Is Bainbridge Island ready for electric cars?
Considering the infancy of the technology and its need for less-traveled roads, combined with the island’s slower pace, Bainbridge appears to be an ideal location for a little trial and error.
Jeff Bahkus, the sales manager for the newly opened Go Green e-car dealership at 563 Madison Ave. NE puts it this way: “You could say that Americans are not ready for the market and the market isn’t ready for America. The market right now is for niche drivers at this point, and Bainbridge is a good place to start out.”
Owners Byron and Karen Holcomb opened the business on Oct. 1 and are still looking for their first sale of the low-speed electric vehicle. Which is no surprise since the four 14-horsepower, 48-volt machines are now more cute curiosities than indispensable modes of transportation as they sit in the sparkling new showroom.
Still, Byron Holcomb said more than a dozen interested islanders are visiting daily, primarily to learn more about the product. It’s manufactured by Bay Boy Mowers, a company in Batesville, Ark., that has recently added a line of small electric cars to the souped-mowers and multi-terrain vehicles it has been making for more than a decade.
“We anticipated there will be a slow period at first,” he said, “but we believe that we’ll eventually have a steady sales flow of about 20 cars a month. It’s a fun machine to drive.”
Holcomb, who is new in the car business, is targeting islanders in the market for a mobile, inexpensive second car. The jeep-sized vehicles are selling for between $10,500 and $10,995.
“It’s built for short trips – five to six miles around town,” he said. “At this point they can go about 20 miles on an overnight charge, using the regular household 110-volt current.”
General manager Tom Schnable said several upgrades are expected next year as Bad Boy refines it product, including: switching the battery from lead acid to lithium for extended miles; a larger engine (30 horsepower) so the vehicle can maintain its 25 miles-per-hour speed going up hills.
Schnable said the manufacturer has visited Bainbridge with the idea of creating a vehicle “made for the island.” With the weather in mind, Schnable said, it won’t be long before doors and portable heaters for the cars are shipped north.
He said that any upgrades, other than doors, will cost the new owners when added to a purchased vehicle. And car owners will also be able to trade up for a low cost.
“It’s our goal to get islanders into these cars in the most effective and inexpensive way,” Schnable said. “These cars are basic but high-quality products. We want to give our customers a good bang for their buck.”
Schnable admits introducing the vehicles is a bit of a gamble, “but we think it’s time to bring an electric car to this market because it’s not a major investment and there are people here who are environmentally conscious.”
He believes it’s a better product for the island than, say, the Nissan Leaf. “That’s not an island car,” he said. “It’s extremely speculative and experimental, and costly.”
Bahkus said his experience with people checking out Go Green’s vehicles is that most of them are either just curious or are beginning to shop with the thought an e-car may be in their future.
“Then there are some who really know their stuff and want to get real technical,” he said. “That’s enjoyable for me.”
Go Green also offers electric bicycles and Bad Boy mowers, and is open to offering electric cars made by manufacturers other than Bad Boy.
Contact numbers: (206) 451-4260 or (877) 757-6148.