One of the most common complaints about economy cars is that they are small and cramped and have bad ground clearance. Many prefer the comfort and capability of SUVs.
The problem is, of course, SUVs come at a huge fuel economy penalty, and for most drivers on the road, only 1 of the 5-7 seats are occupied. A non hybrid economy car today gets 40 mpg on the highway, but your typical SUV only gets 25. At 12000 miles/year, you’re buying 180 more gallons of gas per year. Ok, even if gas were $4 that wouldn’t be too terrible a premium, but wouldn’t you rather pocket the extra $360-720 per year and spend it on snacky cakes or strippers? If not, at least do it for the air quality.
While I would prefer most people just drive small economy cars, preferably enclosed scooters, I understand that many people are unwilling to compromise, so I am suggesting an alternative: what if you give up the two seats, and in return you get a full fledged SUV that gets fuel economy comparable to economy cars, but with more room per occupant and the comfort of an SUV?
The question I have is, would the average American buyer give up two seats if they could get a cheap, comfortable, spacious fighter jet cockpit, 40 mpg SUV? I mean we know that most cars on American roads are single occupant. We know that people care about fuel costs and price of cars. And this solution also solves the utility argument often made against the use of economy cars in winter conditions.
Of course, people whose focus is fuel economy would look at the two choices, see that fuel economy is the same, and ask: what’s the point? The environment wouldn’t benefit from unchanged fuel economy, would it? Why don’t you get people to drive priuses, to support Elio Motors, to buy electric cars?
But think about it: Tesla’s strategy for electric car adoption was to create a premium, no-compromises experience for its buyers with a sleek, luxurious, lovable 5-7 seater that has 200 miles of range, kickass acceleration and all wheel drive, because it knows that this way is the only way to solidify the proposition of electric cars is to make it not just a good idea, but actually desirable.
Toyota took the opposite approach with the prius, creating a cheapish utilitarian slab that I like very much, but which most people view as a household appliance, a car which prioritized emissions and fuel economy over most everything, the type of car which people of any level of affluence would not get unless they were absolutely determined to make a statement.
The purpose of my suggestion is to usher in a new era of single-occupant vehicles, and what better type of car to do so that a big, safe, versatile SUV? Virtually none of the arguments against a car like the Elio would work on a car like this: cramped? no. 3 wheeler? no, such a design would have 4 wheels. Unsafe in a crash? no, this design can accomodate big fat crumple zones on the sides. Low visibility? no, occupants would sit high above the peasants. Can’t handle snow? This thing has more ground clearance, fit it with AWD and snow tires and off you go. Inefficient? 40 mpg bitch!
Seeing as how even I want an SUV for its comfort and versatility, if a car like this were to go on sale, it would poach the absolutely massive SUV market, the market of people who perhaps are too poor to buy a Model X, a market of people who “need” an SUV and otherwise would be driving 20mpg guzzlers with nobody and no cargo in the car. When the SUV crowd begins accepting such a design, then it would solidify the fact that yes, people do want to buy cars that aren’t absolute buses. When SUV buyers start getting single occupant vehicles, there would be no turning back and automakers would have to explore single seater vehicles, cars would in general become more affordable which is good for everybody in this arguably increasingly shitty economy, and eventually I would get my hybrid 2 seater enclosed econobox.