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Alternatives to the alternatives

For some area enthusiasts, EVs aren’t enough

BRATTLEBORO—Ethan Tucker, local actor and screenwriter, recently added to his résumé vice president of marketing, and interim president, of Zero Pollution Motors, a New Paltz, N.Y.-based company whose efforts are directed toward getting a new type of transportation — the AIRPod — on American streets.

The purpose of the AIRPod is to reduce the two scourges of urban congestion coming from automobiles: smog and gridlock.

The AIRPod is a vehicle than runs on compressed air. As the Zero Pollution Motors Website [zeropollutionmotors.us] explains, “The laws of physics dictate that uncontained gases will fill any given space... Compressing a gas into a small space is a way to store energy. When the gas expands again, that energy is released to do work. This principle is the basis behind what makes an air car run.”

Tucker explains further: “The AIRPod’s engine is its own compressor. The only ones that need a battery are those running in cold climates, and those need just a small one to run the heater. You can plug the AIRPod into any 110-volt household outlet, and in four hours, fill up the ‘tank’, which will give you about 150 miles when driving an average speed of 35 miles per hour.”

According to Tucker, AIRPods use one-third the amount of electricity of EVs. In hotter climates, they don’t need additional power to run air-conditioners in the cabin because “air compression creates cold air, so the air conditioner is basically the exhaust.”

AIRPods are small. Even the Standard, which has the greatest cabin space, only holds two adults and a child. The larger Cargo model has extra space, but it’s a simple, open space for storage, like one would find in a cargo van or small moving truck.

As Tucker explains, “The AIRPod isn’t geared toward personal consumption. We plan to sell fleets to cities for things like ride-shares, taxis, post offices, cable companies, cargo vehicles at airports. Anything where you’d never need to go more than 50 miles per hour.”

AIRPods cost $10,000 each, making them a smarter financial choice for companies needing multiple vehicles.

Developed by inventor Guy Negre in Nice, France, one of the features of the AIRPod business model is de-centralization. Tucker says, “Negre wants every country to get its own factory and the cars will only be sold within a certain radius from the factory, about 100 miles. The carbon footprint is reduced because there’s no shipping. The wind- and solar-powered factories are one-third the size of the typical Detroit automobile factory.”

Because each factory will house all aspects of production, sales, and maintenance, including repairs, AIRPods can contribute greatly to a local economy, bringing much-needed tax revenue and multiple employment opportunities, Tucker explains.

Tucker said he got involved in Zero Pollution Motors, and the AIRPod, because it appealed to his life in the motion picture and theater industries, and his environmental ethics.

“I saw that this invention could be a disruptive technology to the fossil-fueled combustible engine, which destroys the environment going into and going out of the car.”

He continued, “The AIRPod is a star. It’s like the idea of The Enlightenment [era], where the arts and sciences merge. In looking toward the ‘green movement,’ companies need to be environmentally and socially responsible. They’ll only change if we demand they change.”

No cars at all

Brattleboro psychotherapist and ecopsychologist Dave Cohen said he feels that continuing to rely on automobiles, regardless of how they are powered, contributes to a “sensory deficit phenomenon.”

Drivers and passengers alike have “become ‘car bored,’” Cohen said during his presentation on bicycles at the EV fair.

“We’re dispassionate, disengaged, and detached. With an automobile, you’re cut off from the world. You’re restricted from knowing what it feels like to be out of the car.”

Cohen’s solution is not to switch cars from gas-powered to electric, as that does nothing to reduce our reliance on cars, and the distorted culture they engender, not to mention the “urban sprawl” of additional roads to move these vehicles.

Cohen said he would like to see more bicycles on the road, both for personal transportation and the moving of cargo. In his EV fair talk he presented a brief history of the bicycle, including assertive political efforts in some larger European cities to reduce — or eliminate — cars from city streets altogether, making them safer and more humane toward pedestrians and bicyclists.

He showed bicycles for a variety of needs, including electrically assisted bikes for riders living in hilly terrains, and for those with physical mobility issues.

Meanwhile, at the outdoor portion of the EV fair, electric-assist bikes were on display for participants to examine and ride. Some even had little pods to protect riders and passengers from the elements.

Cohen also spoke about cargo possibilities for bicycles to carry groceries, small pieces of furniture, and children.

Cargo bikes are a personal and business interest for him: In 1994, Cohen founded Pedal Express, a worker-owned, all-bicycle delivery and courier service in the California’s East Bay Area, whose motto reads: “Zero pollution delivery solution.”

While Cohen, during his presentation, and in a follow-up interview, stressed his message is “not an argument for abolishing the automobile,” he is adamant about the need for “a call to put our lives and our mobility into perspective and understand the shortcomings of the reinvention of the automobile and the growing myth of the ‘green car.’”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #282 (Wednesday, November 26, 2014). This story appeared on page A7.

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