Every year, Swiss tuner Rinspeed dreams up another wild car for the Geneva Auto Show, from tuned Porsches to a submersible Lotus to last year's iPhone-controlled EV.
This year's car is tame, even — gasp! — production-capable when it goes on display in March. At 8.2 feet long, the two-seat electric UC? (Urban Commuter, you see) is Smart-sized, yet takes design cues from the larger Fiat 500. The car's 75-mile range and 68-mph top speed don't break any EV barriers, a helpful way to trim costs for Rinspeed's grand plan: an electric car-sharing service integrated with an elaborate electric train network.
Should you wish to travel more than 75 miles, simply drive to a designated station and pull up to a reserved spot on-board, where the QC? can be charged as you're whisked away to your next leg. With Europe's high taxes and sophisticated mass-transit systems, it actually sounds practical.
So far, other companies have taken small steps. In October, an California fleet company said it would rent electric cars at Danish train stations by 2010. Last month, Daimler began producing its electric Smart ForTwo in France, and also started a pilot car-sharing service in Austin, Texas, of gasoline ForTwos. In June, Ontario battery manufacturer Electrovaya
offered hourly EV rentals in Baltimore, and Paris is trying to build a rental fleet of 2,000 electric cars by 2010.
Americans will have to suffice with the diesel-electric Amtrak Auto Train, which runs between Virginia and Florida, as the only car-train-car realization for many years to come.
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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee