Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The car that could save the world

This is the car that could save the world:

This is Citroën's 2CV, designed shortly after World War Two to be cheap, reliable transportation. It was capable of carrying lots of luggage for farms and made to handle off-road use as easily as on-road. It wouldn't sell terribly well in its original form (at first it topped out at 40 mph, and the last model, produced in 1990, could only make it to the mid-70s), but a modern remake, with the same basic principles in mind, would be excellent.

The main things the 2CV got right:

-Designed to do just one thing, and do it damn well: The 2CV was designed to get people and light cargo from point A to point B, and it did it better than almost any other car made in its age (and, arguably, better than many newer cars). It wasn't meant to be pretty, it wasn't meant to be fast, it wasn't meant to be a luxury car, and it certainly wasn't any of these. It was transportation, pure and simple.

-Efficient use of space: The average occupants per car vary depending on time and location, but it's around 1.3 people. There are certainly situations where you need to carry more, but at least 70% of rides are transporting only 1 person. The 2CV seats 5, but the back 3 seats double easily as storage space, effectively making it easily convertible between a 5-seater family car and a 2-seater light truck. The roof is removable canvas, making it easy to carry large objects.

-Low weight: The 2CV minimized weight in many ways, from folding windows instead of windows that rolled down, to the previously mentioned canvas roof, to a front-engine, front-wheel drive system. This contributed to the car's fuel efficiency: often better than 50 miles per gallon, comparable to a Prius but without any batteries or computerized controls.

A revamp of the 2CV, or at least a car made with the same principles in mind, would very much help current concerns about pollution, as well as fuel consumption and runaway consumerism. We don't need station wagons that can top 130 miles per hour, or cars with a hundred pounds of chrome bling. We don't need SUVs that seat 7 for a mother of two living in the city. We need efficient transportation, both in terms of construction costs and fuel usage.

The availability of a car like this wouldn't alone change the world, not by any means. There are certainly issues, such as the conspicuous consumption that has led to many of the inefficiencies of current cars, that need to be addressed, but a vehicle like this, designed around being a good, solid method of transportation, would almost certainly help.

[Photograph from Wikipedia]

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