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SMART car sighting in Chicago
Vinay Gupta, 24 Oct 04

I saw a SMART car on the streets of Chicago yesterday. It zipped by before I could really understand what I was seeing, leaving a tide of cognitive dissoanance in its wake. Up close, they are tiny but being relatively high off the ground and dense-looking, they actually seem like other cars treat them as cars, rather than ignoring them and hoping they get out of the way (i.e. how bicycles are generally treated). I'm surprised they only get 60MPH 60MPG - not that much more than a full-sized Hybrid. Seems like SMART needs to produce a vehicle with hybrid power train and 100MPG performance.

I was impressed by the sighting, although I did wonder if I'd dropped into some kind of Eco-Gernsback Continuum for a few minutes afterwards....

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The article that I read yesterday (from said they get 70 MPG (I assume you meant that instead of "MPH").

The main issues for US use seem to be a lack of conformance to our emission standards. Futurismic links to a Wired article about it as well.

Posted by: Al on 24 Oct 04

Someone in or around Elmsford New York has one, as I've seen it twice.

Posted by: Patrick Di Justo on 24 Oct 04

Yeah, I meant MPG. Even 70, though, isn't that good. Well, rather, it's amazing, but not nearly as amazing as it would be with a hybrid power train.

It's a shame to see such a major leap in form without an accompanyingly huge jump in performance.

This really gets to all the Rocky Mountain Institute stuff about Hypercar - you have to upgrade all systems at the same time, and in an integrated fashion, to blow right out of the box we're in regarding motor vehicles.

A small, light, hybrid at 100MPG is a lot more dramatically world chaning than either hybrids alone at 50 MPG or microcars at 70, both in terms of breaking through psychological barriers (A HUNDRED A GALLON?) and in terms of absolute performance.

Posted by: Vinay on 24 Oct 04

Hm. WhatŽs up with this US Smart Craze. LetŽs recap.

MCC (the Company that produces Smarts) is a collaboration between Mercedes and Designers from swiss watchmaker Swatch and was aimed at producing a revolutionary small, efficient and cheap car.

They failed (some of the designers apparently went on to produce this Neal Stephenson Pizza Delivery Vehicle:, and the success of the Smart is mainly attributable to itŽs small size (easy to park here in "old europe") and itŽs status as a lifestyle icon - artificially created by clever marketing.

To see the Smart in perspective I have taken the freedom to compile this little chart here:

Brand;Model;fuel efficiency;fuel;weight and max load;list price for new car;diesel particulate filter available in new car;g/km CO2 Emissions;infolink used

Smart ; fortwo coupe CDI; 3,4l / 100km - 69MPG; diesel ; 730 + 260kg; 10935 (Euro/Germany); no ; 90 ;
Audi ; A2 1.2 TDI ; 3,0l / 100km - 78MPG; diesel ; 855 + 345kg; 18900 (Euro/Germany); no ; 81 ;
Peugeot; 307 HDi FAP ; 4,9l / 100km - 48MPG; diesel ; 1330 + 473kg; 17940 (Euro/Germany); yes ; 126;
Toyota ; Prius Hybrid ; 4,3l / 100km - 54MPG; premium unleaded; 1375 + 325kg; 25400 (Euro Germany); not applicable; 104;

Interesting to note that none of the manufacturers say anything about biodiesel compatibility on their flash-overloaded websites. Asleep at the wheel, the lot of them.

As far as "good looking" is concerned - the smart roadster is so much prettier, but IŽd take a nice Audi A2 any day.

Cheers, Björn.

Posted by: Björn van der Meer on 24 Oct 04

"" doesn't resolve...

Posted by: Al on 24 Oct 04

Excuse me for dropping in so rudely, but may i ask what made you belive that the product of a DaimlerChrysler/Swatch joint venture would be something favorable or adorable from an ecologic perspective? When it comes to mass transportation yet trains, good old trains are unbeaten. Most european cheap 'entry-level' cars from the 1950/60ies have a lower emission level than all theese so-called hi-tech products. But i'm new to this blog, maybe i just have to get used to your ideological doctrine.

Posted by: Frederik Penkow on 24 Oct 04

I've seen these around San Diego for years now; also, they were all over the streets of Berlin when I last visited in 2000--cute, but most people I asked about them were utterly unimpressed, as the bang for the buck was not nearly as good as your average diesel VW Golf or Audi A2. Perhaps they have been cost reduced since then?

Posted by: Dave on 24 Oct 04

Frederik, I used to live in an area with a first class bus service. Absolutely splendid. But because the busses often ran with only one or two passengers late at night, the CO2 emissions per passenger mile were rumored to be worse than those of car commuters. Hard numbers were impossible to find because the relevant agency was unwilling to release statistics.

To be more focussed: I saw a cool car. A better one could get 100 MPG, and that would be even cooler. What's your problem? Where does ideology come into this? What are you saying?

Trains are wonderful. I like trains. But at the end of the day, a five car train with three passengers is much much less efficient than a taxi cab.

Horses for courses: trains work well for many riders going to the same destination, but fail badly for a few riders, or for dispersed transit. For the cases where they don't work, efficient cars are actually a pretty good answer. A surprisingly large percentage of the population are unable to bicycle: the old, the sick, and me - I'm neurologically impaired, making me unable to drive or bicycle in traffic of any kind, including other bicycles, without running into things.

Cars work. Better than many environmentalists would be willing to admin. But at the end of the day, it's all about hard numbers.

Posted by: Vinay on 24 Oct 04

Taking of hard numbers, Bjorn, bravo!!!

Exactly the kind of stuff we want on the Bright Green Wiki - we may draft you when the time comes!

Posted by: Vinay on 24 Oct 04

Gosh, sorry. The Pizza Deliverator Ride is at

Vinay: Sure, I am all up for it.

Cheers, Björn.

Posted by: Björn van der Meer on 25 Oct 04

Wow! The Cree-mobile **ROCKS**. Insane futurism you can buy, right now. Shame it's electric - I guess the fuel cell version, in a few years, right???

Posted by: Vinay on 25 Oct 04

I've seen a couple SMART cars here in Edmonton Alberta, Canada. As long as they handle ok on ice and snow and start at -25 they should be fine.
60/70 MPG is a hell of a lot better than 15-20 or whatever these 3/4 tonne trucks get that the hicks are driving.
Electric cars are a no-go up here in the winter, if your battery loses charge quickly, an electric car would not run at all.

Posted by: Oorgo on 25 Oct 04

Hi Vinay, please don't get me wrong, i'm not pro building tracks just about everywhere and that trains are the ultimate solution for just about every transportation issue we do have. I do know about theese problems. Yet I do wonder how technology by itself could lead to 'a better world' just because it's newer - while there is no or little climate where socially responsible technologies are favoured instead of... well... whatever.
Most technology is that it's developed for/in a perfect world (laboratory environment, simulation), while the 'real world' is as complex as you can certainly not face all aspects. I'm not that nihilist to claim that you can't do better engineering but the way it is now there is little interest in that - as long as it sells. Could you force people into not buying bullshit? That'd be rather authoritive and I'd rather not want to live in that world.
This, btw, also applies a bit to those here so highly praised statistics - it all comes down to the model behind those figures. You really ought to know the model behind those statistics to be able to rate their value.
So what does that mean? It just means that there's a lot of work to do, that there's no easy solution and I'm still confused how and why that myth of the ecosmart could creep in here so easily. But at least it didn't go unquestioned (see Björn's comment, and thanks for it - i couldn't have come up with those).

Posted by: Frederik Penkow on 26 Oct 04

The main thing limiting small cars is people who simply cant fit in them or get out of em;/

Plus its never a good idea to outweigh your transport...

Posted by: wintermane on 31 Oct 04

Just my 2 cents. I've recently come a cool energy recovery system that is promised to be available to current cars. I don't have a link, but the idea goes that braking in a car is done via compressing nitrogen from the atmosphere (air is 3.72:1 O2 to N2). It is very similar to the hybrid cars of today storing kinetic energy in the batteries, but compressing N2 is more efficient and can happen at a much higher rate compared to battery charging. The stored, compressed N2 is then used in reverse to suppliment the main engine. I think it would be plausable to add this sort of aftermarket system to the Smart. The designers of the system claim that it can be added for $1500 US and gives a gain in 40% MPG. 1.4*70 = 98MPG... doesn't that sound better? I still like how my prius shuts off when not needed, though... -Sean

Posted by: Sean on 5 Nov 04



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