Driving Green

Michael Zellner, owner of E-Power Vehicles, wants people to re-think their mode of transportation

Published : Thursday, May 13, 2010 | 10:19 AM

In his book “Notes from a Big Country”, author Bill Bryson bemoans America’s obsession with driving. He recounts an incident where he witnessed a man drive up to a post office, jump out and run inside for a few minutes, all the while the car’s motor was running, then jump back in, only to drive a few feet to the adjacent store to do the same thing.

“I have since come to realize that there was nothing especially odd in their driving less than a couple of hundred feet,” Bryson admits. “Nobody walks anywhere in America nowadays.” That’s because Americans love their cars, especially in a place like California where freeways abound and the roads are endless.

Michael Zellner, owner of E-Power Vehicles, believes that it’s time for change. “As people are becoming more conscious about energy and realizing that they can have an impact on their environment, they’re looking for more ways to travel cleanly,” Zellner says.

Zellner poses the question, “Why have two cars? If you’re only going five or ten miles for an errand, to go shopping or to go to your friend’s house, why get into a car?” It’s certainly a valid point and one that many Americans are asking themselves these days. By giving up a second car, not only would people be saving over $1000 each year, they would also be cutting down on emissions, Zellner says. “I want them to kind of re-think, their way of transportation.”

And the solution for short trips is the electric bicycle. “A lot of people are hesitant to use public transportation because they hate to walk. Maybe their house is too far away from the train station. So we have bicycles also that can go on trains.”

Another excuse people have is not being fit enough to bike, especially up hills. “With an electric bicycle you can just zoom up the hill.  You might have to do some peddling but it’s not very strenuous so it kind of removes the excuse that people have for bicycling.”

Zellner emphasizes how much fun bike riding can be. “Riding motor-scooters and electric-bicycles is just a blast. I don’t want them to think environmentally. I want them to think: This is fun transportation — but it’s also practical.”

He admits most of his customers are people with disposable income, usually people in their 40s who have some money lying around and want a cool, new toy to play with. Some are professionals who are keen to ride to work without needing to take a shower when they get there. “I also had a retired couple and she couldn’t ride as fast as her husband. So she wanted an electric vehicle, so she could go riding with her husband. So it’s kind of a mix right now.”

Zellner says electric bicycles or scooters are easy maintenance vehicles and charging them up costs practically pennies. “There are very few moving parts so that’s another consideration people should be aware of is that when you have an electric motor scooter, say for example, you don’t have to worry about maintenance.” He adds, “[Charging time] is about four to five hours and my understanding is it’s five cents a kilowatt hour.  So you’re spending $0.25. Even if we even say $0.10 a kilowatt hour, you’re spending no more than $0.50 to charge up your bike.”

With the city of Pasadena looking to become more pedestrian-friendly in the coming years, having a light vehicle makes a lot of sense in the long run.

E-Power Vehicles is located at 55 W. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena CA. Contact them at (626) 557-6687. Visit their website at www.e-powervehicles.com.

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