The Star-News - Sept. 27, 2002

Otay Ranchers try the clean machines


As petroleum deposits dwindle, automobile populations soar, and the air in our cities becomes choked with polution, the ICE, or internal combustion engine, is increasingly becoming the victim of its own success. A switch to electrical vehicles, however, would reduce the total primary energy consumed by personal transport.

A battery-electric vehicle operates at roughly 46 percent efficiency, whereas a conventional vehicle operates at about 18 percent. This means 46 percent of the electrical energy taken from your power outlet to charge batteries would be usefully delivered to the drive wheels of an electrical car.

In contrast, only about 18 percent of the energy you put in your gas tank ends up at the drive wheels of your ICE car.

Twenty-five Chula Vista families have already begun an eight-week pilot program using Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) after participating in a training program in one of Chula Vista's communities.

During this pilot program, the vehicles are provided to residents who both live and work in Otay Ranch. Each participating family is expected to drive their vehicle at least once each day and will be encouraged to drive to and from work and home during the trial period.

In a city press release, Chula Vista Mayor Shirley Horton said it's a perfect fit for Otay Ranch, which was planned as a transit friendly neighborhood.

Otay Ranch was selected because of its variety of pedestrian-oriented features such as the pathway connecting the villages, the location of the pedestrian bridge and the many paseos throughout its villages.

The City of Chula Vista and the Otay Ranch Company are sponsoring the program with the consultant group, Mobility Lab, a non-profit company based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Mobility Lab has proposed the same program to larger cities across the U.S. and has coordinated with Global Electric Motorcars, LLC, to provide the vehicles which look like something the Jetsons might have driven to the grocery store.

GEM produces a series of zero-emission family-oriented low-speed electric vehicles that meet the new standards of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NEVs were created in 1998 and are designed for use in resorts, planned communities, universities and city centers. The GEM's battery can be charged with a standard 110-volt household outlet, and a six-hour charge will carry the vehicle approximately 35 miles.

Participants will be encouraged to drive the vehicles to other areas of Otay Ranch including parks, schools, visiting neighbors, etc. According to the city's figures, if each family drives at least one trip per day, this would equal at least 1,620 zero-emission vehicle trips during the pilot program.

The city has expressed the hope that the pilot program will increase awareness of alternatives to the ICE in the community.

The NEVs will also be used by the city's conservation program for special events, by one of the Otay Ranch homeowners associations and the Chula Vista Police Department who will use it for parking control.

No matter how you get from A to B, you still need to park.