Part of city-owned electric vehicle fleet to be downsized

They used to be symbols of the future, but they’re about to be a thing of the past.

Some of Davis’ fleet of Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) vehicles are on
their way out. On Tuesday, the City Council discussed options for the
future of its fleet of 27 electric cars, leaving the final decision
with the city staff.

Twenty-five of the vehicles were granted to the city in 2002 by
Daimler-Chrysler. Two were donated by the National Parks Service. The
cars were loaned for free to Davis residents through a program that
lasted from 2003 to 2006. They have also been used by different city
departments and city councilmembers.

They used to be symbols of the future, but they’re about to be a thing of the past.

Some of Davis’ fleet of Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) vehicles are on their way out. On Tuesday, the City Council discussed options for the future of its fleet of 27 electric cars, leaving the final decision with the city staff.

Twenty-five of the vehicles were granted to the city in 2002 by Daimler-Chrysler. Two were donated by the National Parks Service. The cars were loaned for free to Davis residents through a program that lasted from 2003 to 2006. They have also been used by different city departments and city councilmembers.

In the past few years, the city’s use of the vehicles has declined, causing a loss in efficiency, said deputy city manager Kelly Stachowicz.

The issue with the GEM cars is if you don’t use them frequently – meaning on a daily basis or at least several times a week – they don’t hold their charges well, Stachowicz said. They don’t work as well unless they’re well-used.

The vehicles take eight hours to charge on a standard outlet and the charge lasts for approximately 35 miles. Because they have a top speed of 25 miles per hour, the cars are not allowed on some major streets, such as Covell Boulevard.

There are quite a number of major corridors that are very difficult to traverse, said Councilmember Don Saylor. Traveling across Interstate 80 or Highway 113 presents difficult situations, he added.

Stachowicz said there were several options for what the city could do with the fleet.

The first option is to sell the cars at a base price of $1,700 to $2,100 each. The sale could be limited to just Davis residents or be open to any interested party. The vehicles could also be donated to private nonprofit groups, such as the Davis Schools Foundation, to support their fundraising efforts.

The city has discussed the possibility of trading the GEM cars in for flatbed utility vehicles, Stachowicz said, but the plan has not been finalized.

This idea was favored by councilmembers Don Saylor and Ruth Asmundson.

I think the problem here is we do have fleet issues, Saylor said. [Flatbed vehicles] would get used all the time. We need to utilize what we have.

In the mean time, the cost of operating the vehicles is going up.

The average cost to run these [GEM] cars is $2.14 a mile, said fleet manager Dan Doolan. We’ve got tons of them that have been sitting for over a year, so those are weighing down the rest of the fleet.

Doolan said fleetwide the vehicles only average 371 miles per year. With replacement batteries costing $600, the cost per mile is higher than it could be.

The discussion was informational only. No action was taken, and city staff will decide the best course of action for the fleet.

JEREMY OGUL can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com.