Copyright 2017 Mario V. Farina
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
Electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information
Storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.
Correspondence may be directed to:
Mario V. Farina
Email: [email protected]
Smart Cars are not very popular. This is bad for dealers who sell them, but it’s good for those who love them. Ann and I own the one that you see on the cover of this story, and are extremely fond of it. It’s electric. Yes, it’s very tiny and will seat only two people. This does not bother us a great deal since we are only two people and don’t need extra passenger room very often. There is sufficient room behind the passenger seats for a moderate shopping trip.
A lot of people may think that a small car like this is unsafe. I’m happy to say that this notion is not accurate. There is a roll cage around the driver and passenger similar to what you would find in a race car. On the road, the car does not feel small, and its performance for most driving needs is adequate, even generous.
The fact that the car we own is electric is a very enjoyable feature of this car. The main reasons we enjoy this auto are that, on the road, the car is very quiet, and spritely. When we are going somewhere, we can converse in ordinary tones. The only sounds that can be heard within the car are the those of the tires on the road. The car is also spritely. I use that word instead of powerful because most readers wouldn’t believe it. Electric cars have excellent acceleration. The reason for this is that high torque, a main ingredient of power, is available at all times, whereas, in gasoline-powered cars, it has to build up with the speed of the car.
While our car is very enjoyable to drive and ride in, I do have to admit that it does have a few severe disadvantages. The most obvious is range. If what you would ever want to do with an automobile is take it to work and back home, it certainly would be adequate for that. However, for a long trip, exceeding, say, several hundred miles, it might not be adequate for that purpose. The range of the car that we purchased, is about 80 miles. This means, that if we need to take a trip that would exceed that number of miles, we wouldn’t be able to get there and back without recharging the large battery. This is not a problem with us, since we do have a larger vehicle for long-distance travel.
I’ve already mentioned that the car is very quiet. If you were in the driver’s seat, and turned the key to the Start Position, you’d hear no sound at all. You would need to look at the dashboard to see the word, Ready. If you were in the garage, you’d then put the car in Reverse, and press lightly on the accelerator. The car would begin moving backwards so quietly that you might think something was wrong. This would, of course, be incorrect, and you would simply be doing what you wanted to. The car makes a small engine sound that is built in for low-speed use. The purpose is to have others around the car become aware that there is a vehicle moving in the vicinity. This artificial sound disappears when the car begins traveling at a somewhat higher speed.
Having backed out of the garage, you’d want to begin moving forward. You shift the car to Drive, and step on the accelerator. The word shift is slightly deceptive because there are no gears in the car to shift. There is no engine in the car. It is a motor. With a motor there are no gears. The vehicle begins moving forward and builds from zero speed to higher speeds without interruptions. As the car picks up speed, the car doors lock shut!
Acceleration is outstanding. A Smart Car with an electric motor accelerates better than a Smart Car with a gasoline engine. The fact is, a Smart Car accelerates better than a full-size gasoline-powered car of any make for a short distance. Going up hills is also easy to accomplish.
Being very tiny, barely eight and one half feet long, the turning circle is also very small. Through experience, I found that I could reverse direction on a two-lane road, by simply waiting until there was no oncoming traffic, then turning the wheel to the left and making a U-Turn to the opposite lane. This is not something that anyone might want to do frequently, but it is good to know that, in an emergency, it is possible.
Getting into a parking space is also very easy. If the space is large enough for a large car, no backing up is necessary. You can simply drive directly into it. If the space is small, not large enough for most cars, you might find it acceptable for the Smart Car.
The Smart Car has two batteries. There is a conventional 12-volt battery for common automobile usages, and a high voltage battery for traveling. The conventional battery is located in a cavity on the passenger side of the vehicle. The high-voltage battery is located under the front seat and under part of the rear area. The high-voltage battery needs to be recharged after having been used for traveling. This can be done using either 110 or 220 volts.
Since the high-voltage battery is located in a low position within the car, the weight distribution of the auto makes it easier to control. The rear wheels of the car are the driving wheels. In the opinion of this author, the car would not be a good performer in snow and ice. Our plan is to let it a rest in wintertime
With a 110 volts source, the amount of time to achieve a full charge is about 14 hours; with 220 volts, it requires about 2-1/2 hours. The charging mechanism plugs into the socket where you would normally find the gas filler for a conventional auto.
On the dashboard, there are gauges that tell the condition of the high-voltage battery as you drive. At the beginning of a drive, where the battery has been fully charged, one of the gauges will indicate 100%. As you continue to drive, the percentage will decrease accordingly. Another gauge will give you an estimate of how many miles you may be able to drive at any particular time. For example, if the battery is fully charged, you may see that you will be able to cover about 80 miles. As you continue driving, the number of miles that remain will decrease. If you actually discharge the high-voltage battery, there will still be sufficient power to propel you, at a very slow speed, to a point where you may be able to find assistance or take you out of a dangerous situation.
The Smart Car makes available certain accessories that drain power quickly. For example, air-conditioning decrease the range about 10 miles. In winter, you will need heat. Heating the car will also take away a good deal of the range. Headlights will require extra power also. Surprisingly, the car comes with electrically heated seats. You may or may not wish to use these during the wintertime. A great deal depends upon the distance that you are planning to drive on a particular day. The range of the automobile on cold days is much less than it is during the summer. These are facts that a user of an electric car should be well aware of.
As you are driving a Smart Car, one of the gauges will tell you whether you are using power or whether it’s being generated to be put back into the high-voltage battery. For example, if you are proceeding on a level road, the gauge will indicate that you are consuming power from the high-voltage battery. However, if you are coasting to a traffic light, or going down a hill without your foot on the accelerator, the gauge will indicate that the car is generating power to be stored within the high-voltage source. Driving an electric car requires that the driver understand the propulsion method of the car more than the driver of a gasoline-powered automobile would.
We will be using the electric Smart Car for short jaunts and for fun drives. Some cars being offered for sale nowadays can still be fun to drive. Our electric Smart Car is one of them!