As in 2011, the modish mode of transportation that Eben Weiss cheekily calls "bicycle cycling" continued to gain popularity over the past twelve months, and it's safe to assume that the trend will continue into the new year as well. Similarly, electric bicycles are gaining ground on traditional transportation, be it the private automobile or public transit, as a viable alternative for short commutes or errands. From a pair of Kickstarted folding e-bikes to the IDEO-designed Faraday Porteur and, most recently, the ELF 'velomobile'. Besides the pricepoint, which range from about $1,500 to upwards of $4,000, we hope that factors such as street legality and range will encourage competition and innovation in this growing sector as forward-thinking electric bikeshare programs at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the Bay Area bring pedal-powered hybrids into public consciousness. (Suffice it to say we've come a long way from this.)
These factors also come into play with a more powerful breed of eco-minded two-wheelers: Electric motorcycles are also the subject of growing interest in the wide world of transportation design. Indeed, both editions of the Core77 Design Awards have seen a fair share of sporty-yet-sustainable bikes, including 2012 Student Winner Eyal Melnick's "Shavit" and the 2011 Professional Winner Mission R Superbike (coincidentally enough, rim-mounted bicycle lights have also been winners in the Transportation category for two years running). To get a sense of the design challenges behind electric motorbikes, we recommend Marc Fenigstein's mini-case study on BRD Motorcycles (a Core77 2012 Design Awards Notable).
Bradley Berman for The New York Times
As for that elusive grail of electric vehicles, we sincerely hope to offer more electric car coverage in 2013. Which is not to say that the industry stalled—the New York Times celebrated 'plug-ins' in last week's end-of-the-year coverage—but more that we have yet to see a major breakthrough, i.e. how the Prius stepped up pace for hybrids. For now, we're keeping our eye on our discussion boards, where Hurricane Sandy-related headlines inspired a frank conversation about the long-term prospects of Tesla and Fisker.
And although the historic hurricane also served as a reminder of the unforeseen value alternative transportation, we were a bit dismayed to report that the shift from car culture suggests a zero-sum game when it comes to transportation... at least in Italy, where bicycle sales surpassed automobile sales for the first time since WWII. (On a more somber note, 2012 saw the passing of a couple of notable Italians in the field: may Sergio Pininfarina and Butzi Porsche rest in peace.) And even as major manufacturers attempt to woo the next generation of would-be auto designers (Rauno Aaltonen's advice notwithstanding), the current one is more concerned with alternative mobility than upward mobility per se.
If it's all too easy to be pessimistic about the auto industry, there's always hope: whether it's matter of progressive approaches to auto design or simply introducing, say, the lustworthy Ferrari F12berlinetta, the automobile remains a worthy object of desire and ambition. Who knows, maybe the Tesla will someday inspire the cult following of such iconic autos as the Porsche 911 or the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing. (Likewise, we feel that restoration is a preferable fate to scrap, neatly repurposed though it may be.)
Lastly, 2012 saw a fair share of almost-believable to outright outlandish concepts for the future of transportation; here (in no particular order) are some of our favorites:
· Volkswagen's Crowdsourced Chinese Hovercraft Concept
· Airpod, the Car That Runs on Air
· Hiriko CityCar / Copenhagen's Bike Superhighway (or, the First & Last Mile vs. the Middle Five Kilometers)
· The Vectus Personal Rapid Transit System (a.k.a. Metro On-Demand
· ET3 Transportation Concept Promises NYC to LA in 45 Minutes
· The PAL-V Flying 3-Wheeler
· Circular Airport Runways and Other Neat Solutions for "Airport of the Future" Design Comp
· Also worth mentioning: New York City's long-awaited bikeshare was pushed back to 2013, while California's SB1298 brings the driverless car slightly closer to reality
Core77 2012 Year in Review
» Top 25 Stories of 2012
» Slow and Steady Growth for Digital Fabrication
» Crowdfunding in the Mainstream: Good or Bad News for Designers?
» Hip-Hop Meets Design
» Designing Nostalgia
» Vehicles Increasingly Going Electric