Gone are the days when I could sneak out of the house to get a few groceries without even brushing my hair. Now I have to look decent because I know people will stare, smile, and wave at me the whole way. Ever since we bought an electric car, I feel like I'm a float in a parade wherever I go.
When we first got it, I felt a little silly driving this contraption that looks like a cross between a golf cart and a mini van. But we have been overwhelmed by the amount of curiosity and enthusiasm people all over Saint Paul have expressed about our little white car. Curious folks gather around it in parking lots and snap photos with their cell phones. At stoplights, people roll down their windows to ask questions. Kids point and laugh.
We've had the car for about a year, and it's given us a whole new perspective on Saint Paul. Since it's classified as a "neighborhood electric vehicle," we can only drive on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less. So we've found that we can get just about everywhere we would normally go without ever hopping on the freeway. And, since our car is very quiet and has excellent visibility (when the weather is warm we can take the doors off so the sides are open), we see a lot more of places we would normally just whiz by.
Here are a few of our favorite questions people have asked about our car:
Q: What kind of gas mileage does that thing get?
A: It's electric. We just plug it in when we're not using it. It doesn't need gas, oil changes, new spark plugs, antifreeze or radiator fluid, muffler repairs, or catalytic converters (there is no exhaust). It took my husband 20 minutes to do an engine swap.
Q: Is that one of those cars from India?
A: The Discovery Channel must have done a special on cars in India, because we get this question a lot. Actually, our car was manufactured in North Dakota, and we bought it on eBay.
Q: Are those sonar panels? (Yes, he said "sonar," not "solar.")
A: No, those polka-dot decals are just for decoration.
Q: Does that thing run on toilet paper?
A: This question really confused me until I realized that I had put a few large bags of toilet paper rolls in the back seat on my way home from the grocery store.
Q: Do you want to trade?
A: A bus driver shouted this question to me at a stoplight, and the owner of a Hummer I parked next to in a lot was also interested in a trade. I turned them both down.
Q: Can I have a ride?
A: We have been surprised by how often we get this question. One man insisted we take his cab fare after we dropped him off at the store. When we were leaving the Taste of Minnesota, a very tired-looking woman just jumped right in the back seat without even asking. She got off at the lot where her car was parked. So, unless we're in a big hurry, the answer is "sure."
Q: Have you seen the movie Who Killed the Electric Car?
A: Yes, loved it. Based on the huge amount of interest people have shown in our electric car, it makes no sense to me why they aren't being mass-produced. I think an electric car dealership in Saint Paul would do very well.