Just The Ticket

June 30, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — With a top speed of 27 miles per hour, it's highly unlikely that the GEM e2 will be able to catch a parking-meter violator who is doggedly determined to escape getting a ticket.

But for the city's Parking Services Department, the egg-shaped four-wheeler is perfect — as it will lower the enforcement cost and raise the efficiency of the meter-checking patrols.

The GEM e2 is produced by Global Electric Motorcars LLC, a DaimlerChrysler company headquartered in Fargo, N.D. GEM calls the vehicles "neighborhood cars" because the electric-motor-powered vehicles are only legal on streets with a 25-35 mph speed limit.

GEM has been producing models like the e2 since 1998. Based on the assumption that most trips made by consumers are short ones, GEM decided to design vehicles specifically  for quick runs to the grocery store, church or dry cleaners.

In 2005, GEM offered the e2, eS, eL, a trio of two-seaters, and the four-seat e4. For 2006, GEM introduced the e6 and the e6S, which both seat six, at the North American International Auto Show that just closed in Detroit.

Parking Services took possession of two e2s two weeks ago; both hit the streets last week to patrol metered spaces downtown and in nearby business districts. Barbara Singleton of Parking Services told the Business Journal that the department bought the vehicles last month from Deur Speet Motors, a GEM dealership in Fremont.

Singleton said that adding the e2 to the enforcement effort should save Parking Services about $3,000 in expenses each year — largely from lower fuel costs — and allow the department to stretch its routes a few miles further from downtown.

"We've reassigned our patrols and routes," she said.

The GEM e2 is tall at 68 inches high, which makes it more visible in traffic. The car is 99 inches long, 55 inches wide, and has a wheelbase of 72 inches. It weighs 1,100 pounds and has a turning radius of 12 feet 3 inches.

The e2 runs on 10-inch, two-ply, street- and turf-rated tires, has an independent front suspension, and comes with a four-wheel hydraulic brake system.

The vehicle is powered by a 72-volt General Electric motor with a continuous five horsepower rating. There are six Trojan 12-volt deep cycle batteries that are charged through an ordinary 110-volt AC outlet. The e2 gets about 30 miles to a charge and is friendly to the environment, as it doesn't produce exhaust emissions.

Singleton said the use of GEM e2s lets the department extend its enforcement routes to the Plainfield-Leonard, Eastown-Wealthy, Seward Avenue and Burton Heights areas. Before getting the vehicles, Parking Services was limited in how often it could patrol metered street and lot spaces.

Parking Services paid $11,489 for each e2, using parking revenues. The department expects to receive matching funds from a grant application soon that will defer some of that cost.    

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