Our Changing World Part Two – Rise of the Smart Car

I usually blog about whatever comes into my head which can be a good thing or a bad thing. Some weeks it’s potato salad and iron bells, other weeks it’s architecture and design. But one of my favorite topics is alternative energy and how it’s affecting our world. Some of the people in the alt energy camp are what we might call, um, a little kooky. I’ve learned about this as they’ve started to email me things. I’m assuming they’re trying to get press or they’re reaching out because they consider me a kindred spirit.

One guy, who sounds like a mad scientist, claims to have discovered a way of combining photovoltaic panels with a system of reclaiming methanol from biomass. I know a little about this stuff but I’ve never heard of mixing the two things together. The more he tries to explain it, the more confused I become. He says it’s the solution to our energy and garbage issues so I’m still sifting through the emails trying to get a handle on it.

The other interesting piece is from a bunch of latter day counter-culturistas who want to drive a bus from Nashville (yes, Nashville) to DC to New York to Lowell Massachusetts, to Denver, to the Burning Man festival and then on to San Francisco. Once the bus gets to California, it will be “converted” to run on biodiesel. I’m guessing it’s being conceived as a social commentary of our dependence on petroleum coming to an end. (see link below) But that’s not the best part.

For us literary types, Lowell, New York, Denver and San Francisco have a certain meaning. These destinations are actually a coded phrase that translates into “On The Road,” a book, THE BOOK, that defined the Beat Generation.

Mixing the Beats and Biodiesel is an intriguing combination – at least to people like me but the evidence of how fast things are changing in the real world is all around us. In Friday’s Washington Post on the front page of the business section was a good sized article on the Smart car. In case you haven’t seen one of these, I’ll stick a link at the bottom of the page. I saw one in real life a few weeks back in Chevy Chase.

They represent a collaboration between Mercedes Benz and Swatch. Yes, the people who make the plastic watches. I bought one of these back in the day when they were the coolest thing to have. Yes, I am an elder “geezer in training.” The “Swatch Guard” broke a long time ago and I had to replace the band but the damn thing still keeps good time.

Anyway, Swatch and MB teamed up to build a two seater car that’s been sold in Europe for the past ten years. They are now being imported to the states with prices that range from $14,000-$18,000. They are less than nine feet long but according to the people quoted in the article, they feel very roomy inside – probably because there’s no back seat.

They are rated at 33 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway which makes them the highest rated straight gas vehicle on the road. As sales figure on full-size SUV’s and pick-ups plummet, as GM cuts Hummer loose, the Smart car has over 30,000 people waiting in line to buy one. New customers are being told it will take a year to get their cars.

If you drive in a big city and have trouble with parallel parking, the Smart car can help you. If you want to use less gas, the Smart car can help you. And if you want to draw attention to yourself or your business, the Smart car can help you, as they are cute-as-all-get-out and are also being used as company vehicles – just like the Hummers are/were. And so I say again to you brothers and sisters, don’t watch the Swatch, don’t you worry or fret, because the times they are a changin’ right before our very eyes – just follow the money.


Scott Sowers


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2 Responses to “Our Changing World Part Two – Rise of the Smart Car”

  1. paretsam Says:

    Have you heard about someone using seaweed extracts as fuel?

  2. scottsowers Says:

    I’ve heard a little about the Japanese messing around with seaweed. Any kind of vegetation or waste product (including manure) that rots produces methane. The methane can be used to run diesel engines that are attached to generators that create power. I’ve seen this done at a landfill near Richmond, Virginia. I think they can also use methane to fire boilers that create steam that’s then used to turn turbines which creates electricity. Here’s a link to what’s going on in Japan

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