Skootin' past high gas prices

akrause@norwalkreflector.com Local motorists weary of high gas prices have lower-cost alternatives. One, the electric car, takes gasoline entirely out of the equation. A second alternative is the scooter, which can get 75 miles per gallon of gas. You may not be able to travel long distances with electric cars, but you'll save money and be kinder to the environment, said Vic Staley, owner of North Central ZENN in New London.
Aaron Krause
Jul 25, 2010

 

akrause@norwalkreflector.com

Local motorists weary of high gas prices have lower-cost alternatives. One, the electric car, takes gasoline entirely out of the equation.

A second alternative is the scooter, which can get 75 miles per gallon of gas.

You may not be able to travel long distances with electric cars, but you'll save money and be kinder to the environment, said Vic Staley, owner of North Central ZENN in New London.

The Toronto, Canada-based ZENN Motor Company, which has a dealership in New London, manufactures cars whose acronym stands for "Zero Emission No Noise."

Company officials might as well work the words "No Gasoline" into the acronym as well: Instead of running on gasoline, the ZENN car is fueled by 100 percent electricity.

The gasoline engine is replaced by an electric motor, which gets its power from a controller which, in turn, gets its power from an array of rechargeable batteries.

ZENN Motor Company has 34 dealers in the U.S., including the New London location, which opened in March.

Staley said he thought he'd sell 20 cars a year, but has sold close to 50 since March.

"I never even thought I'd sell it to the general public," Staley said. Instead, he thought college campuses and municipalities would represent the largest market. That's because electric cars are designed for shorter distances, travel at slower speeds and contains a green renewable fuel. The ZENN car, for example, has a top speed of 25 mph and a range of 30 to 50 miles per charge, Staley said.

Charge stations would have to be available for electric cars to travel long range or at highway speeds. And electric car manufacturers are not nearly at that stage, Staley said.

"First you have to get these cars out there and people driving them," he said. "I think a lot of people don't know that they're out there."

In order to spread the word, Staley plans to hold demonstrations at area events.

The benefits of having electric cars include not having to pay for gasoline and the little to no maintenance required, Staley said.

Without gasoline or maintenance, the average charging cost per year is roughly $220, Staley said. The cost of using a gas-powered car for two years would about equal the purchase price of a ZENN car, which ranges from $12,000 to $15,000, Staley said.

Moreover, electric cars might be a good fit for people who want to be "Green," since there are no emissions.

The cars are not only easy on your lungs, but your ears as well.

"You virtually hear no noise," Staley said.

Scooters aren't noiseless, but fun and cost-friendly, said Scott Tester of Don Tester Ford Lincoln Mercury in Norwalk. The dealership south of Norwalk is currently selling Vespas, the world's best known motor scooter, as well as Piaggios and Aprilias marking the first time it has sold anything but Fords, Lincolns and Mercuries, Tester said.

The grand opening for the scooter section is this weekend.

Tester, who has more than 40 scooters in stock and can, said the Vespa gets 75 miles per gallon. That compares to about 20 miles a gallon for a regular automobile, Tester added.

"That's the driving force," he said, referring to scooters' popularity.

The price range at Don Tester for the scooters range anywhere from $1,599 to $7,000.

Tester started selling the vehicles July 5, and sold 10 bikes during that month, with people coming from as far as Akron and Avon Lake.

Tester, however, said he expects the vehicles' popularity to die down temporarily due to colder weather.

"Obviously once we get into November it's going to slow down, but I anticipate it to pick back up in March," he said.

North Central ZENN is located at 20 S. Main St. in New London. Its phone number is (419) 929-ZENN (9366)

Don Tester Ford Lincoln Mercury is located at 2800 U.S. 250 S. and its phone number is (419) 668-8233.