Sun 24 Sep 2006

Homemade Car

Some dude has made a car out of mopeds that gets 100mpg highway, 85mpg city.

The guy says in his howto:

"Isn't it sad that such a simple vehicle, which could be mass produced for $5000 or so, which awaits no fancy fuel cells nor high-tech breakthroughs, isn't available to the public?"

Taking a look at the photo, I can tell you why: it wouldn't be safe, and there isn't much point.

I'm sure that 50s bubble cars were built similarly; indeed, the original Iso Isetta used a scooter engine. I imagine that, with a modern engine, an Isetta would get the same mileage as a Moonbeam.

Drive either car into a Cadillac Escalade. The Escalade weighs in at 3,000kg, netting around 18mpg highway. It would obliterate either of the microcars. That's the safety argument. I don't think the Moonbeam would score highly on EuroNCAP.

Now compare the Moonbeam to existing small cars. The Smart Fortwo weighs 750kg, with the diesel version getting 69mpg. An electric version is planned for 2007. The major difficulty in selling the Fortwo in the US and Canada: legal regulations. There are a lot of emissions and safety rules in effect, and all of these must be satisfied before a car can be sold for use on the road. With even DaimlerChrysler having difficulties with the Fortwo, I'd be surprised if something like the Moonbeam could get sufficient traction. It's also hardly a competitor in quality to even a stripped-down Fortwo, or a Ford Ka. That's the pointlessness argument.

Finally… people don't seem that keen to buy a really small car, unless they live in a European city where parking is a challenge. (I can quite understand why, driving on the same roads as Escalades, Navigators, Dodge Rams, and Hummers.)

Yes, it's a fun project, doubtless it was fun to build, and I'm glad that such a thing exists. But suggesting that it would be a practical mass-produced vehicle in the Western world's legal and traffic environments is just unrealistic.

Posted at 2006-09-24 12:54:08 by RichardLink to Homemade Car