Thursday, July 31, 2008

YOU KNOW THINGS ARE CHANGING WHEN TEXANS START DRIVING ELECTRIC CARS

Wall Street Journal - In the garage where chiropractor Rick Peters once parked his Dodge pickup, two tiny electric cars now sit back-to-back next to his wife's small SUV.

For trips to work, to run errands or visit friends, Dr. Peters, 43 years old, and his wife, Kris, hop into the munchkin-size cars while their old gas guzzlers gather dust. Admittedly, it's cramped inside the miniautos, which move along city streets at just 25 miles per hour. But the Peterses are converts to their low-speed vehicles. . .

It's a sure sign electric cars have a future when they're catching on in Texas. Others here, too, are abandoning the family car and driving to the office in what appear to be fancy little golf carts. Small battery-powered vehicles have been on the market for years but have mainly been used by workers driving around factories and university campuses. . .

Orders at ZAP, a Santa Rosa, Calif., maker of small electric cars, have exploded to about 50 a day from just five six months ago. Shipments at Chrysler LLC's Global Electric Motorcars, or GEM, which made the Peterses' cars, have jumped 30% from last year's second quarter, with some of its 150 dealerships around the country tripling their sales.

Switching to tiny electric cars requires some big adjustments. With three children, the Peterses must use both their little cars when they take family outings. Every trip is an adventure into the land of the giants where they're dwarfed in traffic by SUVs and trucks. They've had to learn how far -- about 30 miles -- they can go on a single charge. The night they got their first car, they rousted a friend dressed in his pajamas for a test drive and he wound up having to help them push the car home.