New vehicle serves parking staff

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

ALBANY, Ga. -- After 12 years of service, the Albany Police Department's parking enforcement staff "mule" died. It has been replaced by an environmentally friendly, cost-saving, electric utility vehicle.

The gas-powered Kawasaki Mule utility vehicle used by APD parking attendants to drive around downtown while chalking vehicle tires and enforcing parking ordinances gulped its last gallon of gasoline recently. It quit.

The $13,000 replacement vehicle is a Global Electric Motorcars eS model. The manufacturer's website gemcar.com describes the vehicle as "extremely cost-effective" and "much more economical than a gasoline-powered vehicle. In fact, it costs just pennies a day to operate."

According to a police department official, the rechargeable battery in the electric two-seater car can save more than $6,000 annually in fuel costs, oil changes and preventative maintenance.

The eS model is similar to, if not the same as, those used at Marine Corps Logistic Base-Albany, said Deputy Chief Mark Scott.

"The base ran a cost-evaluation, and this car came out really well," Scott said. "The costs for a new vehicle were already in the budget."

According to the website, the GEM eS electric features six 12-volt flooded electrolyte batteries that provide a range of up to 35 miles on a charge at a top speed of 25 mph. The vehicle also has a 34-inch by 48-inch flat bed with a 330-pound cargo capacity.

Better yet, said parking attendant Mary Price, the GEM is enclosed. The mule was open on the sides to wind and rain.

Safety features on the GEM impressed Price also. Rearview mirrors on the side doors and in the middle of the windshield are welcome, she said.

The website also mentioned other safety features such as automotive-style, three-point seatbelts, a tinted auto safety glass windshield with wipers, halogen headlights, front and rear turn signals, and high-mounted taillights.

A 72-volt direct current charger plugs into a standard 110-volt alternating current outlet to charge up the car so it can make its rounds. It takes six to eight hours to charge a GEM from a completely down state.

The APD's morning parking attendant Samuel Carter said he also welcomes the fan on the dashboard for summer, the heater for winter and the amber lights perched on top to safely alert other drivers that the GEM is in traffic or parked.

Price and Carter had practice laps and an orientation to their new vehicle on the Albany Civic Center's back parking lot after 1 p.m. Wednesday under the guidance of police Sgt. Duane Higginbotham.

They caught on fast. The new vehicle would probably begin service today, Carter said.

The white GEM did need one finishing touch. Scott said plans call for the car's doors to get a parking authority logo put on its side with a blue Albany Police stripe, just like its bigger brothers: the department's police cruisers.