Sunday, August 16. 2009
There’s a lot on the web about the Smart car, so when my turn came to either cancel the reservation for a new Smart, or place my order for one, I was not ignorant of the car. The reservation was placed in June of 2007, based on my wife and I feeling that it would be a useful replacement for our 1992 Buick Skylark. And we thought two seats would be just fine for an in-town driver.
Unfortunately, my wife passed away in August 0f 2008, so in November when I received an email requesting my specific desired configuration of my Smart, I was very conflicted about whether or not to carry through with the purchase. However, my delivering dealer told me that I was totally committed at the point I handed them a check for the car, so I went ahead and configured my Smartie- a 2009 grey body with a silver tridion cell, usual power stuff, fancy radio, air conditioning, heated seats for cold Iowa winters, and the alarm option to keep people from messing with it (a friend had his Smart car picked up and tipped over on its side in his front yard; the young people who did it probably thought it was funny; it wasn’t).
On the Smartusa.com web site, there is a four-page description of helpful tips for getting better gas mileage, some of which I try to follow. I do run the air conditioner in the city (Iowa summers can be uncomfortably warm) and my highway driving on the interstate tends to be not paying as much respect to the speed limit as I should (when I notice the speedometer showing 80, I do immediately slow down). So while the Smart is described as “a vehicle that has a 2009 EPA estimated MPG rating of 33 city / 41 highway making the smart fortwo the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid gasoline powered vehicle in the United States today” that works out best for drivers who are very mindful of fuel economy as a primary objective.
This spreadsheet shows my actual experience:
The best mileage, shown at the fill on 11/29/09 with 48.6 mpg, was driving from Flagstaff, Arizona, altitude almost 7000 feet, to Phoenix, altitude about 1100 feet (508 meters) — mostly downhill all the way! Then perhaps another fifty miles of that was relatively slow-speed (50-65 mph) interstate driving in town. The next leg was driving from Phoenix through Flagstaff almost to Gallup, NM and some of the uphill climbs were at full throttle trying to maintain fifty mph. The remaining segments were fairly flat interstate driving where speed limits in some cases are up to 75mph, and I drove more or less at the limit.
It’s difficult to say definitively, but it does seem that using lower octane gasoline does impair the gas mileage.
The Smartie was not used for probably three months; in December, I washed it and my minivan, and put them both in the garage. It started snowing! My first task was to clear the driveway, and that meant, after seeing how deep the snow was, deciding which vehicle I would then drive. I decided the Smartie was nice and clean, and I’d like to keep it that way. So I cleared the driveway behind the van, and that meant the snow-blower piled about a two-foot drift behind the Smart car’s side of the garage. It snowed again. And the wind blew. And the drift grew. And it frizzled (a freezing drizzle). And snowed. And blew. The snowdrift, now firmly hardened, remained about three feet high, and did remain close to that until sometime in March 2010. I could probably have maneuvered the Smartie around and out of the garage through the van’s space, but then I’d be left with no space to park the van. So, what’s the point? Sigh.
When the sun finally came out and melted the snow, I went to get out the Smartie. Dead Battery. Well, the book has instructions on how to access the battery compartment, so I went into it. Used jumper cables from my Oldsmobile minivan, and started the Smart car. Of course, the plastic covers over the battery, once removed, no longer fit back in place, and the floor panel isn’t quite as well placed as when the car was new. But simply driving around for a while charged the battery and it has given me no further trouble.
In June, drove the Smart car from Sioux City to Detroit; then down through Indiana into Southern Illinois; then back to Sioux City, with stops at Zarda’s BBQ in Blue Springs, MO and of course many other places. Swung by Central Missouri State University, which is now something else and nothing like it was when I worked there in the 1970’s.
The 6-CD changer gets me through a lot of “talking books” on these long trips. The CD player, which I believe I heard somewhere was manufactured by Grundig, has the unhappy characteristic of playing about a half-second of each new track before it continues with the entire track, kind of like an individual “stuttering” at each new track. It doesn’t seem to do it on music CDs, however, and not all “talking books” do it.
In June of 2011 I drove the car from Sioux City to Jacksonville, FL for a Masonic High Twelve convention. The GPS took me through downtown Atlanta, where I felt like a tumbleweed on the desert amid the buffeting winds of seven lanes of traffic, hoping no drive screws up… and after the convention, heading west on Interstate 10 at least at the speed limit, in 98-degree heat, a/c on full, car still did fine. Its now had its 20,000 mile oil change and routine service (an expensive one at $350. but that was expected).
Most recent trip was a short jaunt to Mitchell, SD to look at the Corn Palace, the Mandan Indian Village archeological dig, Telstar Motors Mustang Museum of vintage Mustang automobiles, and other general memories of an earlier trip twelve years ago with my wife. Actually less than a three-hour trip, so no big deal for the Smartie.