Electric-Powered Carts Will Increase in Popularity. We Need More Design

I believe we’re in the early days of what will become an enduring object: The electrically-powered personal cart. There already seems to be a standard form factor, as evinced by the Donkibot and now the similar Outisan e-Wagon.

The Donkibot

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The Outisan e-Wagon

Both consist of two rectangular frames sitting over the axes, connected by a scissor mechanism that allows them to collapse together for storage or transport.

We already looked at the Donkibot here, so here’s the Outisan’s pitch:

While early uptake may come from recreational use, like camping or hauling barbecue gear, its greater utility should be obvious to those who live in cities. The must-have accessory for older folks in New York, for example, is the granny cart. For many, making the trip to the grocery store, which might be a dozen blocks away, without one would be impossible.

Image: Granny cart by Reflex Blue, CC BY-NC 2.0

These are some carts being “parked” in Chinatown that I shot several years ago

Assuming one lives in an elevator building, the heavier electric carts will surely be desirable amongst the elderly. Walking around in the city, if you’re able-bodied you may not realize the street you’re on is actually on a slight incline or decline, until you see an elderly person carefully towing their cart with or against gravity. The hill assist and controlled descent of a powered cart would come in handy here.

And their use won’t be limited to cities, I just think that’s where they’ll sell the most. In suburbs, it’s not difficult to imagine a future where families own their own personal shopping cart. (In Australia, the Shoppa Cart has already tried this, albeit without power.)

As scanning technologies change—think Amazon’s stores, where you’re charged as you load the item into the cart–I think people will bring their own carts into supermarkets, and once home, will roll them directly into their kitchens to unload.

I could certainly use a powered electric cart in my rural environment. Because of the way our property is laid out, we cannot get a vehicle closer than 60 feet to the house. Carrying groceries in is a chore, and at the supermarket I typically load the heaviest items into a large backpack so I can schlep it home. I’ve often thought of buying some type of cart, but the terrain between the driveway and the car is decidedly off-road so large wheels would be needed. The Outisan or the Donkibot might fit the bill.

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What I’d love to see in the space is more design experimentation. The current form factor seems the most practical, but is it the best one? Is there some way to make loading this into a vehicle easier, as with the Shoppa Cart? Would it be possible to roll one into your kitchen without it tracking in dirt from outside? Could something simple be added to keep the contents dry in bad weather?

The Shoppa Cart

The biggest thing that will need to happen before uptake increases, is for the price to come down. (The Outisan is projected to retail for about a grand, although early-birds are going for $450 on the Kickstarter campaign). But I’m certain these objects will become popular in coming years, particularly once a brand-name manufacturer takes interest and puts either the proper design or marketing muscle behind it. What might one of these look like if produced by Apple, DeWalt, Ford or Tesla?

Before that happens, I think there’s an opportunity for design entrepreneurs to jump into this segment and do something interesting.

Source: core77

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