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Archive for Sunday, August 23, 2009

Teener generates savings, interest

Couple try out tiny electric car

Cordelia Brown cleans up a 2004 Teener, one of 250 that were built in Italy. She and her husband, Robert, recently purchased the small neighborhood electric vehicle for $2,900. Only 26 of the tiny cars are known to be in the United States.

Cordelia Brown cleans up a 2004 Teener, one of 250 that were built in Italy. She and her husband, Robert, recently purchased the small neighborhood electric vehicle for $2,900. Only 26 of the tiny cars are known to be in the United States.

August 23, 2009

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'Teener' car's savings intrigue Lawrence couple

A Lawrence couple is testing out an extremely energy efficient electric car. Enlarge video

Cordelia Brown backs out of her home in west Lawrence headed out in one of 26 Teeners in the U.S.

Cordelia Brown backs out of her home in west Lawrence headed out in one of 26 Teeners in the U.S.

The Teener’s controls are close at hand on the steering wheel. The vehicle seats two, has little storage space and must stick to roads with speed limits no higher than 35 mph.

The Teener’s controls are close at hand on the steering wheel. The vehicle seats two, has little storage space and must stick to roads with speed limits no higher than 35 mph.

Sure, their glorified golf cart can barely speed down Lawrence streets at 25 mph, seats only two comfortably and can hardly accommodate a container of tomatoes in its violin-sized trunk.

Then again, it costs a mere quarter to fill up.

“It’s pretty inexpensive,” said Bob Brown, new, proud owner of a Teener neighborhood electric vehicle. “Not quite as good as a bicycle, but it’s pretty good.”

The Teener — one of 26 known to be in the United States and among only 250 ever made by its now-bankrupt Italian manufacturer — is turning heads in Lawrence as it motors silently down side streets on trips to Dillons, church and the occasional visit to the Lawrence Farmers’ Market.

The 8-foot-long Teener is what’s known as a neighborhood electric vehicle, running on small wheels and staying limited to roads where speed limits don’t exceed 35 mph.

Such roadsters aren’t a threat to replace the internal combustion engine or any of the growing number of hybrids hitting the streets these days, said Larry Tuttle, a leader with the Electric Auto Association.

But the thinking behind the powerful technology — simple engines, relatively few moving parts, exceedingly low operating costs — are gaining popularity as the country aims to wean its reliance on fossil fuels and look forward to pollution-free travel.

All while saving plenty of green, aka dollars.

“There’s not enough idealists who want to save the planet who want to sacrifice the common features you find in cars, like being able to jump in your car and drive to California,” Tuttle said, at home in Ann Arbor, Mich. “I don’t think there are enough idealists out there willing to do that.”

Financial conservation

But as technology advances, performance improves and people start saving money — real money — on fuel and maintenance costs, he said, the acceptance rate will accelerate.

“After a few years of people buying these, you’ll find out your neighbor is saving $1,500, $1,800 a year,” he said. “It’s not going to be widely accepted until it’s demonstrated that you’re saving money.”

That’s part of what Brown and his wife, Cordelia, are trying to do.

They’ve had their green Teener for a few weeks now, having bought the vehicle from a man who lives at Lake Quivira. So far they’ve charged it up once — overnight, just as the manual says — and have taken to cruising the streets of Lawrence, gauging performance.

By Cordelia’s calculations, the Teener costs about 2 cents per mile to operate — less than a quarter to power up for more than 80 miles of travel on a single overnight charge.

“I figured it out mathematically, and it gets about 280 miles per gallon, if you compare it to gasoline,” she said. “So that’s not too bad.”

Power for the future

Bruce Wood, president and CEO of ePower Synergies Inc., said the Teener was advanced among neighborhood electric vehicles, capable of reaching speeds of up to 45 mph in Europe. He bought the rights to manufacture the vehicles in the United States, but the market, at least so far, hasn’t materialized.

He’s hoping the federal government will permit such vehicles to speed up to 35 mph, to match the speed limit generally posted on neighborhood streets.

“That would make them a lot more comfortable,” Wood said.

Chris Depcik, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Kansas University, said electric vehicles likely would continue to rise in popularity if, as expected, technology advances and prices decline. But he doesn’t expect them to displace traditional internal combustion engines or hybrid technology.

“There’s going to be a vehicle for everyone, depending on what you want,” said Depcik, who has worked with auto companies and now leads KU engineering students on their EcoHawks project, building a hybrid vehicle. “My commute to work is five miles. It makes complete sense for me to get an electric vehicle. For someone who commutes to Kansas City and back, it’s possibly not.

“To say that this is the power plant of the future is not the way to go — unless something wins out, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.”

So, for now, the Browns are experimenting. They picked up the vehicle for $2,900, and are enjoying the surprised, inquisitive and otherwise inspired looks their Teener is generating once they back it out of the garage.

It’s functional, Cordelia Brown says. And environmentally friendly. And — perhaps most of all — it’s fun, an assertion confirmed last week as she was tooling across Massachusetts Street.

“This SUV of young college men drove by, and they were leaning out the window and saying, ‘RIGHT ON!’” she said, with a laugh. “Only in Lawrence, I guess. … Green is good.”

Comments

billbodiggens 4 years, 7 months ago

Was talking to a fellow last week who owned a Globel Electric Motor Vehicle (GEM car) which is another yet American made low speed neighborhood electric vehicle. He has nearly 8,000 miles on his car without an accident. No mention of any death trap there. The cars do not have enough speed or range to get into to much trouble. Other vehicles can be a hazard when driven by idiots, but these electric cars have a relative good profile that is easy to see. Nothing like a motorcycle.

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BEWOOD 4 years, 7 months ago

Interesting comments. The sfatey of these vehicles is great. In the 11 years since the Federal governemnt enacted the Low Speed Vehicle law, there have been no traffic fatalities invoving NEVs. The primary reasons: They are restricted to streets with spped limits of 30 to 35 depending on the state, most, like the Teener are designed with a sftey cge around the passenger compartment, and basic physics says a samall light vehicle hit by a big heavy vehicle will "bounce" out of the way.

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lounger 4 years, 7 months ago

This is perfect! GOod for you Two!! I would love to have one...

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Soap 4 years, 7 months ago

totally thot this article was about sumthin else..

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Dan Eyler 4 years, 7 months ago

We allow lots of vehicles on the road. As long as it sits up high enough that others can see it I am fine with it. To reduce oil use we need to allow these types of personal transport vehicles. Safety should be no more an issue than a motorcycle. Weather will be an issue. Rain and snow will create limitations. A small vehicle that can be purchased for $3000.00 or less is good for a lot of people. But a backup car will be necessary for most.

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cbbrown 4 years, 7 months ago

Hey, Reticent_Irrev: Yes, it actually can make it up the 11th street hill! A bit slowly, but yes!

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RETICENT_IRREVERENT 4 years, 7 months ago

cbbrown, do you commute with the Teener to Broadcasting Hall? Can it make it up 11th St. from the east?

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LA_Ex 4 years, 7 months ago

Man, they way everyone is worried about crashes around here....I need to avoid driving in Lawrence. If you practice good defensive driving skills, your chances of being in a crash are pretty slim.

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beatrice 4 years, 8 months ago

While I might entertain the idea of an electric vehicle some day, I wouldn't want one that could get knocked over by an errant Segway.

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Liberty_One 4 years, 8 months ago

Actually the idea that big heavy cars are safer is a myth. While they do better in crashes, they get into crashes more often and at higher speeds. http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Drive-What-Says-About/dp/0307277194/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251049530&sr=8-1

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Benjamin Roberts 4 years, 8 months ago

This quote, although meant as a statement about its efficiency, really says it all: "...Not quite as good as a bicycle..."

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cms 4 years, 8 months ago

A quick visit to the internet confirmed my understanding that safety ratings are based upon a crash with a vehicle of similar weight. As long as we have streets full of semi-trucks, large pickups and Hummers, I'll keep my safe heavy car. As far as driving this vehicle in Lawrence I see a long line of cars behind it with car one inches off the bumper until the opportunity to pass presents itself.

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guantanamotony 4 years, 8 months ago

You're rediculous and hellarious! Seriously, where I'm from, teener means something completely defferent.

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Stuart Evans 4 years, 8 months ago

RoeDapple (Anonymous) says… First time one gets 't-boned' at a busy intersection the resulting photo's will tell the story of what a bad idea these little death traps are


depending on the size of vehicle that hits this thing. If a big truck hit it, it could be days before the driver comes around to wash the rest of the bugs out of the grill.

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lmb 4 years, 8 months ago

Didn't you even read the article?! The vehicle is called a Teener. No where does it say it is for a teenAGer.

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AreYouPeopleInsane 4 years, 8 months ago

My name says it all...... 25 MILES PER HOUR?? Stays on 35 mph streets??? WHAT THE F??? I would NEVER put my kid on the streets of Pukeville in a hunk of crap like this... This has got to be the most rediculous story ever....

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deskboy04 4 years, 8 months ago

It probably isn't any more dangerous than a motorcycle.

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Bunny_Hotcakes 4 years, 8 months ago

If the roads were dominated by these rollerskates the way they are in Europe, I'd be less afraid to drive one. I admire the Browns for being the change they wish to see in the world, though.

FWIW, the Smart Fortwo's safety ratings are not as bad as you might think.

NHSTA (US ratings): http://www.carsdirect.com/smart/fortwo/safety

Euro NCAP ratings: http://www.motorauthority.com/blog/1026047_smart-fortwo-supermini-scores-4-star-rating-in-euro-ncap-crash-test

I can't seem to lay my hands on safety ratings for the Teener. It's cute, but it doesn't look all that safe.

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Marlboro_Man2 4 years, 8 months ago

who cares what happens to the person driving it, I am more concerned for the people that are involved in accidents because of that thing. That thing has no business being on the streets. Very, very dangerous for everyone. It would be like someone riding a moped down the Interstate at 40 MPH.

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RoeDapple 4 years, 8 months ago

First time one gets 't-boned' at a busy intersection the resulting photo's will tell the story of what a bad idea these little death traps are

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KS 4 years, 8 months ago

Ditto on the death trap.

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Jason Bailey 4 years, 8 months ago

If I were buying a car for my teenager, first thing on the list is the safety rating and survivability of the car in a variety of collisions. Statistics show that the highest incidence of crashes occurs in this age group due to inexperience.

I certainly hope the mother of the teenager doesn't have an officer show up some evening at her doorstep to tell her that her child was killed when she was broadsided by a speeding bicycle.

Seriously, this thing may be a green machine but it's a death trap.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

These are the vehicles for around town commutes as in town driving traditionally produces the heaviest amounts of pollution.

Walking,jogging,skates,skate boards and bicycling are the only cleaner way to go. With most trips being 3-5 miles these types of travel are on not only doable but far healthier.

This Teener looks a lot like the Smart car.

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LogicMan 4 years, 8 months ago

Is it street-legal? Meaning does it have state issued license plates, registration/taxes, and is fully insured for liability? Doesn't look as though it would do well in a crash, or if it hit a deep pothole. But a more substantial version is likely our future for short commute cars.

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