Monday, February 5, 2007

I miss my Mini, but I've found a new love

I miss a lot of things about Germany, but one thing I miss almost more then the people, beer, food, atmosphere, beer, architecture, fests, beer and the beer is my Mini. And let's not forget the beer.

I'm not talking about the Frankenstein version that BMW put out, I'm talking about the original Mini that Mr. Bean drove. Except mine was a nice dark blue with the 2 white stripes on the hood.

Before I left Germany my job had me running between the communities of Heidelberg, Mannheim, Kaiserslautern and Darmstadt which meant I did a lot of driving. I was given the option of the company car and having my gas paid for, but instead I chose to drive my own car, and who could blame me.

That little car could scream up and down the autobahns at between 95-100 miles per hour (yes, miles, not kilometers) and this was with the standard engine, not the souped up one. Zipping in and out of the traffic and pretty much always finding parking was great, but taking the car on family day or overnight trips was even better.

My kids at the time were 4 and 6 so going for trips in the car was pretty comfortable space wise and they loved being able to see out the windows. What they loved even more was hitting a patch of bumpy road because then that car turned into a little roller coaster that was all their own. Slow down to a respectable speed, weave the car side to side a little and you get 2 screaming giggling kids asking if we could go back and do it again.

Coming back to the states was a bit rough because of the drastically reduced speed limits and using cruise control whenever available was pretty much mandatory for me. Now after a bit more then a year I have tamed down a bit. Not because of excessive speeding tickets (knock on wood) or anything, but mostly because of fear. We Americans as a rule do not drive together very well.

Here's a tip. If you are driving in the fast lane and you are not fast, get out of it. Pull over to the right. I couldn't (and still can't) believe how inconsiderate people are driving over here. Driving on the autobahns, people generally work together. And they better because those lights coming up in your rear view mirror likely aren't going to slow down just because you are in front of them.

I've seen studies that show per capita, there are more fatalities in the US then in Germany that are driving related, and this is with average speeds over there being much higher then here. That is because we have so many people swerving between 3 or 4 lanes trying to get around all you slow people.

So keep up or keep right.

Since coming back to the states and working from home, I don't drive near as much. We have our family car which my wife uses to get back and forth to work and we use for our distance driving, but I have now found our next car. It has even been approved by my wife who claimed to hate my Mini (even though she chose it over her larger car for our trips).

The car is a funny looking little triangular thing called a Zap car. With this little electric car you can go around 40 miles per hour and up to 25 miles per charge (they say 40 with opportunity charging) which is great for in town daily driving.

With my wife working, we spend about $30 every week or so for gas, and she could use this car for the daily commute dropping our fuel expense to next to nothing. We would still have our family car for extended drives or major shopping, however I know from personal experience driving my Mini, you can certainly do a bit of shopping with this size of car. It is actually even roomier then my Mini was.

We would save on fuel, wear and tear of our family car and help lower our impact on the environment. Combine this with using solar energy to charge it, and you have a very clean driving experience. Not only that, but these cars are pretty inexpensive so you could just about pay your car payments with the savings in gas. You can also save on insurance because it is 3 wheeled and classified as a motorcycle, but since it is 3 wheeled, you do not need a motorcycle license to drive it (at least here in Oregon).

Do you work from home or have a small business you are trying to advertise for? What could be better then slapping some signs on this little car to draw attention to what you have to offer? Heck, you could probably partner with a local business and have half your car paid for that way too.

So that wraps up yet another way average people like us can help the environment around us. We definitely can't wait for our government to do it through programs, laws and resolutions.


Taryn said...

I'm so glad you like your Zap! I just started selling them in Glendale CA and I think they are great. I hope I hear about more good experiences like yours. thanks!

Tracy said...

Hi taryn, thanks for posting :)

I'm sorry, I guess I need to be more clear. I don't have a Zap yet, but am aiming to get one in the next 6 months or so.

I have been in them though, that's why I am comparing it to my Mini. Of course the speed will be no where near that of my beloved Mini.

When I DO get one, I will be writing a blog about it and detailing my experiences. I believe that will be a great way to help people see just how useful smaller cars can be, as well as environmentally friendly.

Tracy said...

BTW, I meant to wish you good luck with your business. If you are going to have success, I imagine California is a great place for it.

I'm thinking of seeing if I can work a deal with our local dealer :)