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  #1  
Old 05-29-2003, 01:06 AM
maybe some day... maybe some day... is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 154
maybe some day... is off the scale
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SW BEHIND THE WHEEL
Urban Auto Smackdown
The Hummer H2 vs Chief Seattle's car choice.

by Brian Miller


GM’s Hummer H2.
(Brian Miller)

It looks like an unfair contest by any measure. The Hummer H2 lumbers in at 6,400 pounds, is almost 16 feet long, and gets 10 miles per gallon in the city. The single-passenger Corbin Sparrow flutters down at 1,350 pounds, is 6 feet long, and gets 20-40 miles per electrical charge. But I was determined to pit the two vehicles against each other—one the SUV fetishist's irresponsible icon of patriotic virility, the other the green contingent's electric do-goodermobile. Forget about the ozone layer, drilling in ANWR, etc. Which is more fun to drive in the city?

I started with the H2 from GM, which is selling like hotcakes even without buyer incentives or zero-interest financing. (Base price: about $48,000.) My loaner rig came tricked out with safari lights, rhino guards, roof rack, and the like, which raises the tab to about $55,000. Its sage-green paint gave it a certain Baghdad-ready military look, but no .50-caliber machine gun is yet available as an add-on option.

Even parked at the curb, the H2 is an attention getter. Everyone in my office was clamoring to go along for a ride. It's got that slab-sided brutalist/functionalist aesthetic that is, ironically, reminiscent of the classic cheapo Citroên "deux chevaux" model. It's planar, not rounded; linear, not feminine. It's like they spray on testosterone with the paint. Unlike its predecessor, the original milspec Hummer (which costs twice as much), the H2 isn't actually that large—about comparable in size to a Chevy Tahoe or Lincoln Navigator. It's been downsized for the suburbs, so I was pleased to realize that'd I'd actually driven bigger vehicles—OK, moving vans and motor homes—though not through the streets of downtown Seattle.

Getting in is a challenge; you almost need a mini-tramp to reach the door jamb some 25 inches off the ground. Fortunately, there are lots of handles to help clamber inside. Once ensconced, the H2—which appears so large from the outside— turns out to be, well, cramped. I've driven Hondas with more interior space. The seating is scrunched upward to accommodate all that ground clearance and 4WD stuff. And the spare tire took up all the way-back area, meaning only five adults could sit semi-comfortably inside.

How does the H2 handle congested city streets, you ask? To my surprise, rather well. You've got to pay close attention to your lane and other vehicles—but is that such a bad thing? With its wheels on the corners of the vehicle, plus power steering, the turning radius and handling are pretty good. And with the (very noisy) oversized tires and ground clearance, any obstacle you can't finesse can simply be run over—curbs, traffic islands, bicycle messengers, whatever. Visibility, as you'd expect from a vehicle 77 inches tall, is excellent. I got a little paranoid that the cookie-sheet-sized side mirrors would scrape against street signs (and cyclists), but at least they can be electronically retracted when parked (very cool). Parallel parking? I didn't even try. My preferred method was the half-on/half-off approach to the sidewalk—which, again, worked better than expected.

SOLD IN KIRKLAND by SpitFire Motors (a franchisee of California-based Corbin Motors), the all-electric, zero-emission Sparrow is legally considered a motorcycle, though you don't need a motorcycle license to drive it. The Sparrow has three wheels, a roll cage, and no clutch. In fact, there's really no transmission at all in the thing—just 13 conventional auto batteries, a motor, and some simple but recognizable car-style controls. (Base price is $14,900; and, yes, cup holders are an option.) The single-seater looks like something out of The Jetsons, with styling equally indebted to the '60s Kustom Kar era and the inside of a lava lamp. It's got a trunk, big enough for a few bags of groceries, and that's also where you keep the extension cord that allows you to power up between trips. Most one-way commuters could manage with the Sparrow's 20- to 40-mile range per charge-up, which varies according to the load placed on the batteries—speed, hills, etc.

Sounds great, particularly when laid out in the reassuring British accent of SpitFire's founder, Alaister Dodwell (a refugee from the high-tech sector). He reels off the Sparrow's specs (110 voltage, 25 horsepower, etc.) but concedes its visceral appeal lies in its holier-than-thou zero-emission status: "There's lot of feel-good feeling in it . . . a certain smugness."

Driving the Sparrow takes some getting used to, and I didn't drive it enough to get used to it (much less to feel smug). For starters, like any electric vehicle, it's eerily quiet. The controls are simple enough: a forward/backward switch on the dash; two pedals on the floor—comparable to a golf cart, which is exactly what the Sparrow drives like. You tentatively push down on the acceleration pedal waiting for something to happen . . . waiting for something to happen . . . until LURCH! something does happen. The throttle is essentially binary, but at least the brakes work, so I didn't run into anything.

But, despite the Sparrow's purported 70 mph ability, there was no way in hell I was going to take it on the freeway—even with the regulatory perk of being able to drive it in the HOV lane. I've ridden motorcycles that feel safer than the Sparrow, which rattles in its fiberglass shell like a plastic Easter egg. If I ran into a Sparrow on my bicycle, I'm confident I'd come out the victor in the exchange. Around town? Fine, but not 405 or 520—where the Sparrow has been known to delay irate motorists. And do you really want to incur the wrath of a logging truck while in the Sparrow?

Regardless, SpitFire isn't accepting any new orders for the Sparrow at the moment, since Corbin just entered Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In the meantime, Dodwell is diversifying his dealership into different electric vehicles.

CONCLUSIONS? The Hummer and Sparrow are both cars for people who crave attention. They get you the same double-takes, stares, and wisecracks. ("Are you taking that thing home to Kent?" one guy sneered about the H2.) They're both extroverts, these vehicles—in-your-face in a way that's kind of refreshing in the bland Hondaland of the self-effacing Northwest. One screams, "politically correct," and the other puffs up like Tommy Franks (you could practically stick a cigar in its grille).

If you have money enough for gas and to park in surface lots (not parallel), the H2 gets my shamefaced endorsement for around-town driving. The Sparrow is a promising idea, but not one that I'd drive until it reached the size and solidity of, say, a Mini. Naturally, I'm opposed to the Hummer on environmental grounds, but here's my solution: Yank out the engine and the rear seats and fill the damn thing with batteries and an electric motor. You'd have the perfect Seattle Eco Vehicle (SEV): big, safe, and no fouling the air. I might even pitch GM on the idea—I can see the slogan now: "The all-new, zero-emission H3: Run over anything—cleanly."
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  #2  
Old 05-29-2003, 01:06 AM
maybe some day... maybe some day... is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 154
maybe some day... is off the scale
Default

SW BEHIND THE WHEEL
Urban Auto Smackdown
The Hummer H2 vs Chief Seattle's car choice.

by Brian Miller


GM’s Hummer H2.
(Brian Miller)

It looks like an unfair contest by any measure. The Hummer H2 lumbers in at 6,400 pounds, is almost 16 feet long, and gets 10 miles per gallon in the city. The single-passenger Corbin Sparrow flutters down at 1,350 pounds, is 6 feet long, and gets 20-40 miles per electrical charge. But I was determined to pit the two vehicles against each other—one the SUV fetishist's irresponsible icon of patriotic virility, the other the green contingent's electric do-goodermobile. Forget about the ozone layer, drilling in ANWR, etc. Which is more fun to drive in the city?

I started with the H2 from GM, which is selling like hotcakes even without buyer incentives or zero-interest financing. (Base price: about $48,000.) My loaner rig came tricked out with safari lights, rhino guards, roof rack, and the like, which raises the tab to about $55,000. Its sage-green paint gave it a certain Baghdad-ready military look, but no .50-caliber machine gun is yet available as an add-on option.

Even parked at the curb, the H2 is an attention getter. Everyone in my office was clamoring to go along for a ride. It's got that slab-sided brutalist/functionalist aesthetic that is, ironically, reminiscent of the classic cheapo Citroên "deux chevaux" model. It's planar, not rounded; linear, not feminine. It's like they spray on testosterone with the paint. Unlike its predecessor, the original milspec Hummer (which costs twice as much), the H2 isn't actually that large—about comparable in size to a Chevy Tahoe or Lincoln Navigator. It's been downsized for the suburbs, so I was pleased to realize that'd I'd actually driven bigger vehicles—OK, moving vans and motor homes—though not through the streets of downtown Seattle.

Getting in is a challenge; you almost need a mini-tramp to reach the door jamb some 25 inches off the ground. Fortunately, there are lots of handles to help clamber inside. Once ensconced, the H2—which appears so large from the outside— turns out to be, well, cramped. I've driven Hondas with more interior space. The seating is scrunched upward to accommodate all that ground clearance and 4WD stuff. And the spare tire took up all the way-back area, meaning only five adults could sit semi-comfortably inside.

How does the H2 handle congested city streets, you ask? To my surprise, rather well. You've got to pay close attention to your lane and other vehicles—but is that such a bad thing? With its wheels on the corners of the vehicle, plus power steering, the turning radius and handling are pretty good. And with the (very noisy) oversized tires and ground clearance, any obstacle you can't finesse can simply be run over—curbs, traffic islands, bicycle messengers, whatever. Visibility, as you'd expect from a vehicle 77 inches tall, is excellent. I got a little paranoid that the cookie-sheet-sized side mirrors would scrape against street signs (and cyclists), but at least they can be electronically retracted when parked (very cool). Parallel parking? I didn't even try. My preferred method was the half-on/half-off approach to the sidewalk—which, again, worked better than expected.

SOLD IN KIRKLAND by SpitFire Motors (a franchisee of California-based Corbin Motors), the all-electric, zero-emission Sparrow is legally considered a motorcycle, though you don't need a motorcycle license to drive it. The Sparrow has three wheels, a roll cage, and no clutch. In fact, there's really no transmission at all in the thing—just 13 conventional auto batteries, a motor, and some simple but recognizable car-style controls. (Base price is $14,900; and, yes, cup holders are an option.) The single-seater looks like something out of The Jetsons, with styling equally indebted to the '60s Kustom Kar era and the inside of a lava lamp. It's got a trunk, big enough for a few bags of groceries, and that's also where you keep the extension cord that allows you to power up between trips. Most one-way commuters could manage with the Sparrow's 20- to 40-mile range per charge-up, which varies according to the load placed on the batteries—speed, hills, etc.

Sounds great, particularly when laid out in the reassuring British accent of SpitFire's founder, Alaister Dodwell (a refugee from the high-tech sector). He reels off the Sparrow's specs (110 voltage, 25 horsepower, etc.) but concedes its visceral appeal lies in its holier-than-thou zero-emission status: "There's lot of feel-good feeling in it . . . a certain smugness."

Driving the Sparrow takes some getting used to, and I didn't drive it enough to get used to it (much less to feel smug). For starters, like any electric vehicle, it's eerily quiet. The controls are simple enough: a forward/backward switch on the dash; two pedals on the floor—comparable to a golf cart, which is exactly what the Sparrow drives like. You tentatively push down on the acceleration pedal waiting for something to happen . . . waiting for something to happen . . . until LURCH! something does happen. The throttle is essentially binary, but at least the brakes work, so I didn't run into anything.

But, despite the Sparrow's purported 70 mph ability, there was no way in hell I was going to take it on the freeway—even with the regulatory perk of being able to drive it in the HOV lane. I've ridden motorcycles that feel safer than the Sparrow, which rattles in its fiberglass shell like a plastic Easter egg. If I ran into a Sparrow on my bicycle, I'm confident I'd come out the victor in the exchange. Around town? Fine, but not 405 or 520—where the Sparrow has been known to delay irate motorists. And do you really want to incur the wrath of a logging truck while in the Sparrow?

Regardless, SpitFire isn't accepting any new orders for the Sparrow at the moment, since Corbin just entered Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In the meantime, Dodwell is diversifying his dealership into different electric vehicles.

CONCLUSIONS? The Hummer and Sparrow are both cars for people who crave attention. They get you the same double-takes, stares, and wisecracks. ("Are you taking that thing home to Kent?" one guy sneered about the H2.) They're both extroverts, these vehicles—in-your-face in a way that's kind of refreshing in the bland Hondaland of the self-effacing Northwest. One screams, "politically correct," and the other puffs up like Tommy Franks (you could practically stick a cigar in its grille).

If you have money enough for gas and to park in surface lots (not parallel), the H2 gets my shamefaced endorsement for around-town driving. The Sparrow is a promising idea, but not one that I'd drive until it reached the size and solidity of, say, a Mini. Naturally, I'm opposed to the Hummer on environmental grounds, but here's my solution: Yank out the engine and the rear seats and fill the damn thing with batteries and an electric motor. You'd have the perfect Seattle Eco Vehicle (SEV): big, safe, and no fouling the air. I might even pitch GM on the idea—I can see the slogan now: "The all-new, zero-emission H3: Run over anything—cleanly."
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  #3  
Old 05-29-2003, 12:02 PM
Loggie Loggie is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Posts: 13
Loggie is off the scale
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As a two car family i believe I have the best of both worlds. I love to 4-whell on the back roads of Arizona and therefore have purchased the H2 for that purpase. I don't just mean casual four whelling but like the challenge of putting the H2 to the test. I know its a lot of money to spend on a vehicle that ends up with lots of Desert Pin Stripes and a few heavy scratches which only a new paint job will fix.

The second vehicle is a VW Jetta Deisel which gets 45mpg when I last checked. There is no need to purchase Petro Deisel if your looking to help the OZone. There is currently a product out called Bio-Deisel which comes from soybeans. You can buy it in blends B-20, B30, ect. B-20 means 80% Petro Deisel usually #2 Deisel and 20% soybean. Did I forget to say you can also buy it 100% soybean and the VW runs great with that blend.
The fuel is sold in Phoenix at a few stations which I can only hope for more to carry in the future. The price is a little high, $2.50 per gal, but when you get 45mpg its not to really that much. It equates to 22mpg instead. It is an excellant product which we use on all our fleet Deisel vehicles.
So if your interested in helping the environment buy a second car that burns Deisel and start using Bio-Deisel as an alternative fuel. Alternative fuels qualify for HOV lanes, which the state will have no alternative but to let those who use Bio-Deisel use the lane as well.
Loggie
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  #4  
Old 05-29-2003, 10:33 PM
NCHummerman NCHummerman is offline
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Northern California, USA
Posts: 159
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I believe that the Sparrow has been discontinued ....

Michael
---
Pewter Hummer H2
Northern California

www.zootsuitstore.com
------------------------------------
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Michael
---
Pewter Hummer H2
Northern California

www.zootsuitstore.com
------------------------------------
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