Liberty Motors: Top GEM dealer
While driving down Freeman Lane a few weeks ago, I happened to glance at the vehicle display in front of Liberty Motors and spotted what looked like a morphed golf cart. My reporter’s antennae went up and I stopped by the dealership last week to learn more about that strange-looking mode of transportation.
Not a golf cart at all, the GEM (Global Electric Motorcars) is a DaimlerChrysler battery-electric vehicle that operates on a 72-volt battery system and is completely street-legal. It is manufactured in Fargo, North Dakota, can reach speeds of 25-35 mph and travels 30-35 miles on a charge. Liberty Motors is the top-selling GEM dealership and fleet manager Steven Jackson is the top-selling GEM salesman in the nation. Jackson says there’s a good market for electric vehicles today.
“With the prices of gas and everything, it’s something that’s needed,” Jackson said. GEM is the largest of the companies that make low-speed electric vehicles, Jackson said, explaining why DaimlerChrysler chose to market GEMs.
“Our market is anybody that wants to basically go green and help the economy, (and) save money on transportation in or around town,” Jackson said. GEMs are used in beach and gated communities, master plan communities and businesses that use vehicles to transport anything around their facility, such as casinos, nurseries and hotels.
Although many similar businesses now use golf carts for transportation, Jackson says the GEM goes one step further: They are street legal and golf carts are not. That makes the GEM ideal for areas where speed limits are 35 mph and under, such as within the communities of Lake Wildwood and Lake of the Pines, both in Nevada County.
Even growing cities, such as Lincoln, California, have embraced electric vehicles, Jackson said, by providing electric vehicle charging stations throughout their communities for use by electric car owners and incorporating 35 mph routes through their business sections. But that speed limitation also restricts the use of low-speed vehicles because many cities and towns are connected by highways with speeds well over the top GEM speed.
Still, the GEM is an economical vehicle, if it meets your transportation needs. It can be recharged with regular 110-volt household current at a cost of about 50 cents per charge, according to Jackson. The batteries take six-eight hours to charge and a charge lasts for about 35 miles of use, last four to five years and cost about $600 to fully replace, Jackson said. “Around town, it’s just great,” he added.
There are six GEM models available at this time, at a cost of about $7,800 for the base model, a two-seater with an open cab. All GEMs come equipped with safety features, such as turn signals, head-and-tail lamps and a horn, as well as a four-wheel hydraulic brake system and rack-and-pinion steering. There are four and six-passenger models available, with front bucket seats and bench-style rear seats, and two-passenger GEMs with short and long-bed cargo areas.
The available options are numerous and include soft and framed canvas doors, hard doors, locking truck and enclosed cargo carriers, stereos, heated seats, chrome bumpers and custom wheels. The GEM’s basic body color is white; the front and rear of the vehicle come in basic colors, including yellow, red and metallic green, and premium metallic colors, such as black, silver and blue. Adding doors and other basic options increases the cost of a GEM to about $10,000, Jackson said, while fully customized vehicles can run several thousands of dollars more.
GEM cars are in use at a number of well-known locations, including California State University at Chico, San Francisco city and county, Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles and the Hilton Hotel in Hawaii. California and Florida are the best sales markets for GEMs, Jackson said, because of the good weather in both states.
“It’s the most affordable piece of transportation that money can buy, if it fits your driving needs,” Jackson said. “The number one objection I get from people is the speed of the GEM car, so if you’re in a hurry, the GEM car is not for you.”
Liberty Motors, at 600 Freeman Lane in Grass Valley, has a number of GEMs in stock in a variety of models and colors. Steven Jackson, “the GEM guy”, can be reached at 530-477-5454 or 1-800-576-5454. More information is also available at http://www.gemcar.com, where you can interactively select and customize your GEM car to get an idea of its price with a variety of option.
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