The observant European tourist has no doubt taken notice of the comically small Smart cars zipping about the continent. Originally introduced to Europe in 1998, the Smart car has been busily migrating westward. The Smart fortwo model hit American markets in January of 2008, with a heretofore unheard of fuel efficiency of 33 city / 41 highway miles to the gallon, and an MSRP of under $12,000. Why, then, have American sales of the sprightly little vehicles remained lackluster? With gas prices shooting skyward, a cost effective and fuel efficient alternative seems like it would be an excellent choice. Is American culture at fault, or is the American version of the Smart car simply not as intelligent as its Old World cousin?
Reception in Europe
Praised by city drivers and environmental enthusiasts alike, the Smart car received a welcome reception in Europe, with sales in its first year of availability exceeding expectations and demanding immediate acclaim. In a continent of tiny roads where gas prices ranged from about $6 to $10 (or two to three times as much as in America), an equally tiny car with an excellent fuel economy was a welcome addition to the vehicle lineup (4).
Reception in the United States
Unlike its predecessor, the American Smart car never took off with the same ferocity. Initial excitement at the novelty of the vehicle drove sales for a short time, but the fervor was unsustainable in a market suddenly inundated with small cars with comparable fuel economy, like the Chevy Aveo or the Honda Fit. Penske Automotive Group (PAG), the original American distributor of the Smart brand, lost $16 million in its SmartUSA division in 2010. After such a profound loss, PAG gave the rights to sell Smart brand cars back to Smart’s parent company, Daimler AG, ensuring that now only Mercedes-Benz dealers distribute the vehicles in the US (5). The popularity of large cars in America may also be to blame for the stunted sales; not only does American culture tend to praise bigger as better, but the implication of an accident between a giant SUV and a tiny Smart car presents a frightening image, regardless of whether the car meets American safety standards.
The American Difference
Due to underwhelming sales, there are fewer models of Smart car now available in the United States. European versions include the Smart fortwo pulse, passion, and BRABUS, all in both a coupé and cabrio models. In America, choices are limited to the Smart fortwo pure coupe, passion coupe, and passion cabriolet. These models must meet American emissions standards, and the design changes necessary to accomodate these standards may be responsible for the significantly reduced fuel efficiency. A European Smart car will get between 20% and 30% better mileage (2). Overall, the Smart car’s lack of popularity in the United States stems from a variety of conditions, but the most likely culprits are: its less efficient emissions-standard redesign; its vast array of recently designed non-hybrid small car competitors; the American perception of the possible safety concerns of driving such a small car in a sea of SUVs; and the less dire state of gas prices in the states as compared to Europe. Perhaps the Smart car will take off as American environmental consciousness grows, but more likely it will remain a distinctly European phenomenon.
If you have been involved in an auto accident, whether in a Smart car or not, and have been seriously injured, be sure to seek the assistance of an experienced auto accident attorney.
If you are interested in installing a home charging station for your electric vehicles, there are several companies you can contact who will sell you a charging unit, install your station, or both.
Average costs for installation for a 240-volt unit are averaging around $2,200, but can be much higher depending on the model you choose and the modifications necessary to your present electrical system.
If you must hire an electrician to modify your electrical wiring, it is possible this alone can cost you several hundred dollars.
Here are some examples of companies well-known for both producing charging units and their installation services.
1.) ECOtality. ECOtality North America, formerly known as eTec, developed the Minit Charger system to deal with quick charges of electric industrial vehicles such as forklifts.
This company is now producing both commercial and residential charging equipment and offers installation as well. ECOquality is the manager of the nationwide project known as the EV Project, which is dedicated to installing public charging stations in targeted areas.
2.) Clipper Creek. This company is really aimed at commercial vehicle charging, but do offer home stations with varying voltage and amperage.
Clipper Creek makes the charging stations for the Tesla Roadster and offers adaptations for a variety of needs.
3.) AeroVironment. This company has the exclusive contract to supply charging stations for the Nissan LEAF, the only completely electrical vehicle to be mass marketed to date.
AeroVironment has been making chargers for many years and has evolved through the changes in EV technology.
4.) Coulomb. This company is responsible for the majority of widespread public charging stations and are developing Level 2 chargers for home use.
While not widely available, predictions are that Coulomb will enjoy as much success with individual stations as with its public chargers.
5.) GE. The WattStation is GE’s entry into the EV charger market, and while the company released only commercial or fleet chargers at first, a home model is anticipated soon.
GE has the company infrastructure and brand name recognition to break into the home charging market with large numbers of sales, assuming that its home charging stations are reliable and reasonably priced.
6.) PEP stations. PEP is working the Ford Motor Company to develop durable and easy-to-use home charging systems for new models Ford will eventually produce in the EV market.
Right now only commercial-grade chargers are available, but PEP will likely move into the personal use market at some point when Ford is able to manufacture mass-produced electric vehicles.
7.) Better Place. Produced in Israel and Denmark, these chargers will, in the future, likely break into the personal charger market, although currently they are only produced for commercial vehicles.
8.) Leviton. The new line of Evr-green charging stations offer both Level 1 and Level 2 charging capabilities and will work with the ChargePoint network by Coulomb.
Leviton is also one of the few companies that offers a pre-wire installation which is much cheaper than a full installation, and allows consumers to do some of the work themselves to save money.
It also allows consumers to upgrade from a Level 1 to a Level 2 system with no professional installation necessary.
The prewire systems start as low as $200 and greatly reduce installation times as well as allowing flexibility for future installation options.
With the continued fluctuations in the price of fuel, Americans are turning to more efficient vehicles. Backed by thousands of dollars in government subsidies, many automakers are producing and selling alternative fuel, hybrid, and all-electric vehicles to cope with the price at the pump. In the 2013 model year, innovation is taking a front-seat perspective as automakers continue to improve on past designs and create new ones that outperform the old.
2013 Toyota RAV4 EV
Based off the Toyota RAV4 SUV, this all-electric machine packs an-154 horsepower electric motor capable of accelerating from 0-60 in 7 seconds. Combined with its revolutionary aerodynamic design, the RAV4 EV has a range of approximately 100 miles, and, with its charging time of less than 6 hours on 240V power, the RAV4 can be back on the road in no time. The RAV4 is identical to its gas-powered cousin in interior space and comfort, but it never needs to make a trip to the fuel station.
2013 Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid
Although the Ford C-Max is not an all-electric vehicle, it deserves mention in the same vein. With it plug-in feature, the C-Max can function just like an electric car, and when the battery power runs low, the C-Max can be switched to gas. In reality, the driver controls whether the C-Max is a gasoline-powered car, a hybrid, or an all-electric car. On top of all its features, the C-Max has the ability to recharge in 7 hours on traditional 120 Volt power.
2013 Honda Fit EV
For years the Honda Fit has been in the same realm as the Toyota Prius and other ecologically sensitive models. With the advent of the 2013 Fit EV, this vehicle takes the plunge into the electric car world. The Fit EV is identical to the gas-powered Fit; however, this new vehicle is completely emission-free. With a charging time of less than 15 hours and a range of 82 miles, the Fit EV is right in the market with the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Miev. In actuality, the Fit EV has over 70 more foot-pounds of torque than its gas-powered Honda Fit cousin.
Competition with Gas-Powered Vehicles
To truly compete with gas-powered vehicles, electric cars must have significant range, low charging times, a reasonable price, and adequate comfort. These features are a part of all the three models mentioned above. All three have a range over 80 miles, and all three pack a host of options, features, and accessories to make them as comfortable as any hybrid or gas powered car.
The most important consideration when looking at the growing field of electric cars is price. Although an electric vehicle does not use gasoline, thus eliminating fuel costs, the dealership MSRP and the cost of charging the vehicle daily can play a key role in customer decisions. The Ford C-Max Energi starts at $32,950 while neither the Toyota RAV4 EV or Honda Fit EV have a stated MSRP as of yet.
Electric vehicles are the only tried-and-true alternative to gas-powered cars. Unlike natural gas vehicles, hybrids, and flex-fuel machines, electric vehicles have a history as long as the internal combustion engine powered car. With continued improvements in technology and performance, these efficient rides will not be disappearing any time soon.
This guest post was written by Stephanie Ng, a freelance writer who blogs about technological innovations. For Canadians purchasing a 2013 electric vehicle, be sure to review the service offerings from Kanetix in Canada.
As populations continue to rise, and the people of China, India and other developing countries gain affluence, fossil fuels will continue to rise in price. This creates both opportunity and danger. Countries that refuse to adopt sustainable methods of transportation will face more problems as current energy supplies deplete. The same can be said for individuals. People who act early and avoid the rising costs associated with transportation stand to profit from having cheaper, renewable options.
Current Transportation Costs
The Huffington Post reports that the average American spends over $2000 per year just to fill up their gas tank. The volatility of gas prices means that this expenditure fluctuates, but prices have been rising regularly for decades and will continue to do so. Forward thinking people can get ahead of others and begin using sustainable methods of transportation now and save time, money and effort.
Methods of Sustainable Transportation
The term sustainable transportation means any form of transport that has minimal impact on the environment. Some methods of sustainable transport have less environmental impact than others, but everything from walking to car pooling creates a more sustainable transportation system. Other methods include cycling, green vehicles and expanded public transportation.
Why Sustainable Transport Works
Current transportation systems consume 20% to 25% of the world’s energy. The design of these systems focuses, almost exclusively, on improving mobility for automobiles. However, the true purpose of transportation is access. People travel to get to work, school, visit family and friends and to get stores. Many sustainable transportation techniques improve access to these places, reduce environmental impact and reduce traffic congestion. Communities and cities that embrace sustainable transportation methods create more economically competitive, livable and sustainable cities.
How Individuals Profit
Individuals benefit from sustainable transportation in many ways. They not only save money by using less gasoline, they also save time and energy. Americans have long thought of cars as a tool of freedom, but this is increasingly not the case. People slavishly pump their money into their car in order to sit in deadlocked locked traffic and waste the same precious gas. Depending on where a person lives and how much their community has adopted sustainable transportation methods, people save time, money or both by adjusting their habits.
Ways to Benefit
There are several ways to benefit from sustainable transportation. In cites that offer public transportation, simply utilizing the resources available can be helpful. Another option is moving closer to work or a nearby city. Walking or riding a bike to work or when shopping can cut out much of the cost and lost time caused by driving. For those who can’t move and aren’t close to public transportation, carpooling offers benefits to everyone involved. Carpooling with one other person will cut the fuel and maintenance costs of a commute in half and getting more people involved will decrease costs further. For a big picture approach, getting involved in your community or city to help improve and increase public transportation options can help improve your local economy and the standard of living in your area.
Everyone stands to gain something from improving and embracing sustainable transportation options. Taking small steps over time can lead financial benefits latter on.
Maintaining your vehicle will also help keep the environment cleaner, and prevent your car from having an untimely demise. Still you can be prepared for the worst with the right coverage, check out RAC breakdown coverage review.
There are few things in life as exciting and satisfying as creating something; one popular form of creation is homemade batteries. Remember the thrill you first got when you created electricity with some rubber, wires and a lemon for an elementary school science fair project? There are few things as mystifying and awe-inspiring as the creation of electricity.
Soda Can Battery
There are many ways to make a battery from household products. All you need are a few pieces of metal and a conducting source (like a solution). One of the simplest homemade batteries comes in the form of a soda can. You place the copper into the soda, and you place a strip of the aluminum can into the soda as well (you will need to rub the paint off the soda can with some sandpaper, as the paint will deter the conductive properties of the metal). This battery will produce about .75 volts, which is not much, but will prove entertaining.
Another popular and easy-to-make homemade battery is the zinc-air battery. Zinc tends to be one of the most conductive types of metal for homemade batteries and can be obtained through a hardware store, specialty shop or via the Internet. For the conductive solution, you will need a small dose of salt and a cup of water. The zinc will oxidize when placed in the salt water solution, which will create electricity.
Batteries Vs. Cells
Technically, a battery is two or more cells, and the examples given so far are one cell, so they are technically called “cells” and not batteries. Although, you can connect two of these cells together and you will have a battery, which can, if done correctly, run a small item like a calculator or a small LED light. In order to power something larger, all you have to do is keep adding these cells together and connect them via copper wire until it powers the item. The possibilities are nearly endless.
There are other little tricks that can be done to increase the amount of electricity produced by the homemade battery. Adding a bit of hydrogen peroxide to the solution or chlorine bleach to salt water will increase the voltage produced by the homemade battery; however, hydrogen peroxide is much safer than chlorine bleach, and the smell is less potent. If you cannot get your hands on zinc, aluminum will work as well. You can also change up the solution by using vinegar instead of salt water.
This article was written by Steve Fish, who is a freelance writer on behalf of the Alternate Energy, a Hawaiian solar installer.