California Town to Demonstrate Neighborhood Electric Vehicles

In a unique public/private partnership seven neighborhood electric vehicles will buzz around Sebastopol, CA starting this fall to demonstrate their use for a variety of activities in downtown areas.

SEBASTOPOL, Calif., Nov. 10 // Seven 25 mile per hour electric cars hit the road this fall in the Northern California wine country town of Sebastopol, part of a project to demonstrate the use of such cars for downtown deliveries, running errands and shuttling tourists. The $120,000 project was co-funded by the California Energy Commission and a public-private partnership made up of three local entities: the City of Sebastopol, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, and ZAPWORLD.COM (Nasdaq: ZAPP). A local manufacturer and distributor of electric vehicles, ZAP uses the electric cars to shuttle employees and parts between its five locations within the city limits. The cars are part of a new federal “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle” category created to encourage the use of zero-emission vehicles for inner-city use. Smaller than traditional cars, they are still required to have automotive grade headlights, seatbelts, windshields, brakes and other safety equipment. With a top speed of 25 MPH, the cars can only be used on streets with a posted 35 MPH speed limit. Sebastopol Public Works employee Henry Burgo has already started using the electric cars for reading local water meters, saying they save time and money. He used to make the 15-20 mile daily route in a gas pickup and estimates that the City is now saving about $100 a week by switching over to electric. Other city employees have started using the cars to run errands and deliveries during the day and the City has even considered a shuttle service for the public. Holiday Inn owner Kirk Lok said the partnership was an opportunity to explore alternative transportation while offering a new service for guests. The hotel now shuttles guests and employees around in electric cars instead of internal combustion. Lok plans to install solar panels for charging the cars and is exploring the possibility of offering them as rentals. One of the reasons why Sebastopol was chosen for the grant is because it is on a busy tourist route and exposes a large number of people to the new type of electric car, according to Peter Villanueva, Energy Analyst for the California Energy Commission. Villanueva added that it was a good opportunity to demonstrate “zero-emission” vehicles at a time when the industry seems more focused on bi-fuel, or hybrid, vehicle technologies that still use fossil fuels. The California Air Resources Board recently ruled to keep a deadline to require the sale of zero-emission vehicles in the state by 2004. “Electric is the way to go,” said Villanueva. “The more we can be involved in these real-world applications of electric vehicles the better.” He added that the Energy Commission hopes to duplicate this type of public-private partnership in other places. For further information about Neighborhood cars, contact ZAP at 800-251-4555 or visit its website.

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