City ditches gas vehicle for 4 electric ones |

City ditches gas vehicle for 4 electric ones

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

State incentives promoting air quality allowed South Lake Tahoe to buy four small electric cars for $10,000.

They arrived in April and are already in use at the Campground by the Lake, where they will stay and be used for errands around town, security, general maintenance and hauling. One of the cars has a flatbed that can handle up to 1,000 pounds.

The $10,000-price tag for the four vehicles is what the city had considered paying for a gasoline-driven utility vehicle with hydraulic attachments.

“They are quiet too,” said Susan Kezich, lead worker at the campground. The campground starts its round of checks at 6:30 a.m. In the past, they’ve used a noisy utility vehicle to do the job.

“Plus, we can sneak up on people when we need to sneak up on people,” Kezich said. “We end up doing a lot of security in here too.”

The cars are called GEMs. GEM stands for Global Electric Motor company. It’s based in North Dakota and has built more than 20,000 of the six-battery, 72-volt cars. Their top speed is 25 mph and a full battery charge means six hours of operation.

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“I used it all day and only used 10 percent of the power,” said Richard Christini, a campground attendant. “It’s easy to maneuver and you don’t create a lot of noise, especially for the campers.”

The city’s GEMs are registered, road ready and legal, said Steve Weiss, city parks superintendent. But, Weiss said, the vehicles will only be used for short trips not far from the campground such as across the street to check on the city’s El Dorado Boat Ramp.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at