Clean, Green Mobility for Today’s Crowded Cities

In many cities throughout the world, motor scooters provide the least expensive form of powered personal mobility. They are inexpensive to acquire and operate, and they provide higher speeds and greater carrying capacity than bicycles. Their road and parking space demands are minimal since they have footprints not much larger than bicycles: they are not constrained to wide lanes like automobiles: and they can park (often illegally) in very small spaces that could not accommodate automobiles.

One downside of scooters is that, unlike enclosed powered vehicles, they do not provide weather protection – making them most suitable for use in temperate climates. They provide a little more crash protection than bicycles, but not nearly as much as automobiles. And gasoline-powered motor scooters are a major source of urban noise, local air pollution, and carbon emissions.

The tradeoff points that scooters represent make them particularly popular in the developing world. They are also popular in European cities, where narrow streets and crowded conditions are inhospitable to automobiles. In the United States they have a limited use as primary personal transportation, they have recreational uses, and in cities with severe winters their use is mostly seasonal.

The RoboScooter folding electric scooter, developed by the Smart Cities group, maximizes the advantages of the scooter while minimizing some of its disadvantages. It features in-wheel electric motors, lithium-ion batteries, and a cast aluminum frame. To minimize parking footprint – which is a key consideration in many contexts where scooters are popular – it folds up into a very compact configuration. For contexts where this is not necessary, the RoboScooter can also be produced in non-folding models.

RoboScooters are designed to serve as approximate functional equivalents of 50cc gasoline-powered scooters. They are, however, clean, silent, and occupy less parking space. They are also much simpler – consisting of about 150 parts, compared to the 1,000 to 1,500 of an equivalent gasoline-powered scooter – which simplifies supply chains and assembly processes, reduces vehicle costs, and simplifies maintenance.

Like GreenWheels, RoboScooters can be recharged in their racks. Their battery packs are also small enough to be conveniently removable, which opens up the possibilities of charging spare batteries at home, and of battery vending machines that accept discharged batteries and provide fully charged ones.

The final show-quality prototype was presented at the Milan Motor show on November 6-9th, 2007.

Video: Media Lab LabCAST, RoboScooter (May 19, 2008)

Principal Investigator
William J. Mitchell, MIT Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences

RoboScooter Design Team
Ryan Chin, PhD Candidate, Smart Cities, Media Lab
Yaniv Fain, MBA '08, Sloan School of Management
Michael Chia-Liang Lin, MS Candidate, Smart Cities, Media Lab
Ana F. Martinez-Villalpando, MID Candidate, RISD
Arthur Petron, MS Candidate, Smart Cities, Media Lab
Raul-David "Retro" Poblano, PhD Candidate, Smart Cities, Media Lab
Andres Sevtsuk, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Urban Studies & Planning

Sanyang Motors (SYM)
Grand Wu
Wan Ching Chang

ITRI
Wen-Jean Hsueh
Eugene Hsiao
Ying-Tzu Lin

 

Links
"With Electric Scooter, MIT Hopes To Rev Up Practical Transport," Popular Mechanics, February 27, 2008

"Unfold and Ride," New York Times, December 16, 2007

"Foldable Electric Scooter Made for Sharing," Discovery News, December 6, 2007.

"Cuter scooter defined by electricity, portability", MIT News Office, November 27, 2007.