A look in to the growing trend of small economy cars.

Ike Butler can sometimes be seen zooming around town in his blue Smart car.

Butler, of Cave City, purchased the car about two years ago. He was spurred to buy the car after spying one at Medical Arts Pharmacy on North Race Street.

“I went down and asked them if I could sit in it,” he said.

He liked what he saw and decided to buy one for himself.

“I bought it to save gas,” he said, which is the same reason William Gravely, a pharmacist at Medical Arts Pharmacy, gave for purchasing the Smart car the drug store uses. The pharmacy has had its Smart car also for about two years.
Smart cars are gas powered, but the auto company has just recently built a model that operates on electric power.

Both Butler’s car and the one the drug store owns are gas powered.
“The car is actually made by Mercedes. It’s very good on mileage, especially around town. It will get anywhere from 40 to 42 miles per gallon,” Gravely said, adding that good gas mileage is not as important now that the price of gas has dropped but said, “It’s still important to us.”

While the cars are good for traveling around town, they can perform quite well on the highway.
“I’ve had it up to 70 or 80 on the interstate,” Butler said about his car.
Gravely likes that the car is also easy to park.
Butler says his car also rides smoothly and he doesn’t have to change the oil but once every 10,000 miles.
Smart cars have lights and windshield wipers that come on automatically.
“It’s pretty smart,” Butler said. “It’s got everything a big car has.”
There are some issues with Smart cars.
“The heating system in it’s not real great,” Gravely said. “The cooling system is almost non-existent. There is literally no back seat in the thing.”

Although they have automatic transmissions, it does not change gears smoothly.
“It kind of bucks a little bit as you go down the road,” Gravely said.
The tires on Smart cars are two different sizes; being bigger in the back than in the front making it impossible to have the tires rotated and causing the tires to wear down quickly, he said.

Both Butler and Gravely say Smart cars are safe because of the steel cage design they feature.
Butler has owned other economy-sized cars in years past, such as Volkswagens and Corvairs. He also owns a Chevy Impala that he drives from time to time.

The pharmacy uses its Smart car to make deliveries and have dubbed it the “Medicine Dropper,” which has attracted the attention of many who see it whizzing around town.
“It’s a conversation piece,” Gravely said.

There is only one Smart car dealership in the state — Tafel Motor Company of Louisville.
Abel Bogale, general sales manager for the auto dealership, explained that the Smart car is a partnership between Mercedes and Swatch.
Of those who have come to the dealership to purchase Smart cars, Bogale said it is has been “a cross section of folks.”

“We do get some people to actually come in and look for a vehicle for their son or daughter. Some of our clients go in that direction,” he said. “We do have some people who are primarily looking for the fuel savings. It’s a really broad cross section of the population. Of course the fuel saving is always a big plus.”

Smart cars retail around $13,270, which is the price before any options are added, he said.
Mammoth Cave National Park has a similar vehicle called the GEM car, which operates on electric power only.
MCNP purchased the cars in 2000.

“We’re always looking for better ways of doing things. One thing that the park service has asked all parks to do is to reduce the use of fossil fuels,” said Vickie Carson, public information officer for the national park.

MCNP is capable of contributing to the reduction of fossil fuel usage, such as gas, by using the GEM cars.
The national park uses the GEM cars in its campground area.

Like the Smart car, the GEM can be driven on the highway, but the GEM does not travel at high speeds like the Smart car.

“They don’t go up to more than 20 miles per hour,” she said.
MCNP also utilizes electric powered John Deere Gators when making repairs to trails. The national park purchased the John Deere Gators in 2001.

“Some of our managers drive them to go from one office to another,” Carson said, adding that the national park’s offices are rather spread out across the park