27 February 2008

New namesake?

SmartI am in the process of buying a new car. I wanted to get something as fuel efficient as possible. So I'll be getting one of the first Smart fortwo cars released in the U.S. (pictured). These have been in Europe for a decade. I first became aware of Smart when I saw one on Top Gear. They described the Smart cars as being marketed as a "fashion accessory," but then road tested in Birtish back roads, and gave it a positive review as a sports car. I used to have an MG Midget, and it seemed to me that the Smart was sort of a spiritual descendant of the Midget.

How I wish I could go further. But I can't. The sad fact is, I can't afford a hybrid. I tried to buy one when I first moved to the U.S., and the bank wouldn't loan me the money, and I'm not in a much better position to buy one now.

ZennThe Zenn (left) is a fully electric car made in Canada, and its name means "zero emissions, no noise." Weirdly, it's very difficult to buy in Canada, as Rick Mercer discovered. It actually can be bought in many places in the U.S. -- but Texas isn't one of them. Sigh. But even if it was sold in Texas, I still couldn't buy one. Because I'm an apartment owner, I would have no place to plug it in.

Two things occurred to me about this. One is how dependent our choices are on available infrastructure. The second is how Canada -- and the northern states -- might have a huge advantage in moving to electric cars faster than someplace like the U.S. Canadians have been plugging in their cars forever. This amused people from more southern climes, who laughed at the electric plugs dangling from the radiator grille. because it gets so cold in winters that engine need block heaters to prevent them from freezing. Since Canada has at least some infrastructure that provides electricity for cars (at least places where people would park them for long period during winter), it might facilitate the influx of electric cars.

If politicians would just wise up and let them sell some.

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