Gated and Planned Communities to Welcome Key Changes in Transportation Systems as City to Suburban Migration Intensifies

Much attention has been directed to the so-called “smart city” in the post-pandemic phase of economic recovery.  (Obviously, the term “post-pandemic” is used guardedly at this point.)  Whether or not the pandemic is behind us or not, cities and municipalities are engaged in a series of adjustments that have an impact on gated communities and the ways by which we move from point A to B.

What, first of all, is a smart city?  The focus of a smart city is to reduce its carbon footprint.  Essentially this means applying green technologies and systems to buildings and transportation.  With regard to the latter, a smart transportation system involves traffic management, modes of delivery of people, products, and services, and equitable transportation services to all neighborhoods.

The over-arching goal in urban mobility is to completely ban the internal combustion engine by some given target date.  A target date often cited is 2035.  This means that only electric-powered vehicles will be allowed into cities by the target date, and usually there are progressive thresholds which must be met.

Spillover effects on suburban and planned communities

So what does this mean for gated communities?  A variety of vehicles suited  to two basic purposes will emerge to take advantage of a growing market:  1) Vehicles to move persons; and 2) Vehicles to move goods and services.  The salient characteristics of vehicles in these two categories are set out in the tables below.

Purpose

Transportation System

Vehicle Characteristics

Moving persons from point A to point B

Fleet:

  • Ride share-single occupant or more;
  • Shuttle transporters over fixed routes;
  • Commercial company ownership and responsible for upkeep.

Owner/operator

  • Operator owns the vehicle;
  • Responsible for maintenance.
  • Battery electric (lithium);
  • Fully-enclosable driver/passenger interiors; Autonomous driving attributes;
  • Telematic intercom-nectivity;
  • Other design features and capabilities beyond current PTVs, e.g., hub motors.

Delivery of goods and services—last mile delivery

Fleet operations:

  • Fleet storage facilities;
  • Monitoring/ dispatching from central hub;
  • Retailer collaboration (grocery chains, home goods, etc.).

Special purpose vehicles designed around types of goods and services.

  • Minimum cargo weight capacity of 500 lbs.;
  • Other as above

Spillover effects in new technologies and mobility services

The last column in the above table describes some of the characteristics and attributes we can expect to see in coming into the gated community market.  Technologies such as autonomous driving capabilities would not be developed at this stage for gated communities, the market being too small.  This technology is being widely tested, however, in both market categories in urban and nearby suburban markets, is highly likely to be part of the vehicle mix as it spills over into gated and planned communities.

New styles and levels of comfort

While PTVs and utility vehicles have been progressively upgraded to enhance creature comforts and versatility in the workplace, more significant advances in this direction needs to take place to broaden the market.  A relatively new entry in the category of PTVs, either as part of a ride-sharing fleet or personally-owned, is the MEV™ Hummer HX™, pictured here.

This model is a fully-enclosed, electric vehicle and meets LSV specifications.  MEV is manufactured in the U.K. and distributes worldwide.  Its companion model the HXT™ is an open top version of the same vehicle.  Note that the doors can be removed for easy entry and exit in golf car mode.  Note also that the dimensions of the two models are close to those of the standard PTV:  versus the Onward™, 10 inches longer, 9 inches wider, and 14 inches lower.  So, a bit larger, but should fit in your PTV garage.

The MEV HXT™ is the open top version of the Hummer is shown below, and, as noted, the doors can be removed, which brings us pretty close to the standard PTV as exemplified by Club Car’s Onward, but with the additional benefits of being completely enclosable (canvas-convertible-type coverage), if desired.

The MEV Hummer comes with many options, including a lithium battery pack that will get you a distance of up to 100 miles.  You can go to the company website for further details:  https://www.myelectricvehicle.org/mev-hummer-hxt .

The Hummer as a transitional vehicle

Normally, I do not devote so many words to a single brand, but the MEV Hummer just happens to represent, in  my view, the quintessential example in today’s market of the next step in personal transportation.  It is suitable for all weather driving and fitting nicely in all categories of personal mobility outlined above.  (The Hummer also comes in four, front-facing passenger version, the HXT™ Limo, suitable for fleet operations.)

Because the MEV in its three versions is more versatile than the currently available PTVs from the Big Three golf car manufacturers and other brands such as StarEV, Bintelli, and Icon, and is a striking contrast in styling, I believe it will find a sweet spot in the gated community market and in the broader, emerging urban/suburban mobility (USM) market.

Last-mile delivery of goods and services:  Another emerging mass market

Last-mile delivery of goods and services is another market where spillover effects will impact the gated community and other forms of clustered residential developments.  Here again the concept of transitional vehicles is at play.  An example of the typical golf car-type utility vehicle would be the Club Car Carryall models and the UMax line from Yamaha.

The Carryall 710 is shown here and typifies the light duty utility vehicles manufactured by the Big Three and others.  Club Car has taken the utility purposed vehicle to another level with a larger, more rugged utility truck, the Club Car 411—which is now marketed as the Club Car Current™.  The 411, and its successor the Current, is the result of a collaboration with Ayro, Inc., based in Austin, TX.  

The difference between the conventional light duty utility vehicle, built on a golf car-type frame and the Current can be easily observed.  The Current is about two and a half feet longer than the 710, but its most compelling feature is the range of purposed cargo configurations that can  be installed on the frame.  These can be seen below.

Three configurations of the Current: Flatbed, pick-up with sides, and van box

See change in living styles

Even before the COVID crisis, people were moving out of city centers and into the suburbs and beyond.  As a result of the crisis and the attendant incidental rise in crime and general local government mismanagement, this movement has intensified.  A recent compilation by the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank of urban-suburban migration patterns clearly points to this rising trend.  For those who want to delve into the numbers, here is the link:  https://www.clevelandfed.org/newsroom-and-events/publications/cfed-district-data-briefs/cfddb-20210325-migrants-from-high-cost-large-metro-areas-during-the-covid-19-pandemic.aspx .

There are at least two significant implications of the emigration from urban centers for the market for small, task-oriented vehicles, such as have been featured in this article:

  1. The  movement out of cities are likely to be directed to clustered communities more amenable to small, low-speed vehicles, and at the same time consumers will be looking for versatile systems of electric mobility;
  2. Work from home, the virtual office will embrace the convenience of last mile delivery systems, featuring vehicles, even more than we see today.

Both aspects of the general demographic trend assure a significant broadening and growth in the small, electric vehicle market.

Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com.  Or check out our website at www.smallvehicleresource.com, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.

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