Small Cars "Almost Cheaper Than Walking"

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A red Fiat parked in an urban German street.

Sjo / Getty Images

That was the tagline for a microcar manufacturer in the 50's; some of them got a hundred miles to the gallon. Lots of former airplane manufacturers made them; perhaps the most elegant was the Italian designed Isetta, built by BMW. Avi Abrams notes that it "evokes the feelings of sophisticated European romance like no other small-budget car. It was seen in many movies of the era, and was quite popular for many years and earned many names. French called it "yogurt pot", Germans "coffin on wheels" (apparently disdaining very little space inside), Italians "little eggs".

Now of course, we can't drive these kinds of things, because we have to go 70 MPH and carry tons of stuff. Yet 50 years ago people even hooked up trailers and went camping with them.

Have we grown so much in fifty years that we couldn't slow down a bit for safety, and drive such cars again? Are these not a great option for all those who say they have to drive to work because there is no transit?

A smart car parked sideways between two cars on a street.

Westend61 / Getty Images

There are clearly capable of co-existing on the road with bikes and trucks. So why do our cars have to be so big and consume so much gas? Perhaps, like the slow food movement, we need a slow car movement, a radical lowering of the speed limit so that the private car can survive in an era of peak oil and global warming, simply by being smaller and slower.

We don't need hydrogen cars and new technology, we just need better, smaller designs, lower speed limits and no big SUVs on the road to squish them.

Avi Abrams at ::Dark Roasted Blend and the next time I am in Georgia I am visiting the ::Microcar Museum