Can electric cars survive in Aspen? |

Can electric cars survive in Aspen?

Charles Agar
Vail, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/The Aspen TimesAn electric Hummer H3 garners a lot of attention while parked in Aspen's Gondola Plaza.

ASPEN ” You may have seen them on the streets of Aspen: Mini-Hummers, pint-sized bubble cars or enclosed two-seaters rolling past in complete silence.

But whether these low-speed, electric vehicles can keep moving is a question local officials have yet to answer.

Electric vehicles ” called neighborhood electric vehicles ” must be registered and insured the same as any gasoline-burning car, according to staff at the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

But electric vehicles are restricted to 25 mph, according to state law.

And while state statute bans electric vehicles from highways or “limited access highways” with marked exits ” essentially any road open to the public ” a 1999 city of Aspen amendment to traffic code permits electric cars within the city limits on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or lower.

Even if it means creating a special electric-car lane or reducing speed limits, Aspen City Councilman Steve Skadron said he is in favor of finding a way for electric vehicles to connect with the Airport Business Center and employee housing such as Truscott and Burlingame.

Most electric cars currently being manufactured could go faster than 25 mph. Montana legislators recently raised their state speed limit for electric cars to 35 mph and Shae Singer, an electric car dealer in Aspen, said the Colorado legislature is considering similar legislation.

“They can’t keep electric vehicles down anymore. It’s happening,” Singer said.

The efficient, silent vehicles can run 50 miles per charge and go 245 miles on the same amount of energy in a gallon of gas, Singer said.

Rich Wagar, an Aspen real estate broker, recently bought a Global Electric Motorcar, or GEM, an electric vehicle made by DaimlerChrysler.

“I owned one of the first windsurfers in town, and one of the first mountain bikes. When something new comes out, I like to figure it out,” Wagar said. “It’s also an ecological move.”

Wagar said he’ll only drive the electric car within Aspen. He’ll use to use it to take clients from his offices to projects, he said, adding he can park his tiny car for free anywhere and it’s much easier than finding a space for his sport-utility vehicle, a GMC Yukon.

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