Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Wonky Tourista in Key West - Electric Car City!

You would think Key West would be quite focused on global warming, it being an ISLAND and all. It's a beautiful, laid-back tropical paradise that doesn't want to get too real; I would give it its public environmental record a C. No recycling in public places, no local food except for fish, since everything is pumped or shipped in, mass transit is nearly invisible. However it does have a very neat eco-feature: hundreds of electric cars! I first saw one last year in Greece and thought it was the neatest looking thing ever, so I recognized them right away. The one I saw in Greece was a two-seater; in Key West they're four and six seaters. KW is small, with old charming narrow streets, so parking is a huge hassle and they have used public policy to make it unappealing - $.25 for 10 minutes, adding up to $3.00 an hour. And of course you never have enough quarters to put in the meters.

Why electric cars in Key West? It has a number of qualities that make it ideal. The weather is mild year round, and these cars are open. Some of the versions are essentially upgraded golf carts. They are designed for tourists, who are just tooling around the island, unlikely to be driving more than a few miles at a time. Many tourists who come to Key West arrive by cruise ship, plane, or shuttle (a four hour drive from Miami), and it's an upscale crowd, who will spring for these rentals. It's not really so much transport as it is recreation - they're fun and people love driving around in them. Gas is expensive, even more so in a remote location like this, and parking is prhobitive, so voila. In addition to electric car rentals, bikes and scooters are popular. The whole time I was there I only saw one being charged. I am guessing no one puts that many miles on them.

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