Open Air Electric Vehicle Offers Cheap Neighborly Thrills

Sure, it looks more like the oldest prototype of the car than the latest one (i.e., something akin to a hay-cart with seats–or maybe a do-it-yourself dune buggy). But the Weng–an open-air electric vehicle created by Stanford graduate students and short for “Where everyone needs to go”–represents some forward thinking when it comes to local transportation.

One of the chief problems when it comes to the automobile–according to New Urbanism and its associated schools of thought–is how isolating it is. Out on the open highway, the need for speed is paramount, and there’s not a lot of interaction called for. But when you’re tooling through your neighborhood, why not stop and wave? Moreover, why use a 200-horsepower car to go to the grocery store on roads you can only go 35 miles per hour on anyway? The Weng offers the neighborly, retiree-like fun that can be had with those golf cart-style Neighborhood Vehicles you may have heard about, but at considerably less expense–the car’s mechanics are simple and transparent and cheap to maintain, with almost all of the moving parts visible, including the motors (located in the car’s rear wheels), the throttle, speed control, batteries and brakes. Like the Prius, the Weng makes use of regenerative braking.

Stanford-Electric-Car

image via Stanford University

Stanford graduate students John Stanfield and David Goligorsky came up with the idea to build the Weng for their master’s thesis in the winter of 2010 and were joined by fellow grad students Brian Ng, Karen Shakespear, and Andrew Murphy. The project  was created to fulfill their master’s thesis project requirement for the Joint Program in Design, a collaborative program between the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Art and Art History. The program’s goal is to produce designers who can synthesize technology and aesthetics in the service of human needs.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.