MORE THAN A FEW writers have explored the idea of an advanced future society that, having left the car and its pollution-belching engine behind, lives in perfect harmony with the environment.
It seems however that there's a little less fiction in the idea than we might have thought. The German town of Vauban, near the country's borders with Switzerland and France, is just such a place.
Home to about 5300 people and located in the university city of Freiburg, Vauban is virtually car-free.
To own a parking space - the only way to keep a car in Vauban - you'll pay about ?20,000 (AU$34,760) in council fees, according to Andreas Delleske, one of Vauban's founders and a promoter for the town's car-free lifestyle.
"If you want to have a car here, you have to pay for a space in one of our garages on the outskirts of the district," Delleske told UK newspaper The Independent.
"But about 57 per cent of the residents sold a car to enjoy the privilege of living here."
Because of the almost complete lack of cars in Vauban, the town's planners have all but ignored the need for metalled roads, preferring to go with the aesthetically more appealing cobbled or gritted surfaces.
Where normally parking spaces might be found outside homes and stores, lush flower beds and gardens stand.
Instead of cars, Vauban's residents get around either on bicycles, or care or the town's ultra efficient tram system.
Vehicles are allowed in Vauban for only a short time, and even then, only in the case of deliveries of goods that can't easily be brought in by more environmentally-friendly means.
A pointer to the future? Maybe... but it's hard to picture it catching on in Australia's far-flung regional towns.