Published on September 10th, 2014 | by Stephen Grinwis


Why I Sold My Camaro, & Bought An Electric Car

September 10th, 2014 by  

The Honeymoon

I’m not going to lie. I loved my Camaro at first. It was fast. It was loud. It was beautiful. It was the embodiment of the North American automotive enthusiast’s dreams. I’d always wanted a muscle car from the time I was little. I’d been sold a dream come true, and for a while, all was well.

Then reality started to set in. You see, on a regular public road, I could wind out the Camaro in exactly one situation: Highway ramps. On a ramp, you could floor it, and rocket onto the highway, having reached cruising speed eons before you had to merge. Why not from a stop light you ask? People don’t realize this, but it’s really not realistic to floor it off of stop lights. Once you’re used to it, all that’s really going through your head is clutch wear, syncro wear (a piece of a manual transmission), the gallon of fuel you just burned, the 1000 km of tire life you just took off your set of $3,000 max-performance summer tires, and the very real chance that there’s an undercover a row back.

The Final Straw

I ran out of money one month in June. I generally budget pretty well, so I did what any nerd would do. I did a postmortem on my finances. What had gone so horribly awry?

As I detailed my finances, I discovered the horrible truth: I’d managed to literally burn through $550 in gas that month. I was only supposed to be going through $150. This was appalling to me. It just didn’t seem worth it. So I tried to figure out how often I got to wring out my muscle car, to see if it was worth it to me. I started journaling my opportunities to unleash the beast. Yes, I know, how nerdy that makes me sound. Trust me, you don’t know the half of it.

The answer? About twice a week. Despite taking the highway to work every single day, twice a day, when I was going onto the highway, or coming off, there was inevitably someone in front of me, preventing me from playing with my magnificent toy. Enough was enough. It was time to look elsewhere. I had always planned on moving to an electric car, but every time I’d run the numbers, I’d found them just a bit too expensive.

The Electric Car

smart and camaro

Image Credit: Stephen Grinwis

I was shocked when I saw the diminutive Smart in sleek Eco-green paint. It was electric. I’d previously owned a diesel Smart, and had loved the car. This new version was faster, more powerful, smoother, quieter, and even more frugal to operate than its smelly long-chain hydrocarbon-powered ancestor. I took it for a test drive. It was magnificent. It was inexpensive. It was perfect. So I bought it. And I don’t regret that decision. Here’s why:

It’s More Fun

That’s right. Coming from someone who owned a muscle car, my little electric Smart is more fun to drive. Why is that? Remember earlier, I was complaining about all the reasons why you didn’t want to floor your muscle car off a light? The cost, the wear to transmission components, the fuel burned, and the cops? None of that applies to electric cars. There’s no complicated transmission, no syncros, and no clutch. Your fuel is so cheap you can’t bring yourself to care about its cost, and if you floor it off a light, there’s no telltale engine roar to alert the police of your misdeeds. The result? You can floor this thing off every light. My car has an eco-meter, to let you know how economically you’re driving the car. It’s designed so the average drive will score 50%, and it tries to coach you towards 100%. I have drives where the eco meter is solidly sub-20%, and I’m grinning ear to ear.

It Doesn’t Eat at My Conscience

When I drove the Camaro, it always bothered me that I was ripping through all this fuel, with no further justification than that I enjoyed it. The Smart on the other hand is so eco-friendly it spends its free time hugging trees for you. That may have different value to different folks, so I can only tell you, it has value to me.

It’s More Economical

In addition to it’s relatively low purchase price, thanks to lucrative government subsidies in my area, it costs me almost nothing to drive. It’s about $1.02 to drive to work and back. Assuming there are 20 work days in the average month, my ‘fuel bill’ is coming in at around $20. Compare that to the $550 I burned through earlier. In addition, I had to take my car in for its regular yearly maintenance last week. 1 hour of labor later, they had run a computer diagnostic, checked the battery, topped up the washer fluid, and sent me on my way. Maintenance on this thing is cheap.

It Attracts More Attention

I left this one to last, because it’s the most surprising to me. Every muscle car owner secretly believes that the car will attract attention to them. They’re designed to be big, loud, bright, and gorgeous. No one is going to argue that muscle cars are subtle! Reality doesn’t live up to the advertising though. During the entire time I owned the Camaro, not a single person came up to talk to me about the car, not a single person stopped me at a gas station, or rolled down a window at a light. The Smart on the other hand gets loads of attention. The second day after I took it home, I got stopped at a local restaurant for someone to ask me if it was a hybrid. I get people rolling down windows to ask me if it’s 100% electric, or to comment on how quickly I pulled away at the last light. I recently did a road trip, and stopped at a charging station on the side of the road. I had people pulling off the highway to come talk to me! This was the attention that I was supposed to get from the muscle car, coming instead in the form of the eco-curious asking about my little Smart.



The Conclusion

I thought that I’d dislike the perceived step down to a diminutive electric car. My friends told me I’d regret it, and that I’d miss the Camaro. The reality is that the fun, the cost, and the attention have made the car a joy to own. I know my experience is not unique, because I hear the same thing from other electric car owners on a regular basis. So take it from a reformed gear head: Don’t be scared of electric cars. Go give one a chance. I promise you, you won’t regret it.

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About the Author

is an EV evangelist, and general automotive enthusiast. His engineering background means he tends to nerd out a bit on the numbers. He focuses primarily on battery technology, wind power, and electric vehicles. If you can't find him running the numbers, or writing, you might find him lifting weights somewhere!

  • Mike

    I’ve never seen anyone look twice at an electric car or a hybrid. On the other hand I have a 3rd gen Camaro all tricked out and I’ve been parked next to brand new porches and Camaro’s and people still would come up to me and ignore the other cars. I think the reason why is these cars are common, where as the 3rd gen Camaro where I live is starting to become more rare. Also anyone can buy a fast car off a show room floor, not everyone can build one, so respect is given almost automatically. Even women who know nothing about cars can tell this isn’t a car that comes this way. Why did you buy a Camaro if you couldn’t afford the gas? I realize it’s direct injected and gets good highway mileage, but as soon as you get on it the mileage plummets, that’s just common sense. As for your conscience, meh… Even the temperatures on the U.N.’s climate change models from the 90’s haven’t reached their 95% confidence intervals, so I’m not sure what you’re bent out of shape over. Not everyone is in the financial position to purchase expensive inefficient toys propped up by government subsidies and fuel standards. Your moral convictions are hurting poor people who are forced to buy more expensive, more fuel efficient cars because of government fuel standards. Why do you think despite technological innovations in manufacturing that the price of cars keeps going up, where industries like consumer electronics the prices keep going down and the quality keeps going up. Also cars have been getting progressively lighter in order to comply with fuel standards, which makes them less safe; so you’re no longer allowed to choose safety over fuel efficiency. We know how progressives love choices….lol. Despite the car starting at $12,500, if it wasn’t for government fuel standards poor people would be able to drive gas guzzlers way cheaper than a smart car is currently. Instead they have to spend 30k-50k on a new car that complies with the government fuel standards, or buy used.

  • Nice

    I can see your point in economic and attention, but saying your car went fast at the next like isn’t accurate. what they mean is “fast for an electric car” All other points aside, you know the camaro “when faster” than your current car.

  • ian

    Not available in Oz…:(

  • Chaz


  • Chaz

    SO TRUE!!! I get people at the light, the mall, restaurants, asking about my Chevy volt! ! I was must sitting in my car waiting for my wife to come out the grocery store, this woman walks up to my car an waits for me to drop the window so she could ask about my Volt, lol
    A buddy of mine flew to Germany to watch Porsche make his sub but no one has gives him the attention I get or the question’s I get. IT’S SO FREAKING COOL!!! I LoVE IT!!
    Next car I’m getting. ..TESLA MODEL X!!

  • Tesla Fan

    11,320 miles on my matte grey Smart ED. 0-60 in 7.8 seconds, love this damn car, no problems with it, flawless. It leaves my hands shaking after i drive it, such an incredibly fun car, very quick and is a great looking little car with style, very comfortable as well.

    And it has way more space than i need. I get 70-80 miles per charge and charge it solely off solar panels. It is incredibly affordable and just cant go wrong with leasing this little rocket.

    WARNING: It is extremely addictive to drive. You will be driving this car more than you have to so i’d suggest getting more miles since i went over 10k for the first year. Im telling you guys this smart is one of the most fun cars you can drive, no joke, dont underestimate a smart car, because it will leave you off the line, cant tell how many cars i’ve embarrassed.

  • jlgh

    I agree. I own a GT40 replica I built myself powered by a Ford 302. I’d rather drive my Ampera: less power but so much more usable. You can drive like a hooligan at every stop light and no one notices except the driver of the ICE car you left for dead

  • Great article. Thanks Stephen. 🙂

  • Some EV drivers have printed leaf-lets 😉 for giveaway to all those people that asking EV related questions (only when they are on a hurry).
    Maybe you should print out this article 😉

  • Highway69

    I love the rumble of my gas combustion car and motorcycle. That doesn’t mean I can’t or don’t appreciate the merits of electric cars – I would even own one if the situation presented itself. I have solar on my house, which means charging the vehicle would be cost effective as well.

    I found the author’s comment that “During the entire time I owned the Camaro, not a single person came up to talk to me about the car, not a single person stopped me at a gas station, or rolled down a window at a light”, curious. There was no mention of the year of the Camaro, but I submit that a possible reason could be the year. Traditionally, “muscle cars” were from the era of the 60s up to and including 1972. Furthermore, “classic” cars have also been referred to as cars from that era, although now a 25 year standard is applied to cars as “classic”.

    I love Camaros too, but I probably would not get excited if wasn’t from the 1st or second generation.

    • Steve Grinwis

      I loved the way my Camaro sounded. I had a custom aftermarket exhaust on it. Not a cheap kit either, but a $1000 finely tuned system. It sounded amazing. So amazing, that when I took the mufflers off to sell it, the drive back to the dealership was anti-climatic.

      However, I love the way my electric cars sounds now too. It has a futuristic whir that is just addicting.

      My car was a 5th Gen Camaro. It is in fact the black Camaro pictured in the article. That is my former Camaro, parked beside my green Smart.

      And yes, no attention at all. Just nothing. I don’t know if it’s because people assume you’re a jerk because you’re driving a Camaro or what?

      I don’t want to get into a religious war about what comprises a Muscle car, but, whatever you call it, a Camaro isn’t a thing of subtlety.

      • Bob_Wallace

        If we’d had the internet in 1910 we could probably find someone waxing nostalgic about the clip-clop of their horse’s hooves.

        • CaptD

          Probably made by those that got paid to clean up after them…

      • Highway69

        Hi Steve!
        Thanks for the reply! I didn’t realize that photo was actually yours! That IS a cool looking car. If I were in the market for a new (gas combustion:) car, the Camaro or Challenger would probably be on the short list.
        I really think the age/era of your Camaro had more to do with the lack of reactions you expected. I can’t tell you how many times I am given a thumbs up, or asked about my car. Granted my car is not subtle either, but the “muscle car” era evokes pleasant memories (like “classic” rock), from folks old enough to remember.

        • Steve Grinwis

          Quite possibly! But I couldn’t bear to drive a 69 to work in the winter… To pretty of a car. For my daily driver, I’ll stick to the Smart.

          • Highway69

            On a similar note, when Harley-Davidson began producing the retro-looking bikes with the then new “Evolution” engine, many people would also ask me what year mine was, and begin to tell me stories of theirs (just like with cars and my 69). Today they’re everywhere, and the reaction is similar to you and your Camaro.
            Bringing this discussion back to the electric vehicles… I am seriously contemplating purchasing a new electric Harley-Davidson when they become available.

          • Steve Grinwis

            That’d be cool! Are there plans to build such a beast?

          • Highway69

            Yes! There are prototypes already out, with some reports I’ve read stating that some dealers will let you test them.

          • Steve Grinwis

            That’s genuinely cool!

          • PaulScott58

            Yes, Harley built 16 of them I heard. They can hit 60 in under 4 seconds. That’s pretty decent.

            I got into electric bikes after driving an EV for 8 years. I got a Vectrix first. It was highway capable and had great acceleration, maybe 8 seconds to 60. Once Zero came out with their 2012 S, I moved to that. It was truly quick, dropping the 0-60 to about 7 seconds. Then, the 2013 S arrived, and after test riding it, I bought it. About $15K as I recall. It had twice the power of the 2012 and a really cool look. The 0-60 dropped to a scary-to-me 4.8! It took me a while (I’m 61) to get used to that, but I gradually opened it up at stop lights until I could pop it open. I could beat most, but not all cars.

            Sorry this is so long, but it’s a good story.

            Then I got an email from Harlan Flagg, owner of Hollywood Electrics, that they could upgrade my “controller” taking it from 420 amps to 660! If you know electricity, that’s a lot. It’s akin to boring out the cylindars on a 427 big block, I guess. Well, I jumped on it and, man, am I happy. I had purchased the smaller 8.5 kWh battery back because it’s 60-100 mile range was perfect for my commute. It was also cheaper and, more importantly, it was lighter by around 50 lbs. The guys at the shop all took turns riding it and said my bike was probably the quickest Zero anywhere. All the other bikes either came with the upgrade, or had their controllers upgraded. But all of them had the heavier 11.4 kWh pack.

            My bike can now hit 60 mph in 3 seconds flat! It’s incredible. I raced a 1,000 cc Suzuki three times at successive lights and took him easily each time. The ability to twist the throttle instantly, and have that motion replicated in the movement of the bike at blazing speeds is quite the thrill. No noise, no crap coming out of a loud, obnoxious tailpipe. Just instant torque by the boatload.

            Here in CA, lane splitting is legal. A small, 350 lb bike with great handling and insane acceleration makes this bike the bet commuter in the world.

          • CaptD

            I salute your shift to more amps and less battery weight, since if you can get there and back the rest is wasted baggage and those of us over 50 all know that lighter is far better, especially when splitting.

          • Holy shit. 3 seconds…

  • Robert Pollock

    My story is almost the same, although only one or two people have commented on my Spark EV. It’s fast, very fast. I loved my Tacoma, living here in the desert it was the perfect vehicle, so I thought. Now I don’t care about fuel either, I do feel better about how I’m personally affecting the planet, and I like to park at our gym/country club next to the Jags, Mercs and occasional Maserati. I make them look dated. Every month I get a diagnostic email saying everything is ok. I had some air pressure problems with one tire for a while, but the kit that comes with the car squirted something in there, and no problems since. I’m told that when 10,000 rolls around, (about another year for us) I’ll have to change the ‘cabin air-filter’. It’s on my to do list now.

  • Your Serious?

    turn in your man card. lol nice v6 smh

    • Steve Grinwis

      *You’re Serious

  • Swoosh drive

    I have a Volt. The only time I rethink whether it is a good idea to come off the stop to merge ahead of everyone is if the car next to me is a Leaf, Smart EV, Tesla, etc. Then, I think I might have to let them go. See a Camaro, Charger, or Mustang?Smoke em.

    • Haha, nice 😀

    • CaptD

      Back in the day, the “real” traffic drag race started at the cross walk line and ended at the cross walk line on the other side of the intersection, thus putting those driving imports with tiny engines measured in cc’s equal footing, if not an advantage over those driving Detroit Iron with massive cubic inches.

      This is why I’d love to see a early Mini Cooper or better yet a Lotus Super 7 marketed today only with an electric motor, creating a Stealth Street Machine that could take on all WannaBee’s.

  • GCO

    Congrats for having taken that leap of faith, and thanks a lot for sharing your experience. Great read!

    I had the same experience. When I bought a Leaf in 2012, my colleagues told me I’d miss switching gears (some knew I had never and would never own an automatic); I must admit that I was myself a little anxious…
    35’000 miles later, I can only laugh at how ignorant we were at the time. I’m addicted to that instant, silent, smooth and continuous torque.

    Shortly after came the icing on the cake: solar.
    If you feel like your Smart is hugging trees for you already, just imagine if you were to feed her sunshine…

    • CaptD

      Getting a charge out of your car, now has a new meaning – CaptD

  • spec9

    I used to drive a Honda S2000. I now I drive a little electric car powered by solar PV from my roof. I don’t really feel like supporting Putin, Venezuela, much of the mid-east, corrupt regimes, climate change, local pollution, oil spills, etc.

  • This is my same story, coming from muscle car background (mine was a 1996 Z28), my Smart ED gets a right thrashing daily on my commute, and I grin from ear to ear. Many thousands of trouble free km later, still loving my EV.

    Everyone I give a demonstration to is blown away by the silent and brisk takeoff, and the effortless usability of simple driving controls and excellent visibility.

    Cudos on your purchase!

  • TedKidd

    I chuckled. Nicely written

  • Mike333

    Agreed. Only people checking out muscle cars are 50 year old guys.
    Girls like Prius’s, maxed out Prius’s the best.

    It’s a different world.

    • Michael Thwaite

      Yep, the kind of dudes that gather round a Camero or a big muscle truck… just other dudes. Now, if you want to get the girls…

      • Ann

        I have a 2013 Camaro SS and I get a lot of people asking about my car – not just 50 year-old guys. As a girl, I can tell you that not all girls like Prius’s (let alone a maxed-out Prius – what is that, anyway?). Prius, Tesla, Volt, etc. is so common here in CA that nobody cares to ask the owner about them. And if that’s the reason you’re buying a car – for ego – then that is a turn-off for many of us women. I have my Camaro because it’s been my dream car ever since I was a little girl. I don’t care what anyone thinks – I just love that darn thing!

  • Marion Meads

    You’re better off with a Chevy Spark EV than the Smart. It is way safer and costs $16,685 after tax credit and California state rebate. It is the cheapest on per EV mile range after rebates, and very sporty and fun to drive as well.

    • Ronald Brakels

      I’ve heard that not even your fellow comrades in the United States have difficulty purchasing the Spark, Meads, let alone your Canadian neighbours to the north. I can only presume it was an option that was tragically denied to him.

    • Steve Grinwis

      The Chevy Spark is roughly as safe as the Smart. It does worse in frontal collisions, while the Smart has issues with restraints. Neither is anywhere near as safe as a full sized car. Both earn an overall good on IIHS reports though.

      The Spark is also available in extremely limited numbers, in select states as a compliance car, whereas the Smart is sold world wide.

      So, the Spark was never an option. Hopefully it will be someday.

      • lfbowman1234

        Have owned Geo for years. The traffic on most highways is so bad my average speed is around 30mph. Safety has passed out the windows. Sure is easy parking and city traffic.

    • djr417

      Either you work for Chevy and/or own a Spark…. or are you President of the Spark EV fangirlz club?
      Sounds to me like he got a hell of a deal.

      • PaulScott58

        Keep in mind that there are a lot of bargains in the used LEAF and Volt market. I sold the LEAF for the first 3 years and saw the returning leased LEAFs selling for under $15K. These cars run exactly the same as when new. Minor battery degradation is the only issue, and it’s not bad if you don’t drive long distances daily, or have access to charging at work.

        • Carney3

          The problem there is you’re depriving the market of a sale of a new electric car which is a very closely watched figure. Used sales are ignored and do nothing to validate EVs and reward EV automakers.

          • PaulScott58

            Not really. The ued ones go to a completely different market – those who cannot afford, or who have bad credit and can’t finance a new car. There are millions in this category.

  • martinsteve161

    I loved my Ca

  • Vensonata

    Gosh, it does sound dandy. Now let’s talk about price, incentives etc. I’ve seen them listed around my neck of the woods in Canada, for $26,000, but there are better prices elsewhere apparently. I think B.C. where I am has a $5000 rebate on EV’s.

    • Vensonata

      Oops…seems they terminated the “clean vehicle rebate” in March 2014, in B.C. Alas!

    • Steve Grinwis

      Price, $29k. $4k dealer incentive. $3k price reduction due to buying a dealer demo model, $8500 Ontario government rebate.

      Net price out the door: $13,500 + tax.

      • Steve Grinwis

        Note: Base price is lower, but my car is relatively well optioned.

      • Vensonata

        That is a great bargain. At that price I could afford to use it as a battery bank…I wish I was kidding!

        • spec9

          Interesting theory . . . Someone could buy a Mitz I-MiEV, take the $7500 Fed Tax-credit, take any state incentive, and then pull out the battery and have a 16KWH battery back-up for a mere $10K or so.

          • GCO

            Or one could just buy a battery, e.g.:
            – LiFePO4 with BMS, 18 kW⋅h for 7k$:
            – Partial Leaf pack, 11 kW⋅h for 3k$:

          • Vensonata

            Ya, I’m looking at those. I even wrote to the Ceo to see if it was real. Looks like it is. The difference is, Steve’s pack has 9000 cycles to 80%. Balqon 3000cycles to 80%. And with Steve’s they throw in the car for free! (by the way Spec9, why take out the pack? Just park it in your garage or driveway.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Get two. Alternate driving and charging days.

            If your daily drives are low enough you could plug in when you get home and use the remaining charge to power your house. The next day that car could be rechared while you drive the other.

            And, if needed, you could stop off at a rapid charger and bring a full battery home.

          • CaptD

            + 2 Smarts would easily fit in most garage/driveways.

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