David Mendez

E3 Vehicles splits the distance with electric carts

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E3 Vehicles owner Amy Errett in front of her business. Photo by David Mendez

E3 Vehicles owner Amy Errett in front of her business. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

Years ago, stay-at-home mom Amy Errett was at a crossroads. Gas prices were high, car payments were excessive and the trips she was taking weren’t worth having to pile into her family’s SUV. It wasn’t long before she began looking into buying a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, a souped-up golf cart, to handle the day-to-day jaunts.

Soon, she found her match: A six-seat T-Sport Cart, with room enough for her husband and three kids. Errett’s family switched over to one gas vehicle and one electric cart within the last year. But in order to buy their ride, the family had to head to Costa Mesa.

Now Errett is the owner of E3 Vehicles at 500 Carnelian Ave., Suite 102, preaching the gospel of neighborhood electric vehicles to the people of the Beach Cities.

Once entrenched in the world of medical sales before leaving to raise her family, Errett was feeling the itch to dive back into business. A bit of research proved to her that the market for Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, such as the cart that she owns, is widely underserved in the Beach Cities.

The South Bay Council of Governments found as much to be true in their assessment of NEVs, published in June 2013.

Over a period of 30 months, SBCOG researchers found that most trips taken by the study’s 51 participants from around the Beach Cities ran between one and three miles. That distance, the study says, is “too long to walk and too short for transit but ideally suited for NEVs.”

The study also cited a 2013 order by Governor Jerry Brown, who directed state officials to push the Zero Emission Vehicle market forward, targeting a ZEV population of 1.5 million by 2025. “Neighborhood electric vehicles could become part of the mix that helps meet the goal,” the study said.

“There’s no doubt that it helps you reduce your carbon footprint,” Errett said. “But there’s also a big sense of pride that you get in going electric — it feels good to know you’re doing your part to save the environment.”

But more than that, Errett says that the vehicles are cost-effective, starting at $8,000. “Not only did we give up a car payment, but insurance costs $100 a year, as opposed to the $500 or $600 you’d pay otherwise,” Errett said.

There are limitations to the vehicles. Their top speed is restricted at 25 m.p.h., and they’re limited to traveling on streets where the speed limit is 35 m.p.h. and under. The range for vehicles varies. Errett’s six passenger T-Sport tops out at 20 miles on one charge. To reach full charge from 30 percent takes about four hours.

Plus, it can be difficult for an NEV novice to shake the feeling of being exposed when surrounded by thousands of pounds of fast-moving steel and aluminum only a few feet away — particularly when there are no doors or windows providing a barrier on the stock models.

“It was a huge change, but with the wind blowing and the open air, it feels like driving a convertible,” Errett said. “Initially, it was uncomfortable because of the attention, people taking pictures and all that, but now I like it.”

E3 has few competitors in the area. The nearest other NEV dealers are in Long Beach and Santa Monica, with another golf cart-specific dealer in Gardena. For now, they’re taking their roll-out slowly, placing vehicles in their business’s driveway and on the street, drawing looks from curious passers-by. E3 also had vehicles at Fiesta Hermosa, with a prize drawing for weekend vehicle rentals.

“We’ve just been organically opening doors, seeing what traffic we’re getting — nothing too crazy yet, we just want to see how it goes,” Errett said.

Errett was on the last leg of a drive in her business’s Hummer-styled electric cart, headed toward Beryl Street on Catalina Avenue, when a man in the next lane rolled down his window.

“That’s so cool,” he yelled, smiling wide as he gave the ride a once-over before he drove off.

“See? People love them — they really, really do,” she said.

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