallon. Next we were ecstatic to hear that Volkswagen’s 235mpg concept, the VW 1L would actually go into production, albeit in limited numbers. And of course, can anyone really not be impressed by the 8923 miles per gallon French Microjoule vehicle? Sure, we won’t be seeing these on the road anytime soon, but let’s not forget that what seems impossible today may soon be commonplace.
5) BREAKING THE ALTERNATIVE ENERGY RECORD
2008 saw an impressive array of record being broken. First came the Zephyr solar plane, which was able to beat its own unnmaned flying record. Then came the Xof1 solar car, which went around Canada to break the longest distance travelled by a solar vehicle, and finally, the Earthrace biodiesel boat recently completed a carbon-neutral tour of the world. Clearly alternative energy is ready for prime-time in the field of transportation.
6) MUSCLE CARS GO GREEN
2008 was the year that clearly showed that green muscle cars are nothing to sneeze at. Tesla finally started distributing production vehicles, Honda showed the FC Sport, Chrysler came out swinging with the Dodge EV, and Fisker wowed us with the Karma. If there is one trend worthy of being called wicked cool, this is it. 2008 clearly showed that sleek and incredibly high-performing vehicles can not only be green, but are worthy of competing against their fossil fuel counterparts. Let’s face it, when even Ferrari is going green, who can honestly still claim that it’s just a passing trend?
7) WE LOVE BIKES
We’ve always featured bikes here at Inhabitat, but 2008 brought us some incredible innovations in cyclery. From Mercedes-Benz’s Trailblazer, to Yamaha’s wicked City-C bike, to Strida’s sleek folidings offerings, bikes of all types came out better looking than ever. It wasn’t just bikes though – IKEA rolled out bike trailers, and bike sharing was announced for London and even for the city of Washington DC. Heck, we even implored you to ride your bike to vote! And of course we must admit that we can’t help but want an Ultra-bright Down Low Glow light for our bikes.
8) THE SKATEBOARD GOES GREEN
We never thought that the skateboard was an item with a large environmental impact, but after learning that the skateboard industry is the largest contributor to maple deforestation we started to pay attention. Both the BambooSK8 skateboard and the Dry Leaf Skateboard present eco-friendly alternatives that look way cooler than their standard counterparts. Attention skaters, you now have a choice.
All of these sleek designs are great news, but we must admit that there was one trend that really caught our eye: if you can’t buy it, do-it-yourself. First came Phil Bridge’s cardboard bicycle, then Kyle Dansie’s electric bike. Finally, we must admit that we never expected to see a DIY hybrid vehicle, but Robert Riley’s XR3 turned heads by clearly showing how to make a hybrid capable of achieving a whopping 225mpg.
10) BIG THOUGHTS
While many of the year’s transportation trends focused on the personal vehicle, it was cities that produced the biggest news. China and Germany both banned cars – the former in order to reduce pollution in time for the olympics, while the latter aimed to reduce congestion. London recently announced a new hybrid double decker bus, while three cities in California announced their plans to become the electric-vehicle hub of the nation. And while we’re on the subject of exciting new infrastructure, Californians recently voted to create an 800 mile high-speed rail system that will link every city from San Diego to Sacramento. Now that is the future!
OUR PREDICTIONS FOR 2009:
Let’s face it, times are tough, and innovation tends to suffer under economic turmoil. We hope that Obama’s infrastructure plan recognizes that for America to be green, mass transit is the way to go. We hope to see all types of trains, buses and light rail systems being proposed – this is a key opportunity for the redevelopment of a nation. After all, even when discarded, these systems can still find a great use, such as London’s Village Underground. Let’s hope this chance is not wasted. As for the personal vehicle? Well, we know what the new Prius will look like. Look for other manufacturers to release more plans to become greener, and hopefully we’ll see some cutting-edge innovations from the big three carmakers (they better, as this will literally save or doom them). Here’s to 2009!