I spent six months on the road during my book tour. I traveled to a bunch of cities and universities driving a smart the entire time. It was a great conversation starter. I talked to thousands of people about cars, transportation, green building, infrastructure and the future of sustainability. When it came to automobiles, what most people wanted to know was how smart compared to other vehicles. They wanted to know how it compared to hybrids like Prius or the Honda Civic. They wanted to know how it compared to electric cars like the Volt and LEAF too. Typically, questions centered around cost and gas mileage. This weekend I decided to put two graphics together that summed up the comparisons of the seven cars people most often wanted me to compare to the smart.
Below are two graphics that compare a total of eight cars (including the smart). The cars are lined up at the bottom of each graphic. In order (left to right) they are: Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, MINI coupe, Fiat 500, Scion iQ, smart, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Prius II.
The graphic (shown above) shows the gas mileage below each car. The Volt and LEAF have an * because they are primarily electric, and not really the same fuel type as the others. The number above the cars is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). I used the MSRP to try to be fair. To be fair, most of these cars are a little cheaper than the MSRP. Not really sure why the MSRP is higher than what a dealer would sell it to you.
During my tour, everyone wanted to know what the range of electric cars are. I had to explain many times that the car I was driving didn’t run on electricity. That’s not to say smart doesn’t have an e-car, but I never had the chance to drive it. I was covering thousands of miles during the tour, so it wouldn't have been practical to used an electric for the tour.
However, how far you can go in a car is a big deal to drivers. So I thought it would be interesting to compare all of these cars in terms of range so that they could be easily compared to electrics. The graphic shown below does that: the number under the cars is the tank size in gallons for each car – you can see that the LEAF is zero. It doesn’t have a gas tank. The Volt does, and all the others do too. The number under the pink circle is the range the car can go on a full charge or full tank. You can see that the hybrids have the greatest range. It's not exactly an apples to apples comparison of gasoline to electric, but it's interesting to see.
When you look at both graphics, you get a nice picture of the four most common questions that came up about automobile technologies. You can reference each to see what they cost, and if the miles per gallon or the range is worth the price. I was really surprised about the tank size of the MINI coupe. I had to double check to make sure I didn’t misread it. It’s tank is as big as the Civic. The Civic is about two and half feet longer than the MINI and more than a foot wider. How did they fit it in? I was also surprised that range of the Volt isn't that great though it's the most expensive of the eight cars I used for the graphics.
Of the Micro-cars, I thought smart has the best value. I could be bias though. They did sponsor my book tour, and I drove one around from Raleigh, NC to New Orleans, LA, and then from Los Angeles to Seattle, and then from Washington D.C. to Boston. After thousands of miles in a smart (and now that the tour is over), I miss it.
Hopefully with these graphics, you can judge for yourself.