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12 June, 2008

Is the Smart Car really that smart?

Location: my self-righteous opinion mill
Mood: doubtful

You've heard of the Smart Car. They have been all the rage in Europe for years, and are now starting to become more available in the USA - there's a dealer in Seattle now. When I first heard about them, I was enraged that they were not available here, and ranted about how our country doesn't want us to have fuel economic options, and all my usual complaining.

And then a few weeks ago, a friend of mine said "You know, they don't even really get very good gas mileage", to which I argued, and said "No no no! I am pretty sure they get like 60 or 100 miles per gallon or something like that!"

I don't know where I got this information. But it is incorrect.

According to Fueleconomy.gov, here are the facts:



Not particularly impressive.

And when you factor in the fact that this car is significantly smaller, with less storage space, and presumably less safety for the driver, than many competing mileage vehicles like the Civic, the Scion xD, and the Honda Fit, how do you justify the Smart Car? Because you can park it more easily? The price is around $12,000, and it is really not clear to me you're getting value with it.

Furthermore, one could make a valid argument that the Smart Car is actually operating on a significantly LESS efficient engine than the competing models listed below. If you consider efficiency to be related to the amount of energy required to move a load, then the efficiency must include in it the weight of the object being moved.

Therefore, if we look at these vehicles, we've got the following:

Smart Car
Highway mileage: 41 mpg
Curb weight: 1584 lbs
Normalized: 32.5 miles*ton per gallon

Honda Fit
Highway mileage: 34 mpg
Curb weight: 2450 lbs
Normalized: 41.7 miles*ton per gallon

Scion xD
Highway mileage: 33 mpg
Curb weight: 2625 lbs
Normalized: 43.3 miles*ton per gallon

Hummer H3
Highway mileage: 18 mpg
Curb weight: 4700 lbs
Normalized: 42.3 miles*ton per gallon

Are you reading that? In terms of load-pulling capability, the Hummer is more efficient than the Smart Car, and amazingly it is exactly as efficient as three of the most fuel economical vehicles on the road.

If the Smart Car were simply as efficient as the Hummer H3 in terms of load-pulling efficiency, then its engine would get about 53 miles per gallon. Why can they not design the Smart Car's engine to accomplish the same thing that is accomplished in each of the other three vehicles listed above?

I find those numbers intriguing. And what do they make you think of the Smart Car?

Not so smart, I say.

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