I’m not going to lie. I loved my Camaro at first. It was fast. It was loud. It was beautiful. It was the embodiment of the North American automotive enthusiast’s dreams. I’d always wanted a muscle car from the time I was little. I’d been sold a dream come true, and for a while, all was well.
Then reality started to set in. You see, on a regular public road, I could wind out the Camaro in exactly one situation: Highway ramps. On a ramp, you could floor it, and rocket onto the highway, having reached cruising speed eons before you had to merge. Why not from a stop light you ask? People don’t realize this, but it’s really not realistic to floor it off of stop lights. Once you’re used to it, all that’s really going through your head is clutch wear, syncro wear (a piece of a manual transmission), the gallon of fuel you just burned, the 1000 km of tire life you just took off your set of $3,000 max-performance summer tires, and the very real chance that there’s an undercover a row back.
The Final Straw
I ran out of money one month in June. I generally budget pretty well, so I did what any nerd would do. I did a postmortem on my finances. What had gone so horribly awry?
As I detailed my finances, I discovered the horrible truth: I’d managed to literally burn through $550 in gas that month. I was only supposed to be going through $150. This was appalling to me. It just didn’t seem worth it. So I tried to figure out how often I got to wring out my muscle car, to see if it was worth it to me. I started journaling my opportunities to unleash the beast. Yes, I know, how nerdy that makes me sound. Trust me, you don’t know the half of it.
The answer? About twice a week. Despite taking the highway to work every single day, twice a day, when I was going onto the highway, or coming off, there was inevitably someone in front of me, preventing me from playing with my magnificent toy. Enough was enough. It was time to look elsewhere. I had always planned on moving to an electric car, but every time I’d run the numbers, I’d found them just a bit too expensive.
The Electric Car
I was shocked when I saw the diminutive Smart in sleek Eco-green paint. It was electric. I’d previously owned a diesel Smart, and had loved the car. This new version was faster, more powerful, smoother, quieter, and even more frugal to operate than its smelly long-chain hydrocarbon-powered ancestor. I took it for a test drive. It was magnificent. It was inexpensive. It was perfect. So I bought it. And I don’t regret that decision. Here’s why:
It’s More Fun
That’s right. Coming from someone who owned a muscle car, my little electric Smart is more fun to drive. Why is that? Remember earlier, I was complaining about all the reasons why you didn’t want to floor your muscle car off a light? The cost, the wear to transmission components, the fuel burned, and the cops? None of that applies to electric cars. There’s no complicated transmission, no syncros, and no clutch. Your fuel is so cheap you can’t bring yourself to care about its cost, and if you floor it off a light, there’s no telltale engine roar to alert the police of your misdeeds. The result? You can floor this thing off every light. My car has an eco-meter, to let you know how economically you’re driving the car. It’s designed so the average drive will score 50%, and it tries to coach you towards 100%. I have drives where the eco meter is solidly sub-20%, and I’m grinning ear to ear.
It Doesn’t Eat at My Conscience
When I drove the Camaro, it always bothered me that I was ripping through all this fuel, with no further justification than that I enjoyed it. The Smart on the other hand is so eco-friendly it spends its free time hugging trees for you. That may have different value to different folks, so I can only tell you, it has value to me.
It’s More Economical
In addition to it’s relatively low purchase price, thanks to lucrative government subsidies in my area, it costs me almost nothing to drive. It’s about $1.02 to drive to work and back. Assuming there are 20 work days in the average month, my ‘fuel bill’ is coming in at around $20. Compare that to the $550 I burned through earlier. In addition, I had to take my car in for its regular yearly maintenance last week. 1 hour of labor later, they had run a computer diagnostic, checked the battery, topped up the washer fluid, and sent me on my way. Maintenance on this thing is cheap.
It Attracts More Attention
I left this one to last, because it’s the most surprising to me. Every muscle car owner secretly believes that the car will attract attention to them. They’re designed to be big, loud, bright, and gorgeous. No one is going to argue that muscle cars are subtle! Reality doesn’t live up to the advertising though. During the entire time I owned the Camaro, not a single person came up to talk to me about the car, not a single person stopped me at a gas station, or rolled down a window at a light. The Smart on the other hand gets loads of attention. The second day after I took it home, I got stopped at a local restaurant for someone to ask me if it was a hybrid. I get people rolling down windows to ask me if it’s 100% electric, or to comment on how quickly I pulled away at the last light. I recently did a road trip, and stopped at a charging station on the side of the road. I had people pulling off the highway to come talk to me! This was the attention that I was supposed to get from the muscle car, coming instead in the form of the eco-curious asking about my little Smart.
I thought that I’d dislike the perceived step down to a diminutive electric car. My friends told me I’d regret it, and that I’d miss the Camaro. The reality is that the fun, the cost, and the attention have made the car a joy to own. I know my experience is not unique, because I hear the same thing from other electric car owners on a regular basis. So take it from a reformed gear head: Don’t be scared of electric cars. Go give one a chance. I promise you, you won’t regret it.