A car that makes sense?
June 21, 2001 7:50 AM   Subscribe

A car that makes sense? Fully street and highway legal, it is small, electric, quiet, and inexpensive. You can park in all sorts of places, and since the door is on the right side, you can exit to the sidewalk. And it looks like something.
posted by tranquileye (35 comments total)
Those look pretty cool. Taking the family vacation in it may suck, though. I'd rather have a motorcycle though.
posted by jbelshaw at 7:59 AM on June 21, 2001

Ive seen these hybes, problem with torque conversion with rapid acceleration/decelration, but 87lbs is not bad. But get hit by a compact and your part of the engine. Plus I heard if the charge goes out, the engine is toast. Other then that...
posted by clavdivs at 8:00 AM on June 21, 2001

Five grand more to get a Honda Insight with an established service network. Someday the economies of scale will catch up.
posted by machaus at 8:04 AM on June 21, 2001

I followed a Toyota Prius in traffic in the other day, and it seemed to be just fine in evening rush hour traffic. Once they do scale down in price, I'd consider one because 90% of my driving is commuting.
posted by briank at 8:10 AM on June 21, 2001

they look like vacuum cleaners, like a dirt devil or something. or maybe an enclosed riding lawn mower. bumper cars on the way to the grocery! i can't wait :)

machaus, i've heard that the toyota prius' are better. you might want to look into them, too.
posted by kliuless at 8:13 AM on June 21, 2001

What hybes? One is electric and the other gas. Two separate engines (the 87lb value is for the gas engine). And how is either toast if the charge goes out?
posted by andrew cooke at 8:13 AM on June 21, 2001

Oh, sweet mama. I want one of those. An orange one. Either model. Damn.

It's like a car designed by iomega. Or Apple. Yeah, we've all heard the jokes about a car designed by Apple.

I'd love to just drive one of those to my local mechanic and tell them I was having driving issues. Just to see their faces.
posted by ColdChef at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2001

Looks like Tron. Sign me up.
posted by dong_resin at 8:24 AM on June 21, 2001

Looks like you'd be very, very uncomfortably dead as hell if you were sideswiped by a moped.
posted by glenwood at 8:36 AM on June 21, 2001

I actually saw once of these exact cars yesterday. It was right beside me as we were stuck in Atlanta's rush hour traffic and weren't moving for long periods of time as usual. The guy instead was some hippie who looked entirely too large to be in such a tiny car. It was a pretty hilarious image. Those cars are TINY in real life. I think a motorcycle would be more comfortable.

On the other hand, he seemed to survive rush hour in the city with the second worst traffic in the US without a problem. More power too him I guess. This actually led to a discussion that night about why cars like the honda insight can't just look like normal cars. I'd buy a hybrid without a second thought if they just made it look indistinguishable from an Altima or Accord or whatever. Why do car designers suffer from the idea that electric cars have to look stupid? The insight comes oh so close to being my car but what is with those stupid wheel flange things on the back?
posted by bonzo at 8:43 AM on June 21, 2001

Well, I think it's a fine car for "planned communities" and perhaps some city areas. And the Merlin, their 2002 model, looks great.

But my praise stops there. A Merlin costs $18,000 and gets 40-60mpg. A Toyota Prius gets 52/45 which is in the same ballpark, and costs about $19-$20k. But you can also set 3 additional people, and have room for things if you need it.

I love the idea, but it's just a smidge too unrealistic, methinks. (I also think the Sparrow looks like a giant shoe.)
posted by hijinx at 8:46 AM on June 21, 2001

It's all a plot to keep us from driving electric cars. Detroit knows how important cars are to our identity as American.

Of course, that still doesn't explain why ridiculous-looking rigs like the Geo Metro or Toyota RAV4 sell...
posted by RakDaddy at 8:46 AM on June 21, 2001

As much as I dislike driving alot and the resultant annoyance and pollution, I would not buy such a small, unsafe car. I agree that a Prius or Insight would be a better choice. And there is a Civic with dual airbags that gets at least 30/35 mph if not higher.
posted by 4midori at 8:59 AM on June 21, 2001

Wouldn't want to collide with a Lincoln Navigator in that thing.
posted by quirked at 9:05 AM on June 21, 2001

$400.00 will get you a decent commuting bicycle. More efficient, just as useful, and just as deadly in a crash as one of those things.
posted by bondcliff at 9:12 AM on June 21, 2001

"It's all a plot to keep us from driving electric cars. Detroit knows how important cars are to our identity as American."

Detroit had more electrics at the turn of the century then gas powered. (my great-grandfather had a charging station an Cass ave, circa 1905) Detriot may have been opposed but the R&D in these cars has been extensive. Mr. Cooke, sorry for the Hybbess, a word play of wanna-be not a duel power engine. Foot pounds of torque must be lower then actual engine weight or else the vehicle cannot sustain a smooth gear conversion. I heard this electric engine may freeze up when totally drained of juice.(as shown with some Hondas) The motor would still be good, just cheaper to replace it then have it repaired. How they are toast, not sure, perhaps a complete drain forces internal parts to freeze, requiring more energy then the car can produce to get them working.
posted by clavdivs at 9:19 AM on June 21, 2001

bonzo: The wheel flange on the insight is a type of streamlining (prevents the drag usually caused by the back wheel wells). The flanges aren't just for looks they're actually part of why it gets the fuel economy it does.
posted by ToasterKing at 9:19 AM on June 21, 2001

The Toyota Prius looks completely boring to me, bonzo - I wouldn't guess it had 'something extra down there' if I didn't already know. The Honda Insight, on the other hand, is more of an image car - their expected buyers are people who'd be proud to drive a hybrid car as an environmental statement. They're people who WANT you to notice their funny looking car so you'll be impressed at their eco-friendly ways.

posted by Mars Saxman at 9:24 AM on June 21, 2001

Corbin Motors is located right in the next town and we've been seeing Sparrows for a while now - kinda look like a boot. :-) The Sparrow isn't a hybrid, it's totally electric (and silent when they drive by) and it has three wheels, which classifies it as a motorcycle. They're kind of a fun novelty around town, and will probably be out in force for the fourth of July, since this is a motorcycle gathering place, ever since THE WILD ONE was filmed here. (Hollister, CA)
posted by thunder at 9:27 AM on June 21, 2001

Actually, the car I want is a Smart car. I saw these in Europe and I've seen one here in SF (appears to be an import). It's small but would be sufficient for all my driving needs I think, and it would be a dream to park.
posted by megnut at 10:01 AM on June 21, 2001

Hey Meg, that is the same car I want! Have you any idea how much it would cost to import one? They have many more cool cars in Europe than they do here in the USA. Honda doesn't even sell a Civic Hatchback here anymore. Perhaps if I haven't lost my job yet I can get a Mini Cooper in 2002.
posted by donkeymon at 10:32 AM on June 21, 2001

Meg and donkeymon: There are rumors that you'll be able to get a Smart here in two years. Given how DCX is tearing apart the old Chrysler, I think it's a safe bet.
posted by hijinx at 10:46 AM on June 21, 2001

I'd buy a hybrid without a second thought if they just made it look indistinguishable from an Altima or Accord or whatever.

The Toyota Prius looks like an ordinary small sedan...
posted by andrewraff at 10:49 AM on June 21, 2001

Puts me in mind of the old BMW Isetta, possibly known to early-'90s TV watchers as the Urkelmobile.
posted by harmful at 10:52 AM on June 21, 2001

The Toyota Prius looks like an ordinary small sedan...

I was actually under the impression that the Prius is the Echo, only with a different powerplant/drivetrain.
posted by Vetinari at 10:57 AM on June 21, 2001

And it looks like something.

Well, I can't argue with that.

It cracks me up that in a serious discussion about cars and their environmental repercussions, we still obsess: "But it looks funny!" I'm not condemning. Had I a car, I'd probably obsess myself. I'm just sayin'.
posted by Skot at 11:00 AM on June 21, 2001

Oh, how sweet would it be to drive a car that you could park nose-first between two parrallel-parked cars? Now all that space wasted by bad parkers who leave five or six feet of space on either end of their cars could be put to good use.
posted by donkeymon at 11:15 AM on June 21, 2001

donkeymon: I delight in finding parking spaces where some gigantic Chevy Tahoe or whatever is straddling the line and blocking an otherwise perfectly usable parking space, then sliding my 4'3" wide Suzuki Samurai in right next to it. This little widget of a car looks like it would take the fun to even greater heights...
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:36 AM on June 21, 2001

...engine size not weight, sorry. they tend to be parallel. I got slammed by my friend on this end for the inaccurate comparisons...he gives me this...HP=RPM*torque/5252.
posted by clavdivs at 12:10 PM on June 21, 2001

I remember watching a cable show a few years ago called "Beyond 2000," which showcased the wondrous technology that would shower down on us once the calendometer rolled.

One of their predictions was that with traffic becoming more and more of a problem in big cities, that some cities would convert their HOV lanes to highways for ultra-light vehicles only. One stand-out car design that I recall was a cigarette thin hybrid between a motorcycle and a car, which would allow 2 vehicles to travel side-by-side in the same space as one ordinary automobile.
posted by crunchland at 12:17 PM on June 21, 2001

donkeymon: if it's any consolation, the Civic Hatchback will return. I think next spring sounds reasonable, but Car & Driver seems to think sooner (with a grainy picture). Also, rumor has it Honda will roll out a hybrid Civic in 2002 as well. The Insight already bests the Prius at mileage with 61/68, so hopefully the hybrid Civic will match the Prius in passenger space and have fuel efficiency similar to the Insight.
posted by disarray at 12:54 PM on June 21, 2001

Hmm, I should have kept my Tahoe. MUUHAHAHAHAHA
posted by a3matrix at 2:18 PM on June 21, 2001

Why are all hybrid cars just plain *ugly*?
posted by valerie at 9:09 PM on June 21, 2001

Valerie -- do you want to see tail fins on the hybrids? They're designed for efficency and economy! This is never going to be ornamental, even with the cool wheel-covers in the Insight (which are both ornamental and functional to reduce air drag).
posted by dwivian at 6:43 AM on June 22, 2001

I'm all for non polluting cars, but I wish they would just raise CAFE standards. That would reduce pollution much more than selling a few thousand overpriced hybrid cars a year (though I'm hopefull that economies of scale will make them more affordable) My nine year old Civic already gets 40+ MPG and can carry four people with their luggage no sweat.
posted by dr. zoidberg at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2001

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