By David Arkin
A bill signed by the governor that will allow electric cars to be driven on city streets and highways is receiving mixed reviews.
The bill, which was crafted by Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and signed into law by Gov. Bill Richardson last week, would allow “neighborhood electric cars,” which are four-wheeled electric motor vehicles to be driven a maximum speed of more than 20 miles per hour, but couldn’t go over 25 miles per hour.
City officials could rule that the vehicles couldn’t be driven on certain streets because of safety concerns. The highway department would have the same authority.
The new law will take effect May 19.
Ingle said he thought there were some people who would enjoy the opportunity to drive an electric car. The veteran lawmaker said the vehicles start at $5,000.
“I think it’s something that would be useful to folks in the state,” he said. “In certain city areas they are something that would be valuable for folks to have.”
The cars have been sold in eastern New Mexico for three years, according to Martin Sanchez, a sales consultant at Big Valley Ford in Portales.
“They have been very popular,” he said. “We have sold about 50-100 of them.”
Sanchez said he thought his dealership would sell even more now that legislation has been approved.
Clovis City Manager Ray Mondragon is concerned that the vehicles could create a safety problem.
“I’m concerned that the Legislature would pass something like this,” he said. “I’m concerned that they would allow these cars on city streets.”
Mondragon said he hasn’t seen the legislation, but he said he would review it and talk to police officials about their thoughts on allowing the vehicles to travel on local streets.
He did say that he was pleased that local governments would have a say in deciding if the law should be implemented.
Tucumcari City Manager Richard Primrose said he didn’t imagine there would be a problem having the vehicles on city streets.
“I don’t think they would be a big problem,” he said. “As long as they wouldn’t be a nuisance to the rest of the traffic.”
He said no one in Tucumcari has approached him about wanting to drive one of the vehicles on city streets, but said if the issue comes up he would assist those who are interested.
Ingle said the vehicles are perfect for industries.
“I have seen them around some industry places and they can be used if you have a big yard as far as an industrial car,” he said. “They are good for the dairy industry to get around in.”
Sanchez said universities, military bases and laboratories are all using electric cars now.
Ingle said the vehicles are sensible for people who live in apartment complexes.
“There might be someone living in an apartment complex and parking might be hard on their automobile,” he said. “They are easy to get to and from places in.”