The failure of the electric car

In our Inconvenient Truth world, popular desire is starting to change the way some companies think. We’re seeing large companies produce “green” products, such as biodegradable detergents, packaging from recycled plastic, and tables made from recovered wood. We’re asking our service providers to show us how they’re working to reduce their output, through paperless billing and electronic messaging.

A few years ago, the “hybrid” car was introduced, a shining new example of how to make vehicles more efficient, and spawned a new movement of environmentally-aware manufacturing. Today, Nissan stands ready to finally release the first mass-market all-electric vehicle, amping up the competition to become the centre of the environmentally-friendly transportation universe. I, for one, welcome the arrival of the electric car, long overdue from formal acceptance in North America. At the same time, however, I also curse its arrival because it doesn’t actually address a primary problem.

The electric car strives to perpetuate a bad idea: that we all need a car.

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RTV passed (though it shouldn’t have)

This morning, I made a return visit to the RTV to redo the test I failed last week. I woke up even earlier than last time (the “normal” evil traffic has returned to Lindora, and I didn’t want to be late), drank a strong coffee, and prepared to get through this with flying colours.

I mean, we fixed the brakes. It should be perfect, right? Right?

Lest we forget, though, that Murphy lives with me.

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RTV failed

It goes to figure: Even though Costa Rica seems to lack things like good traffic control, traffic laws that people take seriously (though that’s beginning to change with some of the new laws that have been introduced recently), or even decent roads, Costa Rica happens to have one of the most advanced vehicle inspection systems I’ve ever seen.  

It’s so advanced that I’m willing to bet most of the junkers you see on the road up north wouldn’t even pass inspection down here. You wouldn’t be allowed to drive ’em. It amazes me to no end that the standards here are so high given the comparison to everything else.

And it goes to figure that our car failed. Damn you, Murphy, will you kindly leave me the hell alone, now?!

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U-turns are illegal in Costa Rica

Yesterday, just after noon, I went into the nearby ATH (A Todo Hora, which is the Costa Rican version of “ATM”) to check my Scotiabank balance. Lo and behold, after two weeks of wrangling account, Swift, IBAN, and beneficiary numbers back and forth with the Bank of Montreal, my money finally arrived! I danced a little jig.

That led to a few furiously-dialled phone calls to arrange for another trip out to Grecia to finally pick up the car. This, I should add, ended up being yet another interesting chapter in my life living here in Costa Rica. ‘Cuz this is how I found out that u-turns are illegal here.

Trust me, this is a good one…

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Buying a car in Costa Rica

We tried to survive without cars. Really. We took taxis everywhere, and suffered due to the language barrier and an unfamiliar taxi system. (We’ve been unable to get taxis when we need them — baffling, when you see them driving around — and gouged when meters have been turned on.) We could try the bus system, but so far we’ve been utterly unable to understand them. We don’t know what the routes or schedules are.

So we went to renting a car — an infinitely better improvement, as we can go where we need to go when we want to. And if we feel the urge to take a detour to explore a bit, it’s not a problem. But rental cars aren’t cheap — it costs a few hundred dollars a week.

The natural conclusion, and something we’d planned all along, is to buy a car. But it’s harder than it sounds.

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Cost of living in Costa Rica

I’ve had a few people tell me about how great it is to be living in Costa Rica, and how much cheaper it is to live here. Some people know from a little bit of experience, but others are making the assumption — it’s not Calgary, it’s not Canada, so it must be cheaper.

Funny thing about foreign countries: if you live in the right places, if you know how to blend in, you’ll do well. But if you’re a gringo, you aren’t going to get the free ride that you want.

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First weekend in Costa Rica

Last week was a rough one. It’s almost hard to believe we’ve only been here a week now. (A week ago right now, I was in the lobby of our hotel, chatting with Jason and Javier, waiting for our realtors to come and whisk us away to our condos.) Since then we’ve gotten our places, bought the things we need to make life reasonable (note: not “comfortable” — we’re still working on that), moved into a temporary office, got connected (still need cell phones), started working on new work, and had a surprising number of meetings given that there’s only four of us.

So when we got to the end of the week, we had pretty much declared ourselves “beat”. Had we been a lot more set up than we are now, we’d probably have just gone home to our respective places, kicked back, and relaxed. But it’s hard to do that when you have to flag down a cab. Which you can’t here, for some reason.

We rented a car instead.

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