Smart: Uncovering the Uncar

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. Continue reading “Smart: Uncovering the Uncar”

A Used Van Is the Gateway to Delicious Success

The path of success in any business is not short and sweet. Indeed, you have to work very hard for a while until you can get everything together. Don’t settle for being held back just because you don’t have the money for a full restaurant. Sometimes it’s easier to test the idea of selling food to the public with a food truck. Van Monster, a premiere specialist in used commercial vehicles, has produced an infographic that really breaks down the pros and cons of owning and operating a food truck. Success might not be overnight, but you can build something that you’d be proud to own for a long time!


Homemade Batteries

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

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.

Zinc Battery

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. Continue reading “Homemade Batteries”

Electric Cars

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

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

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. Continue reading “Electric Cars”

EV Charging Stations: Average Installation Fees

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.

Charging Stations

Here are some examples of companies well-known for both producing charging units and their installation services.

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.

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.

Coulomb. (now chargepoint) This company is responsible for the majority of widespread public charging stations and are developing Level 2 chargers for home use. Continue reading “EV Charging Stations: Average Installation Fees”