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Breck testing electric cars

by Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Biodiesel-powered buses aren’t the only alternative fuel and vehicle types being tested by Breckenridge town employees this week.

Town council members, public works employees and others were seen cruising the streets this week in a bubble-topped electric vehicle they are test driving as part of a study of alternate fuels.

The vehicles, made by Daimler-Chrysler, have numerous applications, said Jim Benkelman, director of transit and parking for the town.

“There’s a million things we could use this for,” he said Tuesday afternoon, pressing a button to put the car into gear. “You could use it for parking enforcement, park maintenance, special events – theoretically, building department could use it to do inspections.”

Options available with this model include two seats or four, doors, heaters, utility boxes, trailer hitches and pickup beds, among others.

The vehicle town officials are test driving this week is a four-seater without doors, adorned with a bubble-topped windshield and equipped with much of the standard equipment found in gasoline-powered cars: gas and brake pedals, a horn, turn signals, side and rearview mirrors and seatbelts. Gears include neutral, forward and reverse. The vehicle reaches a top speed of 25 mph, can be driven for about 30 miles before the six batteries need to be recharged and – importantly to any High Country resident – can get up Wellington and Ski Hill roads at about 22 mph, Benkelman said.

“What I’m most impressed with is that it makes you aware of what’s going on around you,” Benkelman said. “It’s in the open air, it makes no noise; as you drive down Main Street, you see there’s a lot of things going on in all the stores, you’re hearing people talk. I think you can see town better. It’s easy to dart into a parking spot and point things out to people.”

It’s an attention-getter, too.

“It brings a lot of awareness to alternative fuels and vehicles,” he said. “The whole thing on this is that it’s environmentally friendly; it’s not about having a toy around town a bunch of people can play with.”

People driving the red and white car say it’s a fun way to get around, but town officials have no plans to dump their gasoline-powered fleets and go electric.

“I don’t know that these are right for the town, but it’s certainly something to look at as we look to our future and look at the cost of vehicles,” Benkelman said. “In the next 10 years, we’ll see a lot of things changing. These could be big part of the way we lead our life every day. Maybe something like this is appropriate.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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