Today, Segway and GM are jointly announcing, and demoing on the Today show, a new two-seater (yes, seats) device, called P.U.M.A. which is something like half a SMART car. It goes 35 MPH (56 KPH) for up to 35 miles (56 km) on a charge.
If a bike is good for you, by all means, ride your bike!
But when a bike doesn’t work — too far, not enough time (35 MPH!), too wet or cold, too much stuff to carry, or young kids, or your elderly mother, or just that you don’t want to arrive to the big meeting dripping in sweat — what do you do? Do you climb into your car?
If so, this is an alternative. It doesn’t replace bicycles. Or walking, skating, or Segways, either. Personally, I use a Segway as a mobility aid (think “motorized wheelchair”) — but I keep an early Prius, primarily to transport my daughter. But the Segway can substitute for most of my car trips that don’t involve her, so I do so as much as possible. I even park my car near her school, and then take the Segway to the ferry and to my office.
A lot of people do similar balancing acts with their bikes and their cars. Perhaps a lot of those cars could be downgraded to one of these — I’d consider it. Think of all the garage space I’d get back!
Personally, I’d still use my Segway as much as possible in preference to this device. I like being closer to nature. I like being able to stop and talk, or take a picture, or just admire the beauty around me. And I use it for so much more than just a vehicle, stuff you take for granted with your legs that work.
And I like getting some exercise — using my legs while I still can, to the extent I can.
But when I am going to drive a sit-down vehicle, do I really need a Prius to go 2 miles? It doesn’t even perform all that well over short trips, though I get better mileage than a lot of non-Prius hybrids at the worst.
What about all those monster SUV’s being driven by soccer moms because once a month they may drive a group of giggling kids to a game. Maybe they could afford to have a second vehicle more suited to most of the short trips they make.
What about the pizza delivery guy? How much vehicle to you need to hold a pizza guy and a box of pepperoni and mushroom?
We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this is a "concept car" sort of deal, which may never see production. Or it may eventually lead to something that has some of the ideas, but looks very different.
But we should also remember that the best way to save transportation energy, is to transport less vehicle. Whether it be bikes, or skates, or Segways, or smaller cars, smaller trucks to transport the goods. More options are good.