Motorcarts have been the standard means of transportation throughout Atla for roughly 50 years. Though early carts were crude, uncomfortable, and fragile, the people of Atla immediately recognized their potential. As a result, the first motorcart companies have become the largest and most profitable corporations in Atla. Within a single decade after their creation they were widely available and replaced horse-drawn carriages as the most common form of transportation.
Motorcarts were invented in Arodil in 191 EM by a group of farmers looking for a way to automate transporting bales of alfalfa to and from market. The men were tired of hitching the horses to their wagons to haul goods back and forth from the fields, storage, and markets. One of the men, a former professor at the University of Arodil, devised a simple battery that could be powered by a magi operator. He was specifically looking for other ways to power a cart beyond man or beast. Though it took 20 years of research, he eventually came up with the design that is still used today. His partners and neighbors, all men who owned and operated their own ranches, each contributed something to their audacious yet brilliant plans—some figuring out how to create suspension for the cart, others working on gears and drive shafts, while others created the frame itself. The very first carts were nothing more than a flat bed, four wheels, and an engine, barely resembling the diverse carts seen throughout the world.
Today, carts come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, and have found a home in all but the most remote or inhospitable regions of the world. In fact, 245 EM was the first year motorcart exports exceeded the number of carts shipped nationally. The only thing preventing the carts from becoming more popular and widely used is a lack of suitable roadways. Atla is covered by a network of highways and roadways, though less than one million miles of that is paved. The rest of Atla’s roads are dirt, cobblestone, or gravel. And while motorcarts are more than capable of handling rough terrain, it is difficult to travel long distances over rough surfaces without becoming fatigued or damaging any cargo. The Grand Council and a few private donors are funding a road-building initiative that is planned to begin in 250 EM, one that should double the number of paved highways throughout the continent. But until the project begins, cart owners are forced to live with the reality of today’s roads—bumps, bruises, and broken axles.
Almost all motorcarts require a magi operator to function. Though engine size varies according to cart model, the design of the motor is the same across the board. Underneath the floor of all motorcarts is a network of drive shafts and axles that turn either the rear wheels or all four wheels simultaneously. The motor is usually mounted near the back of the vehicle, though in some larger carts it is positioned somewhere near the center. Inside each motor is an electrolyte blend that, when stimulated, causes a buildup of electrons at the anode end of the motor. This electrical charge turns gears which eventually connect to the wheels, creating locomotion. A magi operator is required to begin and continue the current in the battery-motor, and the electrolyte fuel will eventually be exhausted. Current models use a thick acidic fuel compound that can be inserted directly into the battery casing once the current supply has been exhausted. Due to the viscous and corrosive nature of the fuel, motors usually need to be replaced once a year (depending on use and size). Motorcarts are known for the distinctive hissing-whine noise produced while in operation, as well as a bitter aroma from the motor itself.
Though motorcarts come in a huge variety of styles, each type of cart can be classified according to one of a few styles. The classifications mentioned below are those created and managed by the National Transportation Administration. A unique license is required to operate each vehicle listed below (though operators can acquire licenses that include several authorizations listed on one individual card. Here are the primary types of carts and their distinctions:
Cruisercart: Cruisercarts are a distinct subset of taxicarts. Whereas taxicarts are designed to quickly, easily, and inexpensively shuttle people to and from their destinations, cruisercarts are built for comfort and luxury—they are about the journey while taxicarts are about the destination. The inside of a cruisercart is usually adorned with hand built furnishings, precious metals, leather seats, and a chillbox with food and drink. They are most commonly found in large cities or towns with a high average income.
Farmcarts: Farmcarts, as their name suggests, are used primarily for agricultural purposes. These carts are identified by their long wheelbases (usually more than 15 feet), flat bodies suitable for hauling supplies, and single operator’s seat at the front of the vehicle. Unlike most carts which only have two-wheel turning, all four of a farm cart’s wheels can be turned independently or simultaneously. These are among the most useful but most difficult carts to operate.
Taxicart: Taxicarts are high-capacity human transport vehicles primarily used in cities and between rural areas to carry up to 30 people. The most common type of taxicart is the titular Taxicart itself—a traditional motorcart with an enclosed cabin and four inward-facing seats. These taxis are used to shuttle people to and from destinations in large cities such as FreePort, Westlake, or Alpine. Larger taxicarts are designed to carry more than a dozen individuals at a time. While rarer than the standard carts, buscarts (as they are commonly known) are popular in areas where a majority of the workforce lives outside the city (such as FreePort City or Westlake City) and commutes in and out each day. Other buscarts make the long journeys between capital cities for those who cannot afford rail travel.
Transportcart: Transportcarts are built similar to farmcarts, with flat bodies suited to carrying heavy loads. However, transport carts usually require two operators and have larger engines. They are designed to tow several trailers full of supplies. The largest transportcarts can haul up to 40 tons of goods.
Motorcart: Though the word motorcart can refer to any type of cart on this list, the name motorcart specifically refers to the type of cart designed entirely for personal transportation. Personal motorcarts are usually slightly longer than they are wide and able to accommodate three, five, or seven individuals. A closed compartment at the rear of the standard motorcart provides storage room for everything from groceries to lumber or tools. Motorcarts can have either open or closed cockpit designs. Those with closed roofs are usually dome shaped and sometimes called wheeled beetles for their rounded, elongated look. The average cart can achieve speeds of 45 miles per hour.