Lexington, KY – If the Gulf Coast oil spill has caused you to reconsider your oil-fueled habits, it might behoove you to consider the newest addition to the Mann Chrysler fleet: the GEM car, a low speed, emission-free vehicle that runs completely on battery power (read: no petroleum).
While GEM (Global Electric Motorcars, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chrysler) has been manufacturing the vehicles for over 12 years, with more than 40,000 currently on the road in the U.S., the product is new to the central Kentucky dealership, with a client base that consists primarily of universities and government departments. In fact, when Mann Chrysler first received the fleet of GEM cars earlier this year, manager Randy Dunigan was instructed not to worry too much about the individual consumer market. After driving one for a few weeks, however, Dunigan’s feelings about the individual market potential in Lexington have changed.
“It does have its honest limitations,” Dunigan said. “But from where we live on Cooper Drive, my wife can do 90 percent of what she needs to do in the GEM car.”
Six models of the GEM car are currently on the market, ranging from a two-seater sports model to a six-seater with a truck bed that can carry up to 1,150 pounds.
“In other words, the largest one will carry almost as much as a regular sized pick-up truck, which blows people’s minds,” Dunigan said. “The little engine goes the same speed whether it has 1,100 pounds or whether it’s empty.”
That speed tops out at about 25 mph – with no airbags, this is the legal limit. The cars are powered by a 72-volt battery system, which typically last 20 -
30 miles on a full charge, and take about eight hours to fully charge (you can plug the car directly into a 3-prong wall outlet in your house or garage).
Many aspects of the cars are customizable – with or without doors, heaters, interior lights, audio systems and many other options. Even though the vehicles emulate a golf cart or dune buggy to a certain extent -
especially the door-less models – GEM cars are built for the road and meet the latest road-safety requirements for low-speed vehicles, including safety glass, headlamps, windshield wipers and seat belts.
“It really has no relationship to a dune buggy,” Dunigan said with a laugh – even his wife (whom he happened to pick up in a dune buggy on their first date) made the comparison on their first GEM car ride. “One’s built to ride around on a grass golf course, and the other is built as a car to drive on the street. The tires are different, the suspension’s different, the motor’s different, the structure itself is different.”
Dunigan, who’s big on the open-air feel, prefers the two-seater model (e2) with no doors, which starts at about $7,400. Those who prefer a little more security, weather protection and room might go for the four-seater model (e4) with doors, which runs about $16,000 including some extra amenities (such as a heater). Whichever model you choose, GEM claims that their vehicles will save you money considering the average costs of keeping a gas-powered vehicle -
no petroleum, no oil changes. For someone who drives a mid-sized vehicle an average of 70 miles a week, with gas at $2.65 a gallon, a GEM car will save them an average of $345 a year on vehicle maintenance. Plus, GEM car buyers are eligible for a 10 percent tax credit.
“It’s not going to replace everybody’s car,” Dunigan said. “But if you live in Chevy Chase, for example, and you work downtown or inside New Circle Road, I think you can do almost anything in it.”
For more information on the GEM car, visit www.gemcar.com or contact Mann Chrysler at (859) 625-1422.