Going green with electric cars | AspenTimes.com

Going green with electric cars

Paul Conrad/Aspen Times Weekly

Shae Singer has a reputation as a savvy businesswoman, a longtime local with deep ties in the Aspen and valleywide community, and an avid observer of local politics.But now she’s adding “environmental entrepreneur” to the list, as she embarks on an effort to convince local individuals and businesses to use electric vehicles rather than gas-guzzling SUVs, vans and other vehicles powered by the internal combustion engine. The electric cars aren’t suitable for highway use, but Singer touts them as ideal town cars.Singer, who lives in the Aspen area, recently sold two successful locations of a business she founded and ran for years, Sashae, in Basalt and Aspen.”It was time to do something different,” she said of her decision to get involved in the electric car business. “I thought this would be a nice, green activity for town.”She is now the local dealer for Electric Cars and Carts, manufactured in California and distributed by an Indiana company that offers battery-run cars in body styles modeled after three other vehicles – the Hummer, a sporty roadster and a Cadillac Escalade. The electric vehicles can be fueled up by plugging them into any regular wall socket. And as an added incentive to the luxury market, the Hummers and the Cadillacs are now offered in limo-style, six-seat models.”As much as this town talks about being green,” said Singer, “It seems like sometimes things don’t happen as fast as they’re talking about.”

Aspen, the municipality, has long touted its leading role in the “greening” of ski towns, from the purchase of wind power, to retrofitting city facilities with alternative power technology, to reducing the city’s “carbon footprint,” among other initiatives. And a portion of the town’s citizens, both individual and commercial, also have gotten involved in bringing “green” technology to bear in numerous ways.Singer, who lauds all such efforts, said the electric cars she sells for roughly $11,000, on average, are more appealing than earlier models, which all have “basically looked like golf carts.”And, she said, because they have lights and other amenities that bring them closer to traditional automobiles, they can be driven on all roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less.”I think what they’re doing with these cars is incredible,” she said recently, after taking delivery of four vehicles that truly look like mini-Hummers, with the wheels and the “H3″ logo on the back.Singer is busily fielding phone calls and in-person inquiries about the cars, which she has been driving around town to work and to do errands.”It’s not a big moneymaking thing,” she said of her new sideline. “I did it more for the environmental cause [and to provide] an opportunity for people to get out of their gas guzzlers.”

Pam Cunningham, manager of the Aspen Alps condominium complex, said the Alps already has a pair of electric GEM golf carts that are used by the gardeners to do their grounds work, and by the staff to take guests to the Aspen Music Festival’s Benedict Tent for summer concerts.But, she said of Singer’s Hummers, “we are looking very carefully at them to see if we can use them. I think these electric cars are terrific. I think there could be lots of additional uses for them, for various businesses.”

Singer said she has talked with a variety of other local businesses and individuals but has made no definite sales yet. She also has been talking with the city of Aspen.The city’s environmental health director, Lee Cassin, confirmed that Singer had approached her with the idea that the city buy one or more of the vehicles.Cassin said city officials are exploring the matter, and noted that the city already has a small fleet of electric carts and scooters. The streets department is in charge of all vehicle purchases, and submitted a list of questions for Singer to answer while the department decides whether her cars would meet city requirements and needs, Cassin said.But besides the streets department’s questions, she added, there is “the image of the Hummer, that to some people conveys waste.” She was not certain that kind of image was one the city should pursue, but she was aware of the other body styles.Singer also has talked with City Councilman Torre, who noted that “we [the City Council] have encouraged hybrid automobile use … as well as electric vehicles … by giving parking incentives. I am for all alternative modes of transportation other than gas-powered cars.”But, he said, he has not discussed the matter with city staffers, and there are no plans he knows of to expand the city’s electric-car fleet.

Singer can be contacted via e-mail at shae@sopris.net or by phone at 970-948-7423.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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