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The Wheego goes electric -- at 25 miles per hour

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By Warren Brown
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's a tough sell.

Even its name, Wheego Whip LSV, is a marketing obstacle.

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"It sounds like a toy," said Ria Manglapus, my Washington Post associate for vehicle evaluations.

It looks like a toy, too, reminiscent of the Mercedes-Benz-sponsored Smart Fortwo city car.

But the Smart Fortwo, running on gasoline, can go up to 90 miles per hour, assuming there are no crosswinds. The all-electric, 2010 Wheego Whip is a low-speed vehicle, thus the "LSV" moniker, limited to 25 miles per hour.

In a perfect world, the Wheego Whip would make perfect sense as a neighborhood automobile, particularly in neighborhoods with posted speed limits of 35 miles per hour and lower. It consumes no fossil fuels, emits no fog-enhancing pollutants, and disturbs no civil decibel levels. It doesn't gobble precious shopping-center parking space. It is pedestrian friendly, which is a good thing in places such as my North Arlington neighborhood, which periodically is crowded with middle- and high school students ambling to and from their respective campuses.

But, alas, the world is dangerously imperfect.

Consider North Arlington.

Affluent residential areas there are fond of traffic-interruption devices -- roundabouts and annoying road bumps, which local officials euphemistically call "speed humps." For some reason, the "humps" are few to nonexistent in less-affluent Arlington neighborhoods. But that's another story.

The point here is that the roundabouts and bump-humped streets do little to halt speeding vehicles. I've always known this. But that knowledge was seared into my rear end when I dared to drive the Wheego Whip during North Arlington's rush hours -- 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 to 7 p.m.

I annoyed presumably "green" drivers in gas-electric Toyota Prius cars. I thought they'd be happy to see a fellow motorist going "green," tooling along well within the speed-limits of multi-humped residential streets, in a little all-electric car.

But once they'd sated their curiosity about the odd-looking, slow-moving little car in front of them, many North Arlington motorists tailgated me, flashed their lights, honked, and ultimately zoomed around me, with their cars and trucks undulating over speed humps like a herd of animals roaming an African savanna.


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