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Electric, solar-powered vehicles showcased at SARR meeting

May 11, 2011

The promotional literature for the Global Electric Motorcar — or GEM, as they are more commonly referred to — is "The car that puts the 'fun' in functional."

Reed Wilson, the owner of a solar-powered Tesla Roadster, claims that his vehicle will go from zero to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds.

The future of American automobiles has arrived... and they're right here on Sanibel and Captiva.

Last Thursday evening, the Sanibel Alliance for Renewable Resources (S.A.R.R.) hosted a gathering of about 15 islanders interested in learning more about electronic and solar-powered vehicles. Several of the state-of-the-art vehicles, as well as their owners, were displayed in front of the Sanibel Community House following the session.

"People have spotted them on Sanibel... people have heard them — ever so quietly — here... and people have admired the bright, red stripes on my vehicle," said Jeremy Kane, Secretariat of S.A.R.R., during his opening remarks at the May 5 forum.

For more than two years, Kane has owned a GEM e4 model, a four-passenger vehicle that is fully powered by electricity. He extolled the virtues of the eco-friendly vehicle, explaining that for approximately $1 of electric power, the GEM can be driven nearly 50 miles on a single charge — the equivalent of 150 miles to the gallon.

Lenny Szabo, regional sales director for GEM, suggested that the vehicle blends perfectly with "the islands way of life."

"I think that our car fits in here very well," said Szabo. "They're electric and not noisy, which goes along with Sanibel's environmental mission."

Kane noted that his GEM is "fantastically convenient."

Mark Anderson, president of S.A.R.R., explained that while all of the "alternative energy" vehicles boasted positive effects for the environment, they all suffer from a common weakness: battery life.

"Most vehicles can only go about 100 to 200 miles before recharging," Anderson noted in his PowerPoint presentation. "Fully recharging the battery pack can take four to eight hours. Even a 'quick charge' to 80 percent capacity can take 30 minutes."

However, he also stated that a recent study determined that nearly 80 percent of vehicles travel less than 50 miles per day. And half of those vehicles are driven less than 25 miles per day.

According to Kane, he has never completely run out of power with his GEM.

"I just plug it in at the end of the day," he added. "The next morning, I'm fully charged and ready to go."

Three GEM passenger models are currently available — including a two-passenger, four-passenger and six-passenger options — while several utility-type vehicles have also reached the commercial market. Models range in price from $7,495 to $13,195.

Wilson, who arrived at the forum in the sporty orange Tesla, stated that for every hour the vehicle is connect to his solar charging station, the car will be powered for approximately 25 miles.

"I've driven it as far as Tampa on a single charge," said Wilson. "But for me, it's more of an around-the-town type of vehicle."

While his low-riding two-seater is perfect for him, he noted that the Palo Alto, Calif.-based automobile manufacturer has plans to produce a five-door sedan in the near future, with a price tag of around $60,000.

Another "green" vehicle, the Lexus RX450h, a hybrid automobile first introduced in 2009, was scheduled to be featured at the seminar but did not arrive.

Shirley Bonhert, an islander concerned about the environmental impacts caused by standard gasoline-powered automobiles, recently purchased a Ford TH!NK, an electric vehicle produced only in 2002.

"The vehicle that I used to have was a real gas guzzler," said Bonhert. "I love my TH!NK. It's fun and it gets me wherever I need to go on Sanibel."

S.A.R.R. is a local registered non-profit organization created to help the local business community, as well as residents, find ways to conserve energy while helping our island environment.

"Sanibel and Captiva have always been known for natural settings and our intent to have as little impact on our ecosystem as possible," the S.A.R.R. website states, in part. "Our goal is to gather all the information you would need to help you with your choices. We will collect and disseminate information to residents, as well as our business community to help you build, retrofit and live a green lifestyle."

To learn more about S.A.R.R., visit

Article Photos

Jeremy Kane stands next to his GEM e4 model, which costs approximately $10,495. He called the electric-powered, four-passenger vehicle 'fantastically convenient.'



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