How to fit transportation into a tiny NYC apartment, a tiny house, or any other small living quarters without a garage?
The first option is of course do without any privately owned personal transportation. These days it’s getting easier in urban areas. Between metro, bus, bikeshare, taxi, uber, car2go, relay rides, zipcar, enterprise car share, and others, shared transportation options expand each month. Yet in some parts of the country, some or all of these are not options. In addition, with the exception of bikeshare, all rely on fossil fuel to power and many tons of steel and other materials with a high level of embedded energy, so they cannot be considered truly sustainable (though clearly they are far superior to a privately owned automobile or motorcycle).
The other option is a growing range of personal transport options. Here the first cut criteria are: low or 0 emission (no gas powered scooters) + small closet sized (appropriate for micro apartment or house). For this exercise, we’re (sadly) excluding our favorite type of sustainable transport, the full sized bike and/or e-bike, which too often seem awkwardly stored in a tiny house or micro apartment, and have become an unpleasant and expensive chore to fly or train with due to their size. We then sort through the options: weight, compacted size, powered/unpowered, range (miles), speed, price. We also add a (somewhat subjective) dork factor. Click on the chart below.
Takeaway: Of the non-powered options, our favorite is, unsurprisingly, the folding Brompton bike, for ease of use, most compact size, and safety and reliability. Of the powered options, only the scooters appear to be viable, safe commuting options. The EcoReco M5 scooter is the favorite (with the E-twow a close second). It gives you a 12-15 mile commuting range (not 20 miles as advertised) with a @18-21 mph top speed and total weight of 34 lbs. It also has the potential to haul with a their own trailer design, or an easily adapted Burley Nomad folding trailer (up to 75lbs+ cargo capacity). Charged off a solar array (80 watts for 2-5 hour charge), it is 0 emission to run, and low embedded energy in the 34 lbs of materials required to manufacture it. Both scooter and trailer compact to fit in a space approximately 4’x2’x1′ (in this case, the bottom of the Minim closet). We tested this new setup extensively at the Micro Showcase and were initially impressed- the new generation of Lithium Ion powered scooters almost creates a new class of transportation- lighter, quieter, faster, and more compact than any earlier generation electric scoot. If there is a more compact + sustainable solution for short distance commuting (and if needed, hauling), let us hear about it!
After testing some of the best micro transportation options, it is clear that some are quite well suited to making urban car-free living just a bit more palatable and lower cost:
- for ‘last mile’ commuting to take on the metro/bus to get from the last stop to the office.
- for low cost, sweat-free commuting on summer days (powered models only)
- for quick access to car shares and rentals around the neighborhood (without a separate taxi ride to get there- just fold the scoot/bike up in the car).
- for large loads (ride at low cost one way on compact personal transport, then fold up and take a taxi/uber home with that big load of hardware, etc.)
Update: After 2 weeks of testing the Eco-Reco, some puddles and a rainstorm seem to have leaked water into the bottom battery compartment, frying some circuits. The unit had to be sent back to the manufacturer for repairs. This does not appear to be an issue for units others that have been tested, and seems that better sealant of the compartment would be an easy fix (either by the manufacturer, or by the owner with a tube of caulk).