I am Jack's Smirking Revenge

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Little Tiny Cars

In Japan there is a class of vehicle called 'kei'- I don't think it has any relation to the Chrysler 'K' cars...

The Kei cars are a special, smaller, lighter, less expensive (to buy and also to license) kind of car. The specifications go something like this- no larger than a certain dimension, no heavier than a certain weight, and an engine no larger than a certain size- which seems to be about 660cc, or the same as a medium motorcycle.

At some point in the last few years sea-freight contianers of them began arriving here for sale.

For sale as off-road and non-street vehicles.


So, it turns out there are several obstacles between these cars and 'legal' streetworthiness here in the states.

1. 'safety' issues. apparently they are little more than tin cans with an engine. I can abide that they do not meet our 'car' safety requirements, but I think then they should be allowable as motorcycles. After all, if a motorcycle is street legal and has NO safety features, then these little cars should fall into that class.

2. emissions issues. I can't really address this, but I must say, if I can legally buy a vehicle which gets less than 5 MPG, then a tiny car which gets 50 but runs a little less clean still wins out in the long run emissions-wise. And after all, if it's a motorcycle, it's free from emissions, as there's no way to test them or regulate them.

3. some nonsense about title/paperwork. I guess the VIN is only 12 or so digits, where it needs to bew 15 or something. I am pretty sure there is a way around that, too.

Really, the only thing preventing these cars from being on the streets is the fear that they will actually get good mileage.

Again, if I can legally buy a 5MPG Hummer or Ferarri, then I think I should be able to buy a 55MPG tin can.

For a good overview of Kei cars, see also:



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