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Electric car takes flexibility to new level

For all their attractions, electric cars can be hard to justify on a practical basis. Factors like a comparatively high initial cost — and a limited ability to make long trips — cut into their viability as mass-market transportation.

But runabouts like the Hiriko, a two-seat microcar prototype designed specifically for urban car-sharing programs, offer a promising solution to gaps in today’s transportation network.

Short-distance car sharing with electrics could help bridge the gap between a commuter’s home and mass transit — the so-called first-mile problem — or from mass transit to the workplace, the last-mile problem.

“The first- and last-mile problem has been growing steadily during the last 50 years as cities expanded,” said Elizabeth Deakin, professor of city and regional planning and urban design at the University of California, Berkeley.

“It’s often just too far to walk to a mass-transit station.”
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