Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

SmartCar as a city car

The Mercedes produced SmartCar has been discontinued, because the company is undertaking different initiatives to meet US fleet mileage requirements.

This car was used in the Car2Go one way car sharing program that Mercedes launched in the North America and Europe.  

It was a great program but in reality, would only work in a few places ("Car2Go dying: further effects from the rise of ride hailing and damage to the sustainable mobility platform/mobility as a service paradigm"), so it could never scale the way a large corporation like Mercedes would want, and they shut it down, although it still operates in some cities in Europe.

This photo of the car in a local supermarket parking lot in South Salt Lake City shows one of the key advantages of the SmartCar as a city car--it's small and easy to park.  It got great gas mileage and the electric versions were a dream.

The problem with the market for cars in the US is that it isn't particularly differentiated, with different vehicles for different purposes.

So sure a small car makes sense "for the city."  On the other hand, people tend to buy "one car" to meet a maximal number of their likely and intended uses.  So people aren't going to buy a small car for the city uses when they want a bigger vehicle to accomplish longer trips, carrying more people, etc.

Plus, car dealers aren't motivated to sell small cars because they don't make much money off them (not unlike how bicycle shops aren't motivated to sell low cost city bikes compared to expensive road bikes).

But then that's why the one way car sharing application was so great for cities like DC and Seattle.

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At 8:25 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

French made, rear wheel drive, rear engine, no power steering in 1st gen and a key in the center.

Nothing else like it.

As an urban vehicle very dated. Last I say new owner Geely was planning on an electric car version but I doubt it will be ever come to the US.

The Fiat 500 -- which is another almost perfect city car -- is almost also certailly doomed in the US. Car2Go merged with Free2Move and is now owned by Stellanis so maybe something will come of it. The basic concept was for Dailmer to get CAFE credits on imports of smart cars to balance out high end Mercedes.

I really wonder if some of these poeple have been to the global south, where you have mixes like that and is incredibly dangerous.

I've been using rented teslas this summer. Not confident on computers for avoiding pedestrians and street furniture. Having high quality cameras and display does help for parking.

On gas pricing, EIA is reporting almost a 1 Mb/d reduction in gas usage. Some controversy as refiners and gas stations not seeing that large of a drop upfront. But basically yes higher gas prices work to reduce demand. The pain is never equally distributed.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I talk about the purpose of planning as designing conflict out. Mixing all those "vehicles" designs conflicts in, from improper "parking" to serious differences in speed, improper and risky operation etc.

I've written before that it's unreasonable to expect cities to be able to maintain facilities at the standards required for high speed scooters. I've read terrible stories about crashes. And then I see reckless high speed operation, and when it's dark and cringe.

Interesting about gas consumption. Thanks.

And yes a long time ago you pointed out to me that the only reason SmartCar was offered was because of CAFE. They could never figure out a legitimate business case for it independent of that.

Yes, those earlier iterations were clunky. Remember the transmissions? But they improved. It turns out the electric dream version I drove in San Diego was done by Tesla to earn needed cash.

Note too that those various Bollore businesses in the US all shut down. Such ventures can work only in a few places in the US because we are so homogeneous in how we set up our mobility system.

At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best-selling (China) Wuling Hongguang EV is the smarter idea.
The smart was dumb for the US market. Size was its only advantage. A basic Corolla or Yaris was better at everything else.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Size in the city was a huge advantage. Corolla or Yaris if you're gonna own. Smart was awesome for one way car share in a dense place.


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