Monday, June 16, 2008

Who Called the Electric Car?

Someone once referred to Los Angeles as "Houston with palm trees," a statement rightly perceived as a devastating knock against the largest, and smoggiest, city in Texas.

As I found out this weekend, however, the comparison is not quite fair. For one thing, Houston has barbeque, brisket, and a vibrant local beer culture. You can't get that kind of down-home delicious stuff on Hollywood and Vine.

But for my money, the neatest thing about Houston is the electric car.

This for-profit taxi service, started by a trio of local entrepeneurs under the name REV Houston, offers free rides anywhere in the downtown area. You can either call directly or visit one of their designated pick up points around town. A simple text message with the location's code brings the electric car right to you.

In America's signature oil town, you can now get a free ride anywhere you like while paying nothing more than a tip to the driver (the service expects to survive by selling ad space on the vehicles). The car above runs entirely on electricity donated by a local coffee shop. The service is increasingly popular among young drinkers soaking up all that Texas beer and barbeque on the weekends. Which points to the unintended benefits derived from getting people to leave their cars at home when heading out for a night on the town. And riding around in these little buggies is kind of fun.

So all you plucky entrepreneurs in cities large and small, what are you waiting for? Let's get some free electric taxis on the street. Do your communities a great service by giving people an incentive to avoid risky behaviors, help improve the air quality in your town, and make some money while you're at it.

(Hat tip to Evan O'Neil for the title)

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