Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

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reikiman's picture
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To fix the transportation system, do we really need to swap electric cars for gasoline cars?

If the only problem is oil supply & global warming then maybe all we need do is change the drive train in the cars and keep on driving cars.

I believe highways are ugly. I believe highways are a poor use of land. Fact is that each car requires 7 or more parking spaces set aside for it, which means tying up a lot of land with asphalt covering that could be put to better uses.

Lots and lots of people want walkable communities with a vibrant street life that can be appreciated at a human scale. Instead what the developers and cities are giving us is vast parking lots festering urban spaces with unwalkability. The buildings today are built for the scale of someone speeding by at 70 miles/hr on the neighboring highway, rather than to be an interesting place to walk around and explore by foot.

Walkable communities are healthier than ones where the people are trapped in cars for everyplace they go.

It's hugely pleasant to ride my electric bicycle around. While my electric car is fun, the bicycle is a joy on many levels.

In July my gas car died and was eventually sold as a "mechanics special" leaving me without a car for several months because the electric car wasn't finished. With my electric cargo bike I could get around just fine and take care of all sorts of business without a car. It was only a problem when my girlfriend was here to visit because she was unable to ride my bicycles.

Anybody else?

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

I think it's a question of recognizing that there are multiple problems and breaking the issues down and solving (or attempting to solve) these smaller problems. There is no simple answer to any of this. Personally I don't spend time worrying about congestion and road building - it's not that I don't recognize that these are issues it's that I think I can play a role in implementing personal electric transport. I'll let someone else come along later and make my product obsolete.

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

I just read you and Marco on the thread about the tax credit. Put me in the camp of folks who work from the principle "people don't want to knit their own yogurt".

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

My current solution to a second car for commuting to work is doing that on an electric scooter instead. I do not congest (and can rather wriggle my way through such congestion produced by thousands of single occupants in big cars), I use only a fraction of the road- or parking space of a car, and use only a fraction of the energy, CO2 and cost of a car, no matter if electric or ICE-driven.
Even though I think that pedelecs are great for many folks, it would not be a good solution for my daily commute, as I tend to start sweating like a waterfall as soon as my body even just anticipates some physical stress (it's a genetic thing probably, some sweat glands tend to overreact..). And I do not like to arrive at work smelling like ... and dripping wet ;-)

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

I'd certainly rather have a good public transport system (NOT just more diesel buses!) than a few thousand more EVs on the road. Coming from a motorcycling background, I mainly ride mine recreationally (on the occasions I actually have one other than the Lepton, which now has too little range, working), although I do run some errands on the XM in mild weather, and usually take the Lepton to my father's Xmas party 4 blocks away, rather than drive. The best we've managed is to lease a Prius for commuting, and to be honest, that car is not dear to my heart. America was first overdeveloped by numerous roads, and is now being completely ruined by them.

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

Good on ya Reikiman! Same thing happened to me. The van died. Then, the battery pack went belly up, so right now all I have is one less of everything and a cargo bike.
As soon as I can afford it, I'll convert the bike again. If the job situation gets better, I'll afford the next step. Between now and then, I'll keep my hands in the technology. Doesn't matter how crafty I am, those NiMH batteries are still more than a nickel ninety five apiece.
I hear you all saying the situation here is ugly, and I have to agree. That cargo bike is a piece of work! I'm a heretic.

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

i have a few random comments, since my earlier remarks precipitated this thread.

I agree with John's comment. We do what "right things" we can in the economic niche we have chosen.

Regarding Leftiebiker's comment, unfortunately, rubber-tire buses are the only form of mass transit that can be implemented rapidly, has route flexibility and most importantly is affordable for all but larger cities. Diesels are much cleaner running nowadays. I haven't seen a bus emitting visible smoke here in Pittsburgh for quite a while. And, of course, diesel-electric hybrids are becoming common, or natural gas. The ideal system would be trolley-buses, which could run on battery power on the residential street parts of the route where unsightly overhead wires are unsightly and expensive to maintain. The bus also has the advantage of being able to pull to the curb at stops. I have heard that wireless, under the pavement-inductive powered streetcars, or presumably electric buses, are being developed. But this stuff, once again, will be expensive. People need to get over the "social stigma" of riding the bus - which mostly goes away by itself if service is good enough. My dentist rides the bus to his downtown office. So do other "professionals" who live in city neighborhoods simply becasue it is the most practical way to get there.

I'd prefer the ride and quiet of a LRT or streetcar. I assume everyone is familiar with the famous General Motors/National City Lines scam that dismantled the extensive streetcar lines and replaced them with smoky and noisy buses as a scheme to get everyone in cars. Unfortunately, streetcars are not going to come back in the US except for a few very well transit-funded cities like Washington DC, where I noticed tracks for future streetcars are going in as part of the repaving of a number of streets.

The biggest challenge to improves public transportation is simply that the sprawl and walking-hostility of suburban areas makes public transportation difficult or impossible. I believe that US suburbia in its current ugly manifestation arose from a very profitable symbiotic relationship between auto manufacturers, real estate developers, and big-box chain retailers. It could not have been a result of public clamor to live in such places. Perhaps this was the case for the original "main street" Levittown-type suburbs, but not current day freeway-and-mall sprawl. Now, such sprawl continues becasue N. Americans in many areas are given no other choice. Many, having lived in no other environment, and are not aware that any other way of living is possible. After a life spent mostly in Fairfax County, Virginia, I didn't, until by sheer fortuitous circumstances, I moved to an older traditional walkable, no-car-needed city neighborhood. It was quite an epiphany for me.

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

Yes to all the above! Parallel technologies are the answer. Contrary points of view aren't contrary at all, only expressions of the quality of life we all pursue. Old neighborhoods offer solutions within the zone of knitting the thing together. The "what you have" approach is always best, much better than "what if", definitely better than "what you're losing". It's abstract thought. One day it will make sense to somebody who puts it all together, HERE, for ALL, everywhere. At least, that's the direction of this forum.
Now I'd like to say, methane can BUST out hydrogen, and we all have one foot in the landfill. Parallel technologies are containers, and the answer is in the containers.
A landfill is a source of energy. Other than this I'm just learning so much from you guys, I'm beside myself, so thanks.

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

PJD, I have no problem with natural gas powered or hybrid buses, only those still-dirty diesels, of which we still have plenty in Upstate NY. What we need as much as more buses, though, is light rail to get people to their jobs when those jobs are more than a couple of miles away.

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

Over the last year or so I've been involved in organizing two different film series on transportation issues ...

One of the movies we showed was Save Our Lands, Save Our Towns ... http://www.saveourlandsaveourtowns.org/video.html

It was put together by a Journalist living in a rural Pennsylvania town and PJD you might find one section in the movie interesting because he dissects the situation in Pittsburgh. There, he says, a key problem is that urban planning across that region is split between 30 some odd planning boards for each suburb or what-not. No region-level city planning means a mess.

He also talked at length about some aspects about how the unsustainable geometry of American urban areas got organized, and contrasted it with the towns of rural England that have a completely different sort of planning policy. Key thing - in the years following WWII there were returning GI's who were getting cheap home loans via the government, and for their home loan to qualify it had to meet certain criteria:- newly built home, detached home (no adjoining walls), certain setback requirements, hence requiring a front yard and a certain ratio of yard to street to house size that meant the houses were spread out to a low enough population density that mass transit was not survivable.

In other words, it was a (semi-)conscious policy choice of the federal government to construct the newly built suburbs meant to house returning GI's and their families in a low density system that pretty much forced buying cars.

It's not jsut that Americans don't have choice - in large part they have no idea that cities could be organized in any other way.

Yet, when people go to Europe and visit walkable cities they love the feel and the opportunity to explore on foot. I know I do, having been to Glasgow, Edinborough, Brussels, Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Prague and St. Petersburg, all with the same sort of walkability and fun things to find. Well.. except.. in Glasgow I was intent on finding Scottish food for dinner, and could only find chain restaurants imported from America. That was disturbing.

Another movie we've shown is the End of Suburbia - a kind of dark/doom/gloom movie but gets to the heart of the issue of how peak oil can collide with urban design to make a mess. If you want this story on a weekly basis, James Howard Kunstler has a weekly podcast (The Kunstler Cast) where he talks about this at length.

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

Dave,

I'll try to get copy of the documentary to look at, but to be clear, Pittsburgh is in some ways, the most "European" of American cities, in that its ethnically diverse neighborhoods have the requisite density (even if a bit worn around the edges) to be walkable with lots of amenities and local mom-and-pop businesses. Another element for livability is a certain organic lack of planning in its growth. See the photos below. The hilly terrain and it's old industrial and coal mining heritage meant workers had to be a reasonable walk from the mills or mine portals, as well as amenities.

Pittsburgh is surrounded by a hodge-podge of surrounding boroughs, some are pre-suburban mill towns (often in poor economic shape and depopulated, some post-WW2 suburbs. I think overall the disorganization of these independent boroughs has probably helped the livability of the region. No doubt if a central regional planning commission had been running things, we would be have a big "beltway" or other such freeways surrounding the city and a Detroit-like abandoned and decayed inner city. Vibrant cities grow organically with a minimum of planning. Freeways are the death of livable cities.

Until a few years ago, Pittsburgh public transit was quite good for a city its size and it overall shrinking population. The trolley lines continued to run in Pittsburgh until the late 1970's. But like almost everywhere else, they have been replaced with buses, with the exception of two light-rail/streetcar lines into the "south hills" suburbs. That trolley that went from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood through the tunnel to the "land of make believe" was whimsically derived from the "T" that Fred Rogers rode to the WQED studios every day. When I moved to Pittsburgh 12 years ago, public transit was still so good that it was fairly common to meet people in their 20's to 50's who just never bothered to own a car or even get a drivers license. Starting in 2006, service cuts started with a vengeance, and I think the population of people voluntarily living entirely car-free is dwindling fast.


The South Side Slopes - The best Pirohi (Perogies) in the USA come from the Ukranian Orthodox church at the bottom of the picture.

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Panorama from the my former townhouse in Bloomfield neighborhood aka "Little Italy"

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

PJD wrote:

I'd prefer the ride and quiet of a LRT or streetcar. I assume everyone is familiar with the famous General Motors/National City Lines scam that dismantled the extensive streetcar lines and replaced them with smoky and noisy buses as a scheme to get everyone in cars. Unfortunately, streetcars are not going to come back in the US except for a few very well transit-funded cities like Washington DC, where I noticed tracks for future streetcars are going in as part of the repaving of a number of streets.

I live in a city with the largest tramway system in the world. (In addition to the cities extensive suburban electrified railway system.

Tramway's and suburban train companies were the architects of the vast sprawling suburbs of most western cities. The tramway's (and Railways) were built by land speculators to sell the suburbs.

In most cities the abolition of tramway's had very little to do with any conspiracy. Even the the lines GM took over and dismantled were losing money.

I'm a huge fan of Trams, Trolley-buses and trains, every day I am grateful to the stubborn old farmer/Premier who refused to abolish these valuable networks.

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PJD
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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

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In most cities the abolition of tramway's had very little to do with any conspiracy. Even the the lines GM took over and dismantled were losing money.

Actually, they replaced them with buses. Of course, like all public infractructure, transit syatems all "lose money" they are not intended to be money-making enterprises. Does Melborne's big system make money or is it even self-sustaining solely on fares? The old PCC electric streetcar used in the US were the most relaible and low-cost-of-maintenance wheeled conveyance ever made. We still had some ca. 1940's PCC streetcars some running on our two remaining lines in Pittsubrgh until 1999. However, trams get in way of cars, buses facilitate turning the streets over to cars, and cars are GM's main business they wanted to grow. The GM/National City lines conspiracy was well established. Obviously there were other factors, but GM's actions were pivotal and many lines would have survived the period between the decline of private transit lines and the takeover by public trnsit authorities if it werent for GM's action.

At any rate, public transportation in many US cities in a death spiral of funding-driven service cuts (in spite of increased pre-cut ridership) - rediced ridership - justifying further cuts... Ultimatly public transit in many US cities become regarded as little more than "welfare for cripples, retards, lazy black people and other undesirables". This isn't hyperbole. For example, the few surviving downtow retail businesses and condo-developers in Pittsburgh are threatening to leave unless bus routes are removed from their street, becasue they beleive they buses only bring in "loiterers" which is code-language for poor black people.

You seem to be very resistant to the idea that powerful actors in an economy can inflence a market in ways that benefit them, either by brute-force monopoly power or through the huge desire-engineering and consent manufacturing industry called PR, advertizing, news and entertainment media. You are famiiar with the wildly successful "control of democratic societies" methods Bernays and Lippman, aren't you?

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

Quite a few interesting parts to this thread:

1) marcopolo thinks it naive to consider things a conspiracy. PJD thinks it's naive to consider the major businesses influencing public policy. I think it mostly comes down to what you consider "conspiracy" vs. "common business practice".

2) David posits that the design of post world-war housing caused the car boom. It probably did. However, when I read that list of specs it sounded to me like an attempt to make sure that what was built supported a "good standard of living" (in what was considered "good" at the time). I have a hard time thinking this was lobbied for by the car makers - but I wasn't there at the time and I might be being naive.

3) PJD says "no planning"/"organic growth" makes for the best cities. David appears to bemoan the fact that there are 30 different organizations involved in the urban planning process. This dichotomy is the one that I find most interesting. I think "organic growth" vs. "planned growth" when it comes to urban development makes for a very interesting comparison. My theory is that PJD's position holds a lot of truth because it protects against the risk of "unintended consequences". There are numerous examples of implementation of large scale urban planning gone awry - think of the high-density tower blocks (available to be seen in most European cities - I think both PJD & David are a little too generous in their views of European cities - remember the riots in Paris and/or London? That mostly occurred in these "concrete jungles"). Each new iteration of urban planner seems to solve some issues with prior models - but what unexpected consequences will occur with the new model? All the descriptions I hear of creating "livable urban communities" smack of "gentrification" - which creates an increase in cost of living which forces out the prior population.

It's all a conundrum!!

:-)

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

jdh2550_1 wrote:

PJD thinks it's naive to consider the major businesses influencing public policy.

Oops I missed out the all important "not" from that sentence! (dang, where that edit button when you need it! Preview be damned!)

Oh, and BTW, everywhere I say X thinks Y. I should of course say "X appears to think Y by my interpretation of what they wrote".

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

jdh2550_1 wrote:

(dang, where that edit button when you need it! Preview be damned!)

Oh well, there always the preview.....Heh,heh ...petard...:)

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

I've existed almost completely without a car for 7 years now. Every year I seem to go backwards. At first I used a lot of electric scooter (emax) and electric bike. Then I used a lot of bicycle. Now I'm about 1/2 bicycle and 1/2 foot. The grocery store is 30 minutes away by walking and since I try to get an hour of exercise each day it is perfect. For a large grocery trip I'll use the bike and for a really large trip I'll use the bicycle trailer.

For just "getting around" I have similar choices. For longer trips, like Boulder, I have a 60 minute trip by bicycle which I try to do as often as possible. In a pinch I'll take the bus which usually leaves me with a 15 minute walk at the end.

My wife has a Honda which even she uses so infrequently that we keep a trickle charger around to start it. (Honda says it is reasonable that the car's standby systems drain the battery flat in 2 months of disuse.) We're about to replace this Honda with a Nissan Leaf. I hope to not use the Leaf much more than I did the Honda. I like my lifestyle without a car and want to preserve it. (Just between you and me, however, I think I'll be out in the electric car a bit more because it is just so freaking cool.)

I agree, David. Our lives and our cities are ill-served by a car-centric transportation system to the point where electric cars serve mostly has a bridge to something completely different. I think they are an important bridge, however.

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

You're a breath of fresh air, Dave. Here's some good news, you already might know about. Ovshinsky has invented the Battery that stores Hydrogen for safe use. He modeled it after the harmonic alignment of the elements in the universe, the way they mingle in layers of harmony, to make the world what it can be. It's a ten part cell he made. The electricity to bust the water to hydrogen and oxygen is a large simple PV cell, like the one in your solar powered light. As explained, it isn't anything more than an elementary school science project. The ten part cell, on the other hand, he twinkles about that. Imagine J S Bach, sitting there writing out four part harmony, and you get the point. Ovshinsky has made ten part harmony, when his associates have trouble figuring out four parts.
So, he did it. One of his machines could be powering your house AND your car AND your bike, your phone, you cooktop, your space heaters, soon.
All the oil companies have to do is KABOSH his ten part work. He's 86+ years old. That science can trickle away from his grip and move across the world in a heartbeat, because it's science, now defined and ordered and in motion, like every other thing Ovshinsky did. He didn't just make the idea of having a thing. He made the THING!
The THING he made this time, though, has to do with something we all need to live. Oxygen!
Ovshinky is a breath of fresh air too, Dave, and I hope you have one of his machines soon. You deserve it, because you're willing and able to do what you do, even when you're doing without. Good for ya!
BTW I'm a Denverite, so I'm probably breathing some of your air as I type.Here's to life!

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

Interesting ( nice pics BTW )

What would you guys do if you were in scenario where you were disabled and had some use of your body / limbs but not all of it i.e. to the point you needed something like a knee walker or electric like a scooter to get around ?

Would you be content with restrictions - or try to create something to overcome it ?

helenah

Cor
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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

Helenah,
I see small scooters with optional seats for people who have difficulty walking but otherwise can get around fine.
The power wheelchair is also an Electric Vehicle for people who are worse disabled and somewhere in that mix
there is also electric tricycles for longer distance but disabled beyond the equilibrium control required for twowheelers.

Cor
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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics ...

I have been bicycling to work (11 miles each way) for some time now,
originally I started with once or twice a week, then I got a bike
that I really liked, solid but smooth and good tires so much
lighter to ride - the result was that I used my car no more
than once every two weeks. In fact, I have been borrowing my
car to friends or visiting families that could not afford to
rent a car, while I biked around.
Keeps me in shape, my wallet in shape and happy friends ;-)

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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics y

Helenah,
I see small scooters with optional seats for people who have difficulty walking but otherwise can get around fine.
The power wheelchair is also an Electric Vehicle for people who are worse disabled and somewhere in that mix
there is also electric tricycles for longer distance but disabled beyond the equilibrium control required for twowheelers.

I have tried both wheelchair and scooter and neither are acceptable for my disability for numerous reasons , and even if they were id still be restricted to a battery with a limited life span, and vehicle that was restricted to pavements / flat surfaces - which rules out the chance to explore nature or feel confident about going anywhere you could just get stuck or breakdown in ( there is no GPS / route planner for disability friendly pavements )

As my disability itself is complex ( rare form of connective tissue disorder affecting my whole body inc skull ) i am affected regardless of sitting or standing , though with support ( a spring loaded crutch ) and knee walker I was able to get around 2 yrs ago untill I deteriorated again and became housebound ( which continues to be the case )

Due to the fact the only treatment that helps to resolve this is in the US ( i am in the UK ) and Im on my own with this Im trying to find way round these dilemmas by perusing a project I started last year ,which you can read about here if you like.

If I dont find a way to do this , Im pretty much stuck here till I die , as id need to really have something portable I could still manually use to go on transport ( i cant drive due to my issues ) or use should anything else unforeseen ( Battery issues ec )happen .

h

Cor
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Re: Calling all electric vehicle heretics y

helenah wrote:

I have tried both wheelchair and scooter and neither are acceptable for my disability for numerous reasons , and even if they were id still be restricted to a battery with a limited life span, and vehicle that was restricted to pavements / flat surfaces - which rules out the chance to explore nature or feel confident about going anywhere you could just get stuck or breakdown in ( there is no GPS / route planner for disability friendly pavements )

OK, I have no clue as to the reason why these vehicles are not acceptable to your disability, but I will take your word for it as it is your experience. BTW, regarding offroad: there are always versions with wider/knobby tires, I have even seen a military variant of the Segway that is used in rough terrain, while the regular Segway is mainly used in airports and other paved areas.

helenah wrote:

As my disability itself is complex ( rare form of connective tissue disorder affecting my whole body inc skull ) i am affected regardless of sitting or standing , though with support ( a spring loaded crutch ) and knee walker I was able to get around 2 yrs ago untill I deteriorated again and became housebound ( which continues to be the case )

OK, that explains your focus on the knee walker - which also tells me that one leg is more affected than the other, as you will need one leg to push off while the other lower leg rests on the knee walker, or you alternate between the two, comparable to operating a push-scooter.

helenah wrote:

Due to the fact the only treatment that helps to resolve this is in the US ( i am in the UK ) and Im on my own with this Im trying to find way round these dilemmas by perusing a project I started last year ,which you can read about here if you like.

If I dont find a way to do this , Im pretty much stuck here till I die , as id need to really have something portable I could still manually use to go on transport ( i cant drive due to my issues ) or use should anything else unforeseen ( Battery issues ec )happen.

True, any vehicle can break down, no matter whether it is operated by oil (Petrol/Diesel) or electricity or even on a fuel-free vehicle like a push scooter or bicycle you can get a flat tire or a mechanical defect to the vehicle. That is why you should always carry a cell phone, because operators can triangulate the position of your cell phone within a couple dozen yards, so it is easy to find you even if you are in a place off the beaten path - as long as there is cellphone reception. I don't know about UK, but I have had "BWC" (Better World Club) roadside assistance (competitor to AAA and as the name indicates, they do care for the environment, unlike others) and this roadside assistance can include a bring-home service for breakdown *by bicycle* (I expect that other 2-wheeled transportation is also considered a bicycle but you should check for the terms before closing the deal.) I have now lightrail pretty close to several points on my daily route, so I no longer have their roadside assistance and in the few breakdowns (flat tire) I have had, I had to walk home or to work, combined with light rail when appropriate.

I hear you on the portability, so you want something light and that can be pushed out of the woods if you get stuck or a battery gets low. That means either something in the knee walker / push scooter variants or small bicycle. If you give me more background about what is feasible and what limitations there are in terms of your stability, ability to balance a vehicle (can it have 2 wheels or must there be min 3 wheels?) Note that I recommend 3 wheels over 4, as it is easy to lose traction on one of the 4 wheels as soon as surfaces are uneven, unless you bring independent suspension to each of the 4 wheels, which will make the whole project a lot more complex and I suggest to make it as simple as possible, have 2 front wheels if possible and 1 in rear ("tadpole" construction) to give more stability if most of the weight is in front. You can have a single powered rear wheel to help with powered movement to take the strain out. I have seen nice comfy seats on recumbent bikes, if that is an option then that might be a path. A small trike bicycle with a powered wheel but still able to rotate the wheels with pedal(s) might be a possibility. I have even seen "stair stepper" scooters which are powered by pushing a footrest down, which is then converted into forward motion, but if you talk about a knee walker then a simple push scooter with 3 wheels for stability might be more appropriate and then get a variant with decent (small bicycle size) wheels so you can mount your Golden Motor hub instead of one wheel.
I do not know your limitations and desires of where you like to go (how far, which terrain) - you may send me a PM to give more background, also about what kind of treatment you are talking about - is it shippable to UK or is it unique to US only?

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