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Laura on Life... Smart cars, stupid people

The gas prices being what they are these days, my husband has been trying to find ways in which he would not have to participate in the "gas game" as he calls it.

The gas prices being what they are these days, my husband has been trying to find ways in which he would not have to participate in the "gas game" as he calls it.

At first, riding a bike to work seemed like a good non-participatory activity. He changed his mind on the first day that it rained. Since he had left his car at work, he had no choice but to ride in the rain. Even the extra clothes he had brought were soaked through.

This experience put him off any means of transportation that did not come with a lid. That included motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, and high-powered walking.

He started researching electric cars. He learned that General Motors had a marketable electric car in the late 1990's, but they were too intimidated by...something... to keep it on the market. The oil companies, of course, were intimidated by the car, because the EV1, as it was called, worked so well. It went 70 miles per hour, had decent range, was quiet, had no emissions, and best of all, it ran exclusively off electric - no gas at all.

OK, so we were about 10 years too late for that little miracle. In our defense, though, we didn't even know about it until GM had already taken them all off the streets. They were leased only to about 800 drivers in California and when the leases were up, GM gathered them all up and had them destroyed because, they said, there was no market for an electric car.

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Well, if they had simply told us about it, they'd have had more orders than they'd have known what to do with! My husband would have bought two!

The Smart Car is all the rage now, but you have to be on a waiting list to get one. People are not waiting on a list because of its sleek beauty (it looks like a cartoon turtle), its seating capacity (two and a half), or its powerful engine (think wind-up toy). They are waiting for this car because of the money it will save them in gas. It stands to reason that if people will wait in line for a car that uses less gas, there would have been riots in the streets for a car that used zero gas. But no, there wasn't enough demand, GM said.

Then we have the hybrids which, incidentally, still use gas, but less of it, because they run on electric when they don't need the power that gas apparently supplies. When you are slowing and stopping, you are actually recharging the batteries. There is no need to plug it in. OPEC apparently feels these hybrids are OK, judging from the fact that we actually know about them. There is still a market here for their petroleum product, after all.

The newest thing my husband is salivating over, though, is the as yet unmarketed "Plug-in Hybrid." This little gem would hypothetically go 50 miles using only electric and only when the batteries have been exhausted does it switch to gas power for more range. Then you go home, plug it in to an electric outlet, and you're ready to go with another 50 miles of purely electric power.

Now, for most of us, 50 miles is enough to meet our day-to-day transportation needs. But you've still got the gas power for the times you have to go visit Aunt Tilly in Toledo.

Yes, your electric bill would be slightly higher, but only slightly higher, because you'd be paying two hundredths of a cent per mile for electric as opposed to 20 cents per mile for gas. We must keep this under wraps for a while longer though, so that OPEC doesn't catch wind of it and eighty-six it.

Then all we need to do is get our electricity plants completely converted to solar, nuclear, wind, or water-powered energy. We're almost there. Then we can call ourselves a "green" nation and my husband won't have to ride in the rain.

You can reach Laura at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com or visit her Web site www.lauraonlife.com for more columns and information about her books.

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