Of Luxury Golf Cars and Africa's Future

By Bill Moore

Posted: 02 Apr 2010

How much do you think this golf car costs? Take a guess.

$5,000?

Higher

$10,000.

Higher

$12,000.

Not even close.

Okay, $20,000.

Wrong again and way, way too low. Would you believe US$52,000 or €39,000? That's right; fifty-two thousand dollars.

But it's just a golf car, for crying out loud. How in the world can a golf car be worth that kind of money?

It has its own built-in refrigerator? Seriously, it does; and you can get it painted to match your other cars, states the Garia press release that arrived in my in box this week. They also point out that it's built in the same plant where the Porsche Cayman and the Porsche Boxster are manufactured; and, presumably, also the Fisker Karma. Announces the press release…

Built to the highest standards of the automotive industry The Garia features a double wishbone front suspension similar to those found in sports cars and inspired by Formula 1 cars. The drive train is built by an Italian company that also produces Ducati gearboxes, and the aluminum profiles in the frame are made by the same company that supplies aluminum profiles to Aston Martin, Jaguar and Volvo.

The Garia Edition Soleil de Minuit, as this limited edition vehicle is called, also features a carbon fiber roof, alcantara roof lining and hand-stitched leather seats. It is also -- thankfully -- electric. Its 3-phase AC motors rated at 3kW (4hp). It's controlled by a Curtis 275 amp controller. Power comes from a half dozen 8V Trojan deep cycle lead acid batteries - for that price they could have at least used NiMH. The charger comes from Delta Q.

Despite its racing pedigree, it still can't do better than 15 mph, which is about all you'd want to do on the links.

So, what's the object of creating the world's most expensive golf car, you ask? Notoriety and exclusivity, I suppose. That's why Garia debuted it at Top Marques Monaco, billed as "the world's greatest luxury show." I suppose someone has to offer a high-end machine for the super-wealthy to go with their palatial homes, exotic cars, private jets and fancy yachts.

In the larger scheme of things, I suppose the rich are entitled to buy whatever their hearts' desire. After all, Garia hires people and buys parts and money circulates through the economy according to "tickle down" theory. And I probably wouldn't be bothering to write this commentary except for the fact that I just finished reading "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind," the story of William Kamkwamba, a teenager, who despite extreme poverty and privations we simply can't imagine, built a wind turbine from scrap to provide lights for his family home in rural Malawi.

I came away from that book with a keener appreciation of the virtually untapped reservoir of intelligence, imagination, dreams, hopes and heart that is born, grows, withers and dies all around this planet every day for want of opportunity. William Kamkwamba missed years of formal schooling because his family couldn't afford his tuition. How much was it? 2,000 Malawi Kwacha per academic quarter: $13.25. His education for a year would have cost $53, money his family simply didn't have, but certainly not for want of trying. Drought, famine and a corrupt government nearly destroyed his community. Had it not been for a handful of used books donated from America to the local primary school library, Kamkwamba simply would have been just another nameless face in an ocean of impoverished humanity.

So, when you go shopping for that $52,000 luxury electric golf car, think about the fact that you could have helped put 1,000 William Kamkwambas through a year's worth of schooling, and in the process helped turn Africa from one of the world's most impoverished into one of the most promising.

William Kamkwamba on hand-made wind turbine outside his home in Malawi

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