Earth Day purchase? New Chrysler Peapod uses iPhone as a car key

You thought the two-seater, two-wheeled PUMA — Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility — from General Motors and Segway was small, efficient and commuter-friendly for urban drivers.

Chrysler's new electronic Peapod car goes on sale today to mark Earth Day. This little cutie is Chrysler's entry into the market for an increasing number of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs).

A couple notable perks: While the PUMA can reach 56 km/hr, the Peapod car won't land you a speeding ticket. Its top speed is about 40 km/hr. Top marathoners can run 21 km/hr, but they won't take you on their backs to run errands or get you to the office. What do they say about the turtle in the race against the speedy hare? Slow and steady gets you there every time.

The other nerdy-cool factor is the technology that lets you dock your iPod and use it as your ignition key. Exclusive? Cnet reports the Rinspeed concept care was first to suggest the iPhone-as-key trick at the 2009 Geneva auto show. The Peapod, retailing at US$12,500, is the first to use the technology in production.

Don't rush out to make this Earth Day purchase before checking the legalities and logistics. You may not be able to drive the Peapod on all city streets. reports that Quebec okayed low-speed electric cars on some roads — parks, campuses, gated communities — in the province last summer, as part of a three-to-five-year pilot project. Quebec became the second province, after British Columbia, to allow low-speed cars. Ontario followed soon after.

So how far with cool and cute take you? Mini-cars can't protect people in crashes as well as bigger, heavier models — a U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report confirmed last week — but these NEVs use no gasoline and emit no pollutants, so happy Earth Day.