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Corbin Sparrow electric car re-born
April 30, 2008 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Want a highway-speed in-production electric car right now and can't afford a Tesla Roadster? The now defunct Corbin Sparrow has been re-born as the NmG ("No More Gas") from Myers Motors. It uses 12 lead-acid batteries (1-4yr life), 70+mph, 30 mile range, about $50k. It's not for everybody but - in the US - it's currently the only other pure EV option available (that's not a conversion or low-speed). However if you can wait a couple years more EV's are in development.
posted by stbalbach (32 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Those make me think of the Messerschmitt KR175 car Sam Lowry drove in the movie Brazil...
posted by JibberJabber at 11:17 AM on April 30, 2008


So it burns through, what, 300 lbs. of lead each year?

That's good for the environment.

Seems like you'd be better off with a motorcycle.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:18 AM on April 30, 2008


Seems like you'd be better off with a motorcycle.

Electric motorcycle.
posted by jaimev at 11:22 AM on April 30, 2008


It is not like the lead in the batteries gets sprayed out over the environment. Lead-acid batteries are generally recycled.
posted by fings at 11:26 AM on April 30, 2008


70+mph, 30 mile range

Awesome! 70mph for 20 minutes. Better not miss the exit ramp to turn around!
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:31 AM on April 30, 2008


30 mile range, about $50k

Or you could just bite the bullet and get a Prius and save some money. A 30 mile range (when the batteries are new) is ridiculous, the potential for running out of juice is just too high and a "refill" will take some hours and an available outlet.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:31 AM on April 30, 2008


Required viewing.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:32 AM on April 30, 2008


The use case for a low-range electric never seems to make sense to me. It's supposed to be for city drivers to make short trips but if you're only driving a few miles a day, gas doesn't really matter much. I live in the city and pay more far more for insurance and car payments than I do for fuel. My loan payment plus insurance premium costs ~$550 a month while gas costs me around $20 - $30. If I really wanted to save money, I'd just buy a ten year old Dodge Neon for $500 and get just enough liability insurance to be legal.

If this is meant as a second car, then the extra payments and insurance would far outstrip any fuel savings. If it's meant as your only car, then it's pretty useless since you can't bring a date with you. I second mr_roboto, any motorcycle would make more sense than this thing.
posted by octothorpe at 11:32 AM on April 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Something like 90% of trips are less than 30 miles, and thus comfortably within the range of the car. That works. But, what about the 10% of trips outside that range? The trip to see Grandma in Texas, or even to a Florida theme park? Good luck convincing the kids that you have to stop every few hours to refuel for two hours of charging.

The US is just too big for an all-electric car to work as a primary vehicle. If we had a tight-knit passenger rail network there'd be a chance, but decades of subsidies have proven that nobody is interested in passenger rail; again, the country is just too big. Texas is too far from Florida, New York is too far from Chicago, and there's not enough stuff packed in between.

Plug-in hybrids are all but certainly the answer. Run it on all-electric mode in your daily commute, run it on gas when you need a long trip. Otherwise you have to either keep two cars (not exactly an environmentally sound idea) or abandon all hope of ever leaving your metropolitan area unless you're lucky enough to live in Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.
posted by Leon-arto at 11:39 AM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


So it burns through, what, 300 lbs. of lead each year?

That's good for the environment.


The issue with the batteries is not that bad -- they're recyclable, and as EVs become more prolific, there's going to be a new industry of battery recycling (Lithium Ion, for example, is still quite usable post-battery).

Plug-in hybrids are all but certainly the answer. Run it on all-electric mode in your daily commute, run it on gas when you need a long trip.

Amen.
posted by spiderskull at 11:43 AM on April 30, 2008


Leon-arto, there is another solution, one that a lot of my friends use--rent a car for long trips. (My friends do this even though they have their own "regular" cars.) They figure that getting a car more suited to the travel they're doing, with the wear/tear/worry taken care of by someone else, is better for them.

That said, when is someone with some design sense ever going to get involved with the alternative/hybrid/electric car scene? This thing looks like a Peel P50, and that's not a compliment. It's OK to be both nice looking and green.
posted by maxwelton at 11:48 AM on April 30, 2008


That said, when is someone with some design sense ever going to get involved with the alternative/hybrid/electric car scene?

You did see the Tesla, right?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:01 PM on April 30, 2008


I love electric cars as much as the next leftist technonerd, but what good is highway speed if the range is only 30 miles?
posted by DU at 12:02 PM on April 30, 2008


The Tesla is just a Lotus, really. I was thinking of a clean-sheet design which inspires.
posted by maxwelton at 12:06 PM on April 30, 2008


Originally offered at $13,900 for first production "jellybean" models, the Sparrow was later sold for $16,995 for the "pizza-butt" models

Model Designation: 2008 Myers Motors NmG ... MSRP STANDARD VEHICLE PRICE: $34,900.00 *

Bwah-Hey!
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:10 PM on April 30, 2008


But, what about the 10% of trips outside that range? The trip to see Grandma in Texas, or even to a Florida theme park?

There's an easy solution to that: call up Hertz and get yourself whatever size vehicle you need. Hell, rent an Expedition if you really need to haul five or six people plus a lot of cargo; there's no shame in using it when you really need it. What's ridiculous is to buy a car for those "10%" trips and then use it for 100% of your driving.

Anyway, I think this vehicle is interesting but it's not really all that compelling. A plug-in hybrid definitely seems to be the route to go rather than the all-electric. Even if you had to sacrifice one battery to install a small generator/alternator, it would almost certainly be worthwhile for the number of people it would make the vehicle attractive to.

Slight derail: Back in the late 90s I knew a guy who had an all-electric plugin vehicle. It wasn't an EV-1, it was some sort of conversion prototype, acquired as part of a lease program. I think it was subsidized by the power company as one of their mandated "environmental programs." Anyway, it was lead-acid, and had a 30 or 45 mile range at low-highway speeds. Charged from a 20A household outlet (although it really sucked every damn amp; we blew most of the breakers in my house one day, trying to find an unloaded circuit to charge it from). Fun to drive; it was weird not having any gear-shift blips, it felt like being on an aircraft accelerating down a runway when you pulled out of a stop. But you had to be really careful about plotting anything longer than your daily commute in it. I remember him toying with the idea of getting a generator from Home Depot and putting it in the trunk -- the numbers actually worked out pretty favorably, in terms of gas mileage. (The possibility of CO poisoning, however, did not.) But there's no reason why that car wouldn't have been totally practical if the manufacturer had just done what we were thinking of doing a little more professionally. Little 2 or 3 cyl, off-the-shelf generator, plug-in to charge at night ... I would have bought one.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:12 PM on April 30, 2008


Shmoke and a pancake?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:13 PM on April 30, 2008


As a city dweller, I don't understand how one charges an electric vehicle parked an unknown distance from the doorstep of a 3rd-floor apartment.

If the range could be bumped up a bit, this might be a nice match for a ZipCar type service, if they could install recharging stations near the reserved parking spaces. Otherwise, pretty useless, given that's it's probably 'greener' to ave one full-use vehicle rather than own an additional 30-mile range green car.
posted by unmake at 12:17 PM on April 30, 2008


I don't understand how one charges an electric vehicle parked an unknown distance from the doorstep of a 3rd-floor apartment.

Electric parking meters!
posted by DU at 12:26 PM on April 30, 2008


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Thank Kwan-Yin! Detractors can suck a lead-acid battery.
posted by valentinepig at 12:29 PM on April 30, 2008


I third/fourth the motorcycle idea... with a 30 mile range it seems pretty teh suck. If it were a mandate, I'd rather just get a KIA with a 2 gallon tank. You'd get 40-50 miles out of that....
posted by Debaser626 at 12:35 PM on April 30, 2008


The development and wide distribution of plug-in automobiles, either all-electric or hybrid, will be an absolute disaster for anyone who can't afford one, and many of those who can.

Why? Because it would cause electric rates to shoot right through the ceiling all over the country.

Old people on a fixed income, who can barely afford to heat their houses now, would have trouble heating water to bathe in and trouble affording cooking or lights. If you have made the choice not to own a car, use mass transit and generally live frugally, your careful budget will be blown wide open by subsidies you are involuntarily paying through your power bill to those careless richer people who just want to continue their profligate driving lifestyles.

And they will be anything but carbon neutral. They will spawn a tremendous boom in power plant construction, and most of those power plants will be coal fired, and then nuclear.

Be careful what you wish for.
posted by jamjam at 1:29 PM on April 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I was thinking of a clean-sheet design which inspires.

This is not what you're looking for. The Motive Industries X-Prize entry linked to, for example, looks stupid to me, but there's no accounting for taste.
posted by ~ at 1:37 PM on April 30, 2008


Seems like you'd be better off with a motorcycle.

DIY Electric Motorcycle.

[Disclosure: built by a guy I know]
posted by quin at 1:37 PM on April 30, 2008


(Wow. I just realized my post above could be read like odd spam. Really wasn't meant as such. The autogreenblog linked to just seems to have a lot of images of EV concepts and prototypes.)
posted by ~ at 1:39 PM on April 30, 2008


[Disclosure: Nice, but I don't have $50000 now nor have I ever.]
posted by Samizdata at 2:01 PM on April 30, 2008


Why? Because it would cause electric rates to shoot right through the ceiling all over the country.

Because we'd be moving from low efficiency distributed production to highly efficient centralized production? Makes perfect sense.
posted by electroboy at 2:32 PM on April 30, 2008


How I long for the ability, time, persistence and money to build my own electric motorcycle.
posted by DU at 3:02 PM on April 30, 2008


These little pod car single occupant vehicles are an idiotic waste no matter if they are gas or electric. The issue isn't just energy usage and fossil fuel pollution. It's the consumption of all the other stuff that goes into making these things. We don't need more individual toys cluttering the roads. What about EV buses, for Christ sake. If single occupancy cars are in heavy use anywhere that means that area needs more mass transit. I wonder of the people that will plop down $30K for a pod car how many of those don't want to be taxed $25 extra per year to build mass transit?

For those that really need a car, Pod cars are totally impractical. Most people have kids to drop off, or require more cargo space and range, etc.

Once you can fit four people into an EV and still get 300 Kilometer round trip between charges— then you have something beyond just a another goofy toy.
posted by tkchrist at 4:53 PM on April 30, 2008


it would cause electric rates to shoot right through the ceiling all over the country.

Good! Higher prices would spur competition and innovation. It would make renewables more competitive. The entire problem is energy is too cheap, it always has been, it doesn't factor in the hidden cost of pollution. There may be some transition issues to deal with but the fear mongering that old people, orphans and children will starve and freeze is classic hand wringing to keep things from changing (for whatever ulterior reasons). We need to change and there are ways to do it that are not painful. Look at Germany and Japan who are well down the road already. The longer we wait the worse it gets because it is inevitable, the world can not support India, China and everyone else on an American diet of energy.

Jamjam I noticed in another post your worried about mercury from the twisty light bulbs. Guess what, the amount of mercury released into the environment burning a traditional heatlight bulb (over its lifetime from coal) is more than is contained in a twisty bulb. And, twisty bulbs are recyclable (you do, don't you?). Is mercury an issue? Yes, but it's more complex and not so black and white.
posted by stbalbach at 6:15 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Funny, I saw one of those yesterday at the corner of 16th and Bryant (San Francisco).

Back when they were new I saw them on the freeway (101) from time to time, and was always terrified for the driver: all of the exposure of a motorcycle with no helmet, and none of the field of view.
posted by dolface at 7:22 PM on April 30, 2008


Seems like you'd be better off with a motorcycle.

Electric motorcycle.


I'll see your electric motorcycle and raise a wind/solar powered car
posted by rigby51 at 12:16 AM on May 1, 2008


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