2016 Toyota Fuel Cell

How to get from Point A to Point B – its been contemplated since the beginning of time.

There are a plethora of personal transport options available to us these days.  From planes, trains and automobiles and everything in between, our personal transport options run the gamut of efficiency.

When it comes to personal transport options today, there is a growing trend towards doing more with less – lessening our transportation footprint if you will. What will the future of personal transport look like?

Here are 5  innovations to keep an eye on. Hands on the wheel?  Alright, let’s go for a ride…

Bike Share Programs

Bike share
While not super high-tech, bike share programs are one innovation to keep your pulse and feet on. Image courtesy of Tony Webster.

I thought we’d start out simple.  While bike sharing is not a new concept, bike sharing programs are beginning to pop up in major metropolitan areas.  Bike sharing programs afford users an emission-free alternative to automobiles as well as great exercise.  Add in the usual low cost of participation and you’ve got a recipe for good ol’ eco-friendly transportation. So, go ahead strap on that helmet and feel wind blowing through your hair.  Head on over to bikeshare to see if bike sharing programs exist in your area.

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)

Alright, let’s double our wheel count from two to four.   There’s been a lot in the news lately about ride services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecare.  Paired with technology, TNCs are making us rethink personal transportation.  And, in many cases, using one of these services can be more efficient (ex: think sharing a taxi ride with a stranger) when compared to a single occupant vehicle.  TNCs are still in their infancy with regard to legality and safety, but they both have the potential to change the personal transportation game.

Plug-in vehicles

Research firm Navigant Research reports that electric vehicles (EV) have surpassed 3% of new vehicles sales with an estimated 7% by 2020.  While these percentages may seem small, 7% is 6.6 million EVs – a sizable reduction in traditional fuel vehicles.

According to Greenbiz, ‘In addition to federal and state measures such as tax credits and the eight-state mandate to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, the 40 percent decline in battery prices over the past four years also pushed clean vehicles forward.’

EV manufacturer Tesla Motors believes there gigafactory, scheduled to be built in Nevada, could drive battery prices down even further – 30% or more by 2017.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs)

2016 Toyota Fuel Cell
2016 Toyota Fuel Cell Exterior. image courtesy of Toyota UK.

FCVs emit no harmful tailpipe emissions and have the potential to significantly reduce our dependence on crude oil. By converting hydrogen gas onboard with oxygen from the air into electricity, FCVs are a huge step forward in personal transportation innovation. FCVs also have noticeable advantages to EV’s in that they can be charged in minutes versus hours with three times the driving range.

Toyota recently announced it will bring to market its first fuel cell car – the Mirai later this year. IN addition to Toyota, several other major car manufacturers have plans to get into the fuel cell game, manufacturers like Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes.

MAGLEV trains

Not familiar with MAGLEV trains?  MAGLEV trains are locomotive trains that levitate on magnetic tracks.  Think of maglev trains as the next evolution of the high-speed or bullet trains which are capable of speeds in excess of 150 MPH (but that have traditionally had expensive and time consuming maintenance).

Maglev Test Vehicle
Superconducting Maglev Test Vehicle. Image courtesy of Eiichi Kimura.

Eliminating wheel and rail friction allows MAGLEV trains to obtain higher eco efficiency – higher speeds and decreased maintenance (costs).  Already in operation in China and Germany, MAGLEV trains have the potential to speed past other personal transportation innovations in other parts of the world.

Have you taken any or own any of these innovations?  Would you consider or not consider any of these?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.  Share your comments below. 

By Chase Ezell

Chase has served in various public relations, communications and sustainability roles. He is a former managing editor for Earth911.com.