An automobile revolution is on the making and the leading spot has been taken by a small two-seater with one of the most fuel efficient engines in the market. The smart® car (an acronym for “Swatch Mercedes ART”) has conquered 750,000 drivers in about 36 countries worldwide and is expected to appear in the American automobile market in the first quarter of 2008.
The smart® car is one amongst the six cars which have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York -and the only one still in production. Mercedes Benz and Nicolas Hayek, the inventor of the Swatch watch, brought this innovative museum quality idea to fruition around 1998. As an “ultra-urban” car, it is short enough to allow it to be parked “nose-in” where a conventional car would have to parallel park. Two or three smart® cars parked in the same parallel parking space has become the standard etiquette all over Europe -bringing significant results in the triplication of parking revenues in historic cores and commercial streets. In the standard American block (200’ x 300’) there will be either 37 smart® car parking spaces on its longest side or 12 spaces for conventional parallel parking; although they force municipalities to rethink their parking policies and their parking fee structures, the dimensions of the standard parallel parking space do not have to be modified to accommodate them.
The diesel or gasoline versions of the smart® car will be sold for no more than $17,000; these types will be: 8.8’ long, 5.1’ tall, and 5.1’ wide –in fact, two 6’ 5” plus people can sit side by side with plenty of shoulder room to spare at a top speed of 90 miles/hour; apparently, this is not a car to be driven in everyday highways. The smart® cars are designed to achieve 40-45 miles per gallon under normal driving circumstances. They come equipped with five airbags, an electronic stability program and one of the most sophisticated security frames in the world.
Its most important version will be the electric vehicle (EV) which will have an introductory price of $35,000. Although it is called a “hybrid”, the vehicle is completely electric. As a city commuter car, it will have a top speed of 80 miles/hour, a charging time of 5-6 hours using standard 110 AC outlets, and a range of 120-150 miles per charge; and, it runs on a lithium battery –the same battery used by cell phones, computers, or pretty much anything we use that is a portable electronic device.
Some of the smart® cars most important advantages are: reduced petroleum consumption, reduced noise emissions, reduced air pollution emissions, increase of health with regard to respiratory and other illnesses, reductions of 80-90 percent in the production of carbon monoxide and reactive hydrocarbons, durability, ability to maneuver easily, smallness and easiness to park; plus, they will qualify car owners for a federal income tax credit of up to $3,400; they will be allowed in HOV lanes while singly-occupied (Florida, Virginia, California, New York); in cities like San Jose and Los Angeles will be offered free parking permits when purchased in local dealerships; in Baltimore they will be considered for free meter parking spots; and, in states where it is still required, they will be exempt for smog emission inspections.
Let us welcome the green choice of the decade!