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LUV My Local Use Vehicle

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Heading off to do yet another camp pick-up

Yesterday I did three camp drop-offs and pick-ups, a grocery store run, and a playdate drop-off, and I did it all on electric power alone. Pretty cool, eh? It’s just another day in the life with a Local Use Vehicle (LUV), where short-distant hops no longer need to be done in gas-guzzling or emissions-producing cars.

Our cute little electric car is part of a local use vehicle demonstration project by the South Bay Cities Council of Governments. Through the LUV project, the council is lending this GEM E4 to local families for two months at a time to experience all of the conveniences of a local-use electric vehicle. My husband Dave (better known as Manhattan Beach Confidential ) and I were fortunate enough to make it to the top of the waitlist and we welcomed the car into our family and our daily routine last week.

Dave, a.k.a. Manhattan Beach Confidential, on his way to visit open houses

The GEM E4 is exactly how they describe it – it’s a local use vehicle. It plugs into a regular wall outlet and it has a range of 20 miles before it will run out of power. At a max speed of 25 miles per hour, it can’t travel any major roads, but it can get you just about anywhere you need to go around town.

This car definitely doesn’t have any bells and whistles – there’s no power steering, no power windows, no radio, and not even a clock. But, after less than one week with this little guy, the verdict is… We LOVE it! For every single local trip we do during the day it is the absolute perfect vehicle. In fact, each time we drive it we look around at all of the other cars and say, “I can’t believe people are actually using gas to get around town.”

Charging in the driveway

Also, even though it looks small, it’s surprisingly roomy. Four people can fit quite comfortably (it’s actually pretty tall so there’s a lot of head room).  If you want to put something large (like a surfboard) inside, you simply…take the doors off. And even though it’s not the fastest car on the road, it is easy to maneuver through the crowded streets and parking spaces down by the beach.

I also love how our kids are suddenly keenly aware of energy usage. They check the monitor on top of the steering wheel after each ride to make sure our energy level is still in the “green” zone and hasn’t slipped down to yellow or red. And after each trip, they insist on plugging in the car – which gets charged via a regular extension cord plugged in to the outside of our house.

Other bonuses of having an all-electric vehicle? Free parking at EV charging stations at LAX, free parking at meters in Hermosa Beach, and free parking at meters in Santa Monica. What’s not to love about that?

We’re sure going to miss it when our two  months are up. In fact, we’re already looking into the tax incentives and other benefits if we decide to buy one for ourselves. Will you be the next driver of this cute little car? You can apply here to participate in the program, or visit South Bay Cities LUV on Facebook to learn more.

Jeanne Ponessa Fratello writes about kids’ nutrition for Jolly Tomato and about South Bay events and attractions at South Bay Sparkle.

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