Environment Forum

Way better than the subway

vectrixpeople.JPG

There are plenty of ways to get around New York City, not all of them savory — subway, bus, car, taxi, bike, shoe-leather — but few offer the environmental cachet of the plug-in electric motorbike. Sleek, slim and silent, the Vectrix two-seater owned by filmmaker Michael Bergmann is definitely preferable to rocketing around town under almost any other kind of power. The ride from the East Side to the West Side one recent evening was an absolute pleasure, with less ambient noise than a golf cart as we zoomed across Central Park.

“I’ve always felt that enjoying life in New York to the fullest requires a way to get around New York,” Bergmann said later in an e-mail. “A way that’s quiet and up on the surface so you can enjoy the varied life and changing neighborhoods as you travel. That requires a vehicle that’s street legal (so I don’t worry about being stopped or having it confiscated), always available, that isn’t hard to park, that doesn’t contribute to congestion or pollution (air or noise), that can carry the amount of stuff one ordinarily carries, and carry a passenger as well. So as soon as I found out about the Vectrix I wanted one.”

Vectrix, headquartered in Rhode Island, first started selling its electric plug-in motorbikes in Europe and is now expanding in the U.S. market. The company bills its plug-in model as “an advanced zero-emission, battery-powered motorcycle,” with comparable performance to a 400cc gas-powered motorcycle.

Bergmann and his wife Meredith, a sculptor, use the bike as their principal mode of transport around Manhattan. The Vectrix gets parked and plugged in in the underground garage at their apartment house, where they pay for half a parking space, with electricity included. It gets about 40 miles (65 km) to a charge, which is enough to get around New York’s five boroughs, and Michael figures the company’s claim that it can get up to 62 miles (100 km) per hour is accurate, since he’s been able to accelerate uphill on the FDR Drive, no mean feat.

Bergmann has always been an early adopter of new technology, and he’s no exception here. You can see what he’s done in the film world.

Substance trumps style at climate talks

bento21.JPG   It was like a scene from the future. A carpark brimming with fuel-cell and hydrogen-powered cars, while fuel-cell buses ferried delegates to lunch near the modern conference centre outside Tokyo.

   Japan was determined to display its green credentials at weekend G20 talks, one of the biggest meetings of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters since last December’s Bali gathering. Even conference staff were given chopsticks and traditional “bento” boxes that could be reused instead of the usual throw-away items.

    Inside the conference hall, though, delegates were more interested in substance than style as they discussed ways to agree on a global pact by the end of 2009 to curb growing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

  •