Rick Ehrlich has high hopes for his new car dealership but it's not likely to strike much fear into competitors with lots full of gleaming vehicles from Detroit, Asia or Europe.
From a small warehouse near Minute Maid Park, Ehrlich has launched Houston's first electric car dealership, selling the Zenn -- "zero emissions no noise."
Under state law, the cars are classified as "neighborhood electric vehicles," limited to 25 mph and banned from roads with speed limits over 35 mph. But the Canadian-built hatchbacks are hardly golf carts. The same car is sold in Europe with a diesel engine and can take to the highways.
"I don't have any illusions that we'll sell in high volumes, but it's a real car in every way," Ehrlich said. "It can carry two people nearly anyplace in the city for less than two cents per mile, while creating no air pollution."
Electric cars aren't for everyone, said Dale Brooks, an electrical engineer, president of the Houston Electric Auto Association and owner of three electric cars.
Depending on the model, the cars can travel from 25 to 70 miles on a charge. Only a few come with that critical Texas option, air conditioning. And some are subject to the speed maximums.
But the operating cost is well below that of a gasoline vehicle, with a full charge coming in at less than 50 cents and taking three to eight hours, depending upon the vehicle. Maintenance tends to be cheaper for electric cars, too, with just one-tenth the number of parts as vehicles with internal combustion engines. Most battery systems will last for years.
As a second car for most commutes or errands, Brooks said, an electric car is ideal.
"Detroit has defined what a car should be: a big piece of steel with cool lines that can travel at 120 mph and carry five people halfway across the continent in a day," Brooks said. "But it doesn't have to be that. Many of us live within 10 miles of our jobs and don't need a truck or a large vehicle for our work."
I should note, by the way, that I find it amusing to have read this article on the same day as this one about the end of the Yugo. There's just something poetic about it somehow.Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 22, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles