From the Print Edition:
Saturday Night Live: How it Shapes Our Politics & Culture, September/October 2011
It’s been said a thousand times: Americans are a people who love to eat and run. As a brief visit to any fast-food drive-through will testify, we are entranced by the combination of motion and consumption. But what if someone set out to satisfy these twin passions by building the most basic vehicle imaginable? He’d start with something that holds food—say, a picnic basket, or a cooler—and then he’d put wheels under it and a motor in it. That’s just what Kevin Beal did back in 2005. He called his brainchild the Cruzin Cooler, and the eating-and-driving public worldwide has responded by buying more than 50,000 of them from the company he founded.
As the story goes, the idea for a motorized cooler came to Beal as he watched a crowd of spectators lugging their coolers at a NASCAR event. The three-wheeled, electric-power scooters he devised are based on custom-built 50-quart coolers, modified to accommodate wheel wells, a battery and a drive motor, and reinforced to withstand the stresses imposed on them. While the mechanical components take up some space, the cooler can still carry a 24-pack in ice, plus some hot dogs. The scooters weigh less than 100 pounds, and a basic model can tote a payload of about 250 pounds (including the driver). Steering is via an upright handlebar. Two retractable foot pegs guard against tipping—if you’re into tearing into tight corners NASCAR style.
The scooters come in five standard models, powered by motors that range from 250 to 1,000 watts. A small model will ferry you around a parking lot for two to four hours at a moderate pace, and will top out at around 13 miles an hour. A 1,000-watt model can go up to 10 hours on a charge, and can tackle steep grades or pull a whole train of the Coolagon cooler-trailers that the company sells as add-ons.
The company is also rolling out a limited run of coolers hopped up to 2,000 watts. These models, designed for “professional riders only,” can reportedly reach speeds of 20 miles an hour. That rate barely registers by NASCAR standards, but borders on exhilarating when you’re perched atop a cooler. A company representative could not clarify how one qualifies as a professional cooler driver, but he pointed out that anyone who purchases a 2,000-watt model must sign a waiver.
But why, in the end, have so many people ponied up for one of these meals on wheels? As the company points out, the Cruzin Cooler may look like a novelty item, but it’s a sturdy electric scooter with storage capacity—a vehicle with any number of useful applications. The more pertinent question might be, why not a Cruzin Cooler? It’s fun. It’s fast. It can carry beer. As a tailgating accessory, its appeal is obvious, both for its utility and for its potential as a status symbol. And speaking of parking-lot one-upmanship, rumors are circulating among Cruzin Cooler cognoscenti that a 100-quart, four-wheeled version may soon be introduced. That one may very well come with its own pit crew.
The standard Cruzin Cooler models are priced from $349 to $799.
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