GJ company making case for electric cars



Discussion on the legality of electric vehicles began in Colorado in the late 1990s when it was first addressed in the state Senate. Since then, Colorado has adopted laws about low-speed vehicles (LSVs) that are similar to those in most other states.

To legally drive an LSV in Grand Junction, the cars must be equipped with the following features:

— The ability to travel at least 25 mph. Cars cannot travel on roads with speed limits in excess of 35 mph unless crossing those faster streets.

— U.S. Department of Transportation approved tires.

— DOT approved windshields.

— Seat belts.

— Rear-view mirrors.

— Horn.

— Headlights, taillights and brake lights.

— Turn signals.

— Parking brake.

— Four-wheel brakes.

Sources: Keith Andrews, president of Fairplay Electric Cars, and Colorado Senate Bill 75

If he has his way, Keith Andrews will give western Colorado something to talk about.

Andrews is president of Fairplay Electric Cars, with corporate offices in Grand Junction and a manufacturing branch in California.

Although the company is small — about 40 employees — Fairplay Electric Cars has a place in the U.S. automotive industry, Andrews said.

That place begins with EVE.

EVE stands for Electric Vehicle Engineering. Fairplay, which manufactures electric recreational vehicles such as golf carts, put EVE on the market this year.

“Electric cars offer people a new way to think about how to get from point A to point B,” Andrews said. “If I have two cars, do both need to be Suburbans?”

To answer that question, people must decide what purpose their vehicle serves, he said.

According to a 2003 survey by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, two out of three American commuters had a one-way commute daily of 15 miles or less. And a lot of that driving is likely in stop-and-go traffic.

That is where electric cars come in, Andrews said. They are ideal for people with short commutes on city streets.

Powered by batteries, electric cars typically can go no farther than 30 miles on a single battery charge. The distance decreases in colder weather, which may be one reason sales of electric cars are strongest in warm-weather states such as Arizona and Florida.

Wear and tear are not big issues with electric cars because they don’t use gas or have high-maintenance parts, said Larry Zarlingo, who sells and maintains electric cars at Zarlingo’s Golf Cars, 2496 Industrial Blvd.

“The maintenance is the battery and making sure your tires have air,” Zarlingo said. “That’s it.”

The cost of base models of electric cars begins at about $6,500 and increase as features are added, such as chrome magnum wheels, interior clocks or a heater.

In addition to selling EVE, Zarlingo sells GEM, ZENN and ZAP.

GEM, which stands for Global Electric Motorcar, is a subsidiary of Chrysler. ZENN is the acronym for Zero Emission No Noise, and ZAP stands for Zero Air Pollution.

As several electric cars’ names suggest, the vehicles produce zero air pollution. Even EVE is powered by a lead acid battery that is one of the industry’s most recycled batteries.

Zarlingo said people would likely not notice or barely notice an increase to an electric bill from charging the car batteries . Zarlingo estimated the cost of driving EVE is 2 cents per mile.

“How far is work and back, work and back and stopping at places on the way to and from work?” Andrews asked. “There’s a good chance a significant number of Americans who don’t need a gas car could use this. There is no big environmental or economical challenge to this. It’s just a new tool. It’s encouraging that half the people could sit down and consider this.”

The purchase price of an electric car will drop more thanks to a tax incentive through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A provision in the act states that battery-electric vehicles purchased this year are eligible for at least $2,500 in tax credits. Additional tax credits are available depending on the car’s battery size.

In all, people who purchase an electric car such as EVE for about $7,000, this year can expect to get back more than half the purchase price in tax credits, Zarlingo said.

“It has economic and environmental practicality,” Andrews said of electric cars. “It’s an easy business to get motivated about because it’s practical.”

That is about as preachy as Andrews gets when discussing electric cars.

He is a businessman determined to make EVE better. He drives the car around town to figure out ways to improve it. However, his favorite thing about EVE is the personal challenge he derives from figuring out the best ways to get where he needs to go.

Low-speed vehicles (LSVs) such as EVE are not permitted on Colorado roads with a speed limit exceeding 35 mph. A similar law exists in most other states.

People who must drive often on higher-speed roads could not use EVE, which goes back to Andrews’ earlier question about people needing two Suburbans.

Gasoline-powered vehicles have a legitimate purpose for many Americans. In fact, Andrews owns a Nissan Altima for out-of-town travel.

However, some Americans may be able to get by with one gasoline-powered vehicle and one electric car.

Take Rob Jenkins for example.

Jenkins used to drive his Ford Explorer to work every day, a 4-mile commute to St. Mary’s Hospital.

He bought a GEM 2 1/2 years ago to replace the Explorer. The GEM cost him $11,000 after he added some upgrades. It cost him less to insure the GEM than the Explorer.

“I drive it every day, in the rain and snow, too,” Jenkins said. “I just love it. I don’t have a problem at all.”

The hospital plans to increase the number of parking spots solely for electric cars once the Century Project is finished, Jenkins said.

If he could make any improvement to the GEM, Jenkins would ask the industry to invent batteries that would enable the car to go farther on a single charge. But if that day never comes, he’ll be fine. He loves his GEM.

The only maintenance Jenkins has had to do in 2 1/2 years was a $4 part on the motor.


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