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Evansville to vote on using electric vehicles

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GINA R. HEINE
December 10, 2007
— Officials are taking another step toward being “greener” in a city that Gov. Jim Doyle has called one of the greenest in the state.

The city council will discuss and vote on an ordinance Tuesday night that would allow the operation of neighborhood electric vehicles on city streets that have a speed limit of 35 mph or less.


The city could be one of the first owners and users of an electric vehicle. The water and light department is looking into getting a two-seat pickup version that could carry 1,000 pounds to use for tasks such as meter reading, said Scott George, water and light superintendent. The public works department may explore the idea, too.


“It looks somewhat like a golf car, but a pickup version of it,” George said.


A neighborhood electric vehicle, or NEV, runs on electricity, so it is plugged in instead of filled up. The top speed is 25 mph, and it runs for about 35 miles before it needs recharging.


Models vary, but they can have doors, windows, heaters and windshield wipers just like cars. Extras include sunroofs and keyless entry. The cars produce no gas emissions.


The vehicles ride like golf carts. George has talked to a Stoughton dealer and took a test drive.


“It just seems a little unusual when you take off because it doesn’t make any noise,” he said.


The city set aside money in this year’s budget to purchase such a vehicle. George has been looking at the Summit SUV-L, which can include a heater and defroster so it can be used year-round, he said.


It would cost about $15,000, and Wisconsin Public Power, a customer-owned electric utility of which Evansville is a member, would offer a grant of up to $5,000 toward the purchase, he said.


The estimated cost of using a neighborhood electric vehicle in this area is one penny a mile, said Tim Thompson, who owns Green Auto, a Janesville dealership of the vehicles that opened in August. That compares to 15 cents a mile for those who get 20 miles per gallon of $3 gas, he said.


The city of Evansville looked into this issue in spring, but decided to wait until the state Legislature passed an amendment that changed the registration process, City Administrator Dan Wietecha said.


Last month, Doyle signed the amendment into law, which now puts registration of the neighborhood electric vehicles into the hands of the state Department of Transportation instead of each municipality.


Registration would be more like a motorcycle or moped than a car, and the plates would be $23 and good for two years, Thompson said.


The state has authorized the use of the vehicles on city streets, but each municipality has to opt-in by passing an ordinance, he said.


Therefore, it’s showing up on meeting agendas throughout the area.


Beloit just approved an ordinance to allow the vehicles, the Janesville City Council will hear a first reading on an ordinance Monday night and several other cities such as Milton, Whitewater, Delavan and Madison are discussing it, Thompson said.


Having the city of Evansville pass the ordinance and buy a vehicle has two benefits, Wietecha said.


“I think it’s definitely a cost-effective means for some of the short little trips that don’t require having a truck,” he said. “And it’s just a matter of leading by example.”


If you go

The Evansville City Council on Tuesday will discuss and possibly vote on an ordinance allowing the operation of neighborhood electric vehicles on city streets that have a speed limit of 35 mph or less.


The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at city hall, 31 S. Madison St., Evansville.



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