It’s been said that anywhere is within walking distance if you have the time. But for those without a direct dial to Dr. Scholl’s, and a longer trip than is walkable, the next greenest option is the bicycle. According to Wiley Norvell, communications director of the transportation reform group Transportation Alternatives, there are nearly 185,000 daily New York City bike commuters, with numbers growing every day in part because of increased safety and efforts like the Biking Rules education campaign in and around Manhattan. “We have safer bike lanes, and safer street designs, some lanes that are physically separated from traffic altogether. And as more and more people have biked in New York, drivers have become much more anticipating of their presence,” he says. “The days of taxi cabs swerving across your path without looking, I wouldn’t say are over, but are in remission.”
Likewise, bike commuters maintain a positive outlook on sharing city streets.
“I feel 100 percent safe when I go out riding,” says Bert Cebular, owner of the NYCeWheels bike shop on the Upper East Side. One good way to feel safer is to keep up with traffic, he notes. Electric bicycles, especially the Sanyo Eneloop Synergetic Hybrid Bicycle, are a helpful and practical option for city and country commuters who want a little more oomph in their pedals.
Available in the U.S. for the first time in September 2009, the Eneloop runs on a 25.9 volt battery and features three rider-assistance modes: Standard, Auto, and Power-up. The Standard mode works on a 1:1 ratio, wherein the rider’s output is matched by the engine’s output. Auto mode judges the cyclist’s needs and can boost the engine’s power output to a 1:2 ratio when it senses that the rider is struggling. The Power-up mode runs at the maximum 1:2 ratio all the time, giving the rider the benefit of making longer and harder trips with less fatigue. All of these modes are possible through regenerative capabilities, which means power is pumped back into the battery when the rider uses the brake, so ride range and power are increased.
The Eneloop, which retails around $2,300, has a maximum range of 46 miles on one charge and will make the rider empowered and energetic, says Sanyo spokesman Aaron Fowles. It can help with transport, commuting, or even function as a primary vehicle for those with lower travel needs. “We see this as a commuter option, for people who are mindful of the environment, who are worried about driving a car and contributing to CO2 emissions. The concept is very sustainable,” says Fowles.
Another two-wheeled option is the Zero S, available from Zero Motorcycles.The Zero S is a street ready, fully electric motorcycle available for $9,950, with a top speed of 70 mph, 60 mile range, charge time of less than four hours, and an overall efficiency of less than $.01 per mile, the company says. It’s half the weight of a conventional motorcycle and has other benefits as well. Founder Neal Saiki explains, “An electric motorcycle doesn’t require a special outlet, you can just plug it in anywhere. And it’s light enough that you can ride it right up the sidewalk into your office building…it’s really light and convenient and clean, no oil, nothing dripping out, nothing flammable on the motorcycle,” he says. “It’s really safe.”
But for travelers not yet ready to commit to a two-wheeled ride, Myers Motors offers the single-passenger, all electric $29,995 NmG (No more Gas) and double-passenger DUO (Doesn’t Use Oil) vehicles. Nearly 76 percent of workers in the U.S. travel alone to work, a number that confirmed Myers Motors owner Dana Myers’ suspicion when he saw mostly vacant cars on the road while driving his daughter to school. “The whole point of a single passenger commuter vehicle is that you’re only using up the space that you really need for the vehicle,” he says. “…most travel can be done with an electric car, or electric vehicle.”
The aesthetically quirky NmG has a lithium battery with a life of around 100,000 miles, a 50-to-60 mile range and 70 mph top speed, though Myers says, with a larger battery, a 100-mile range is possible. The DUO, available for sale this year, has similar specifications with more limited maneuverability in traffic, since it is designed for two passengers. “It’s fun to drive,” says Myers. “You can’t have a bad day driving one of these things, because you get so much positive affirmation driving it.”
Classic designs with a green twist are also available from luxury car companies like Mercedes Benz, Audi, and BMW. Options range from the S400 Mercedes Hybrid to Audi’s clean-diesel A3 TDI, which was named 2010’s Green Car of the Year at the December 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show. Achieving an EPA-estimated 42 mpg highway, the A3 TDI is 50 percent more fuel efficient than comparable gasoline engines.
For those with a love of the open road and zero gasoline dependency, Tesla Motors serves up the two-passenger Roadster. This innovative, all-electric sports car has a top speed of 125 mph, a range of 244 miles, and an expected battery life of 100,000 miles. If luxury, speed, and sustainability are what you are after, the $101,000 Roadster offers all three by way of its 375-volt air-cooled motor with base output of 288 peak horse power, its lightweight body, and a variety of design options.
Knowing the available options to go green will take you far. As Norvell of Transportation Alternatives advises, one need not try to overhaul everything at once. “Start small.”
Resource List BIKE SHOPS NYCeWheels New York; (800) 692 3943; nycewheels.com ELECTRIC BICYCLES AND KITS BionX Intelligent Mobility Systems and Bicycle Retrofit Kits Sherbrooke, QC; (819) 563-1035; bionx.ca
Sanyo Eneloop Synergetic Hybrid Bicycle San Diego, CA; (619) 661-1134; us.sanyo.com/commercial-eneloop-bike ELECTRIC VEHICLES Myers Motors NmG/DUO Talladge, OH; (866) 693-7778; email@example.com; myersmotors.com
Tesla Motors New York Store New York; (212) 206-1204; teslamotors.com
ZENN Cars Toronto, ON zenncars.com
Zero Motorcycles Scotts Valley, CA; (888) 786-9376 retail available at Suburban Green Store, Mahwah, NJ; (877) 503-6374; suburbangreenstore.com; zeromotorcycles.com CARS Audi Manhattan New York; (877)-2AUDI-NYC; audiusa.com
BMW of Manhattan New York; (212) 586-2269; bmwusa.com
Mercedes Benz Montvale, NJ; (201) 573-2999; mbusa.com GREEN AIR TRAVEL GreenJets Private Air Travel West Palm Beach, FL; (561) 689-7100; flygreenjets.com SCOOTERS/GOLF CARTS Honda Hudson Valley Cycle Center Kingston; (845) 340-1100; honda.hvcycle.com; powersports.honda.com
Orange County Golf Carts Pine Island; (845) 856-4440; orangecountygolfcarts.com
Vespa New York; (212) 708-3075; vespapotamkin.com TRANSPORTATION REFORM Transportation Alternatives New York; (212) 629-8080; transalt.org