Newspaper article on the
HighTechScience.org's
Sparrow Electric Car

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The following article appeared December 12, 2004 in the

 "All Eyes On The Sparrow"

The car's owner is 'mobbed within 3 seconds' whenever he takes his purple single-seater out for a spin.

By John Murawski
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Posted
December 12, 2004

BOCA RATON — In a city where Bentleys and Ferraris are not uncommon, the coolest car in town just might belong to Rick Newman.

    "It's unbelievable, the response," Newman said. "I just get mobbed within 3 seconds."

    Newman suggests spending the lunch hour with him in Boca Raton's fashionable Mizner Park. You take the electronics hobbyist up on the offer and follow behind as his electric three-wheeler zips through town like a toy slot car.

    Newman parks his noiseless vehicle in front of Max's Grille.

    His car, called a Sparrow, looks like nothing else on the road. It's shaped like an optical illusion, with a rear that tapers to nothingness. It is painted off-violet, as if splashed by a teenager's fingernail polish, with a big eyeball decal on the side.

    "What's the deal?" says Mark Klaman of Boston and Boca Raton, one of many onlookers. "How much? How do you get one? Is it electric?

    "Awesome!"

    To avoid repeating the same spiel day after day, Newman travels with laminated business cards that provide answers to the most common questions:

    n "Goes up to 80 MPH for up to 50 miles.

    n "Recharges from a standard 110 volt home electrical outlet in 6 hours.

    n "Registers & Insures as a motorcycle."

    What the cards don't say is that Newman has not only three Sparrows but also three Citicar's, the boxy electric vehicles made in the 1970s. He keeps one of each at home in the Old Floresta neighborhood; the others are on display at museums and science centers. One of the Sparrows is on display at the South Florida Science Museum in West Palm Beach.

    A Sparrow costs about $18,000 from Myers Motors in Tallmadge, Ohio. A gold model was featured in an Austin Powers flick.

    Newman, who runs a video and DVD duplication service picked up his first Sparrow and his first Citicar on eBay.

    Admittedly, the uses for the Sparrow are limited. Errands, mostly. Joyriding. Turning heads. The car of the future seats just one.

    But the Sparrow generates zero emissions. There are no fuel expenses, and it costs about $1 to "fill the tank," or in this case, 13 car batteries.

    Newman happened to be on eBay shopping for a Rolls Royce three years ago when he spotted the Citicar for sale. Thus began his love affair with electric cars. The seller of the Citicar lived a half-mile away, in Boca Raton. The car was rotted out, inoperable. Newman paid $1,000 and rebuilt it, adding a 1,000-watt stereo, strobes, lasers and scrolling sign. For a rear-view mirror, Newman outfitted a video camera that points backward and beams images onto a small screen near his dash.

    There's more to Newman than electric cars. His collection of electronica includes remote-controlled model helicopters that can climb to 8,000 feet. He collects space suits and other intergalactic artifacts, mostly from the former Soviet Union. Most of these are on display in museums and the 19 science centers Newman has established across the country to introduce children to the wonders of science and space exploration.

    His collection of space stuff and battery-powered cars is documented on his web site: www.hightechscience.org.

    It's an indulgence you can afford when your business grosses more than $1 million a year.

    In Mizner Park, the curiosity seekers come and go, trying to figure out what it is this thing they are looking at.

    "Very cool," says Tom Deremer of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. "Amazing. The future is here."

    "Is it road-worthy?" he says. "I'll tell you, I'd hate to be in an accident in that."

    Mickey Cunningham of Boca Raton and New York says the Sparrow is just "too cool for words."

    "This is what we're hungry for," she adds. "Down with the oil companies."

    Even Newman's waitress, Erica DiCosmo, can't resist a quick gawk.

    "It's so small, it's so cute, it's like a peanut, I love it," she says in a spontaneous run-on compliment. "Do you have a plus-size model for bigger people?"

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