Thursday, March 8, 2012

Starck Raving Mad

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article entitled "A Starck-Looking Electric Car for Fun". French designer Philippe Starck introduced the latest entrant into the beleaguered field of electric cars at the Geneva Auto Show this week. The headline writer at the Wall Street Journal apparently could not resist the play on words with Mr. Starck's name (nor could I,) but "whimsical" would have been a more accurate description. The Onion could be forgiven for thinking the Wall Street Journal is horning in on its territory, but the article is on the up-and-up and is even written without irony.

The vehicle, pictured below, looks as though a country club employee lost control of a golf cart and plowed through the swimming pool area. Even the designer describes it as “a kid's soap box cart with four wheels.” Save for the windshield, the vehicle is open to the elements, and the wheels are reminiscent of a Segway rather than a true roadworthy car.

But the real fun begins when one looks at the vehicle's specifications. The range is 37 miles on a fully charged battery. The top speed is 40 MPH. And the price? Starck says he expects the retail price to be about $40,000, which is roughly the price of a Chevy Volt, and roughly the price of eight motorized golf carts! (But that's before the Volt's $10,000 tax credit. It is unclear if this new vehicle would qualify for the credit, but given the Obama administration's infatuation with non-fossil fuel powered vehicles, it wouldn't be out of the question.) But even though the Chevy Volt is also electric, at least it looks like a real car, with windows, doors, and seats that do not look like beach chairs. One is almost tempted to ask if Starck's vehicle comes with a remote control.

But it’s the two final lines of the story that really got me. “[The vehicle] recovers 50% of its charge in two hours by plugging into any socket; a full charge takes six hours. ‘You visit a friend's house and recharge while you're having dinner,’ Mr. Starck says.” Brilliant! This will help me avoid that awkward situation I have found myself in countless times of having to say to friends, “Thanks for dinner! Now do you mind if I siphon a few gallons of gas out of your tank so I can get home now?” Isn't technology great?

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