Smart Cars hit Iowa

Driving around Davenport today, I saw two different eco friendly cars.

One was the long awaited “Smart Car” (see below). A young couple (probably about 30 years old) drove this into a local shopping center. I guess since they saved so much money on gas they wanted to apply that savings to some consumer goods.

Earlier in the day I saw an even smarter car driving down River Drive in Davenport. Since it was going the opposite direction, I didn’t have a chance to check out exactly what brand it was, but it appeared to be like the one below, a 3 wheeled Electric Condor II.

Incidentally, the Condor II does look way more economically interesting than the Smart car. It’s 100% electric costs about as much as the Smart Car and gets up to 80 miles on a single charge.

I think this is going to be a huge trend (as long as credit for new cars is easy to come by). It’s not so much that people want to do what’s economical (especially in the case of the “smart car”). Let’s face it a new car, even a ‘smart one’, isn’t economical. How long does it take you to recoup your outlay. Financing, depreciation, etc. etc. Especially since the “Smart Car” gets only 32 MPG!

Also, It’s not so much that the environment is the priority, rather it’s that Green is cool. And people always want to be cool. Being seen in your Smart car is like being seen in a Porsche. It strokes the ego in exactly the same way, but for different reasons. It’s always nice to show how much better you are than those around you. Green is the new cool brand.

3 thoughts on “Smart Cars hit Iowa

  1. David Rauschenbach

    A few years ago, I commuted a Dodge Neon 3 hours a day from the woods of Indiana, into downtown Indianapolis, over a period of 1 year, to make a simple point. I spent less than $5k on the car, and my winter gas mileage was 36 mpg, and summer mileage was 26. My cost savings and environmental footprint exceeded anything a smart car or hybrid could achieve. The point is, people like their gadgets. My brother in law bought a hybrid, and he now confesses his car is worse for the planet, and that he will never recoup in gas savings what he spent as a premium on buying a “green” car.

  2. matthew Post author

    David,
    Your exactly right.

    The economics don’t work at this point. When gas is $10 a gallon that ‘might’ change although it’s hard to imagine it ever being ‘eco-friendly’ to trade in your old car and buy a new one.

    I also agree that some folks that really love their gadgets. I’d consider myself a bit of an early adopter, but the economics of the “green” cars are just too bad to ignore (for me, at least).

    But, I think the primary motivation of buyers of green cars over the last two years has been the “coolness” factor. It’s basic human nature. They want to wear on their sleeve how socially responsible they are. To outsiders you didn’t look “green” driving your neon. You probably appeared “cheap” or just plain “poor” even though your actions were far more “socially responsible” than just about anyone I know.

    I think the crux of the whole situation is that for most people it’s the social approval they seek above all else. If you’re really green and people don’t know it, then what’s the point of being green?

    They want to be part of a popular movement (in this case being ‘eco-friendly’) and as part of that they want to demonstrate their special value as part of that popular movement. The clear way to do it is trade in that irresponsible suv and finance the purchase of a brand new hybrid!

  3. David Rauschenbach

    The popular green movement also reminds me of a few other modern tragedies.

    1. Photovoltaic solar panels. I’ve read up on these things for nearly a decade now. As far as I can tell, it still burns more oil to make one than can ever be recouped over its useful life. So they’re called a “net oil sink”, which I think is why oil companies like BP sell them, because they’re good for business. My dad was in the business of designing solar panel arrays for satellites. Satellites, and powering small things in isolated regions, might be the only real good use cases for those things. Everyone else seems to be doing more harm, while thinking they’re doing good, at an unreasonable personal expense. Also, if you’re lucky enough to keep one going 22-25 years for its whole useful life, you’re lucky if power output hasn’t dropped 50% or more by then.

    2. Hydrogen. In the words of Don Lancaster, “it’s a gas (and not a fuel)”. It’s trendy to talk about it, but as far as ANYBODY knows, you still have to burn more than a gallon of gas in order to produce a gallon of hydrogen. Furthermore, there’s more hydrogen in a gallon of gas than there is in a gallon of liquid hydrogen! Unfortunately, those unpleasant facts won’t stop a small army of capitalists and politicians from trying to sell us a hydrogen future, and associated infrastructure (for a windfall profit), all in the hopes that someday someone will discover a breakthrough that might REVERSE the debt being accumulated by the whole situation.

    It all comes back to a proverb I once read, which goes: It’s impossible to do good, without doing what is right.

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