Motorists go electric, but where?
ASPEN You’ve seen them on Aspen streets – mini-Hummers and pint-sized bubble cars or enclosed two-seaters rolling past in complete silence – but area officials are unclear about where low-speed, electric vehicles can go.According to staff at the county clerk and recorder’s office, electric vehicles – called neighborhood electric vehicles – must be registered and insured the same as any gasoline-burning car.
But electric vehicles are restricted to 25 mph, according to state law.And while state statute bans electric vehicles from highways or “limited access highways” with marked exits – essentially any road open for use of the public for vehicular traffic, according to Aspen police officials – a 1999 city of Aspen amendment to the traffic code permits electric cars within the city limits on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or lower.Electric vehicles are prohibited on area trails, according to the city ordinance.”I think you could probably get out to the Maroon Creek Club,” said Aspen Police Sgt. John Rushing, adding the city limits are about 200 feet upvalley from the underpass where Tiehack Road crosses Highway 82.”Because the use has increased, they’re starting to creep beyond the roundabout,” said Aspen City Councilman Steve Skadron.And while Skadron’s concern about electric cars “starts from a desire to support the use of zero-emission vehicles” and he is outspoken in support of electric vehicles as a transportation option, he said, “I just want to make sure Aspen and the county have a coordinated policy.”Even if it means creating a special electric-car lane or reducing speed limits, Skadron said he is in favor of finding a way for electric vehicles to connect with the Airport Business Center and employee housing such as Truscott and Burlingame.
At a recent meeting of the Elected Officials Transportation Committee, Skadron raised the question of where electric cars can go. And the group of officials, with representatives from city of Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County, agreed to take up the issue at their September meeting.Shae Singer, an electric car dealer in Aspen, said while she is busy filling orders for customers who live within the city limits, she hasn’t sold an electric car to anyone who lives beyond the roundabout yet.Most electric cars currently being manufactured could go faster than 25 mph but are limited by a governor switch, and the technology is there for production of even faster electric vehicles, but the progress is limited by state and federal rules, Singer said.Montana legislators recently raised their state speed limit for electric cars to 35 mph and Singer said the Colorado Legislature is considering similar legislation.”They can’t keep electric vehicles down anymore. It’s happening,” Singer said.”They don’t use gas; they’re not spewing oil,” Singer said, adding the efficient, silent vehicles can run 50 miles per charge and go 245 miles on the same amount of energy in a gallon of gas. And vehicles like the Canadian-made Zero Emission No Noise are in line with the city of Aspen’s carbon-reducing goals in the Canary Initiative, Singer said.
“It’s not necessarily fun to separate your glass and recyclables, but this is fun and you’re doing good,” Singer said of going electric, adding that parking on Aspen streets as well as in the downtown parking structure is free to electric vehicles.Rich Wagar, an Aspen real estate broker, recently bought a Global Electric Motorcar, or GEM, an electric vehicle made by DaimlerChrysler.”I owned one of the first windsurfers in town, and one of the first mountain bikes. When something new comes out, I like to figure it out,” Wagar said. “It’s also an ecological move.”Wagar said he’ll use his new electric car only in the Aspen city limits and plans to shuttle clients from his offices to new downtown projects, adding he can park his tiny car for free anywhere much easier than finding a slip for his sport-utility vehicle, a GMC Yukon.”The speed limit is 25 so I don’t go anywhere where the speed limit is higher than 35,” Wagar said, adding he doesn’t plan to go farther than the roundabout west of Aspen on Highway 82.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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