A GEM: Pepe pulls his weight

Pepe's nose. Pepe from the stern.I have met Pepe and his owner.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

Pepe's nose.
Pepe from the stern.

I have met Pepe and his owner. She's Risa Buck and thinks of her little electric mobile as more of a pet than a piece of machinery. Ms Buck drives Pepe around town everyday here in southern Oregon. She probably covers thirty miles in an average week, short trips on town streets. Pepe is an "LS" under Oregon law. That means "low speed" so he is legal on any road or street with a speed limit of 35 MPH or less. Pepe's maximum speed is 25 though some steep downslopes can push him above that. His Oregon plate, shown above, cost as mush as one for a full-size vehicle. Ms Buck thinks that should change to encourage more all-electric, zero emission cars.

Pepe is even indirectly zero emission because Ms Buck has her home charging station fed by the solar units on her home roof. Those units provide more than enough electricity for the house and Pepe. Ms Buck's other car is a biodiesel VW but its intestines get badly clogged up on short runs in town. So Pepe is helping preserve his bigger, green cousin as well.

The other small electric mobiles in town mostly belong to the city park department. There is an all-electric truck and I'm tracing down the owners right now.

Pepe's woes: Ms Buck had to recruit an interested electrician to work on him. There's no golf cart dealer or repair shop nearby. She had to add the doors and there is no heat, no defroster for the plastic windshield.

Pepe is a six-year old GEM. Here's the manufacturer's website. Here's what they have to say about their cars: "GEM battery-electric vehicles are classified as low-speed vehicles, or neighborhood electric vehicles, and are street legal in nearly all 50 states on public roads posted at 35 mph or less. With a top speed of 25 mph, GEM cars have a range of up to 30 miles on a charge and are great for traveling around neighborhoods, city centers or job sites. GEM vehicles are battery-electric, operate on a 72-volt battery system and plug into a standard 110-volt outlet. What makes GEM vehicles so unique is that they can be recharged anytime, anywhere a 110-volt outlet is available and recharge in approximately six to eight hours."

Guess who owns the GEM manufacturing plant in Fargo? Chrysler. Yes, that Chrysler, the one with no cash. Please tell Pepe and his friends somebody will spin off the GEM operation before the implosion.

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