Friday, August 20, 2010

Imagine PS: The ultimate in green transportation

We've heard a lot about clean diesels, gas-electric hybrids, and plug-in hybrids.  Tesla has an electric roadster with a 240-mile range that goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.  Within the next year, we'll see the debut of GM's Chevy Volt, which uses electricity as its primary power source but has a supplemental gasoline motor for extended-range travel, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

It's all very impressive, but if you want to ultimate in green transportation, you'll be surprised to learn that it's much simpler (and cheaper) than any of those much-touted vehicles.  The real breakthrough isn't the idea of using lithium-ion batteries in cars but rather in providing the electric in a fashion that doesn't generate any pollution: by hand.

Yes: The Imagine PS is street-legal!
Enter the Imagine PS by obscure start-up company HumanCar.

The Imagine runs on electricity and has a plug-in charging capability, but it's not primarily meant to be plugged in.  Instead, the Imagine is powered by the passengers themselves, who -- by pulling hand cranks from front to back -- generate from their own effort the current that makes the vehicle move.

And by all regards, it really moves: the Imagine can hit 60 mph on flat terrain and can climb hills at 30 mph.

With four passengers, the Imagine runs on "human power" alone.  The plug-in capability supplements the vehicle when fewer than four passengers are working, though, so even one person can drive it.

Is the Imagine PS going to change the world?  As a final product, no; it's impressive but not likely to win converts who would prefer, among other things, vehicles based on the green technologies I already mentioned. 

But at $15,500, it's certainly a lot more attainable than a $40,000 Volt or a $100,000 Tesla roadster.

And besides, who really wears the outfits modeled on the runway?  No one; they're concepts that influence mass-market clothing later in the season.  So too may it be with the Imagine: it shows us what is possible.

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