My electric car is a GEM MLive com

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GEM E2 Electric Cars

My electric car is a GEM

AP Photo/Eric Risberg A Global Electric Motorcar, GEM car, heads down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in San Francisco in 2004.

It was a complete coincidence that I drove our little electric car, a 2002 GEM, to work on Earth Day.

Over the weekend I retrieved it from our neighbors’ garage where it had been in storage for the winter (thanks Jeff and Danielle). My wife, Amy, restored the insurance on it Monday.

The GEM is a fun car to drive, but it’s not for everyone. I know it annoys hurried drivers on some streets as it scoots along at a top speed of 25 mph.

That’s a result of a (computer-governed) speed limit set by the federal law that authorized the use of cars like the GEM, which are classified as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.

I get a lot of questions about the GEM, so I’ll take a minute to answer a few of the most common ones:

Is that a real car?

This is the most commonly asked question I get from people who pull up beside me. I usually answer that it is a real electric car.

Where can you drive it?

The car is legal to drive on any road where the posted speed limit is less than 35mph. We tend to stick to roads that are 25-30 mph. On four-lane roads we ride on the right whenever possible.

How far can it go between charges?

It’s supposed to go 30 miles, but we rarely go more than 15. The batteries are five years old and going 30 would probably require replacing them.

So, it’s all electric?

Yep. It uses six standard wet batteries like those commonly used on boats and golf carts. We plug it into the standard outlet in our garage when it’s at home. The Press gave me permission to plug it in at an outlet in our parking lot while I’m at work.

Charging it costs pennies.

Do you feel safe in that thing?

By and large, yes. My wife and kids often use it (it has seat belts and we can use a child seat in it). I see it as less dangerous than riding a bike with a kids’ seat, certainly less dangerous than a motorcycle or moped.

I also try to drive the GEM with extra caution.

How much did it cost?

It was purchased used in 2003 for about $3,000. New ones start at about $7,000, $9,700 for a four-seater like mine. Insurance and licensing fees are similar to other small cars.

Is that the same thing the city parking enforcers drive?

Yep, Grand Rapids parking enforcement officers drive newer two-seat versions with hard doors and heaters. Ours has ugly zip-on soft doors and no heater, so we store it from October to April.

Did you replace your regular car?


No. Normally I also drive a Saturn wagon. My wife has a minivan. We have a one-car garage with a one-lane driveway. Things can get ugly.

GEM E2 Electric Cars

Is that one a them Smart cars?

No. A Smart car is a small gas-powered car made in Germany and France by Daimler AG. GEMs are made in North Dakota by a division of Chrysler.

Is it really better for the environment?

I think so, but it depends on how you look at it.

It took energy and resources to build it and it takes a power plant to charge it.

We use it in addition to our other cars, typically leaving a gas-powered car parked when we drive it. It emits no toxic fumes, doesn’t need regular oil changes, doesn’t use gasoline and we’ve spent very little on service.

The batteries, when we replace them, can be recycled.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in it?

Nothing bad unless you count the time a couple of middle school-aged kids screamed at me over and over again (while their father was right beside them) that I was an f—-ing f—got for driving the car.

That was the oddest moment, especially since their dad just ignored them and let them go about their tirade. Whatever.

Can I have a ride?

If you took the time to read this blog, yes, you can have a ride anytime.

Any other questions? Post a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

GEM E2 Electric Cars

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