Electric cars for rent, sale at train depot

TRAVERSE CITY – Picture a hustling and bustling transportation center with a full fleet of electric vehicles in every color of the Lifesavers roll available for sale or rent. They are sporty, roomy and they don't pollute.

The former train depot at Eighth and Woodmere Streets in Traverse City is now home to the area's first electric car sales and rental center.

Ella Cooper, whose family has owned the depot and the former Grand Traverse Dinner Train since 1988, says her new company, E-Company LLC, will offer a fleet of 10 electric vehicles beginning this summer.

The fleet is currently comprised of the two-passenger Kurrent, manufactured by American Electric Vehicle Co. of Wixom.

"This vehicle is manufactured in Michigan, which is an important factor for us," said Cooper.

Also to come is a four-passenger model made by GEM, Global Electric Motors.

"For each mile traveled by our fleet of rental electric vehicles, E-Company will guarantee that the energy supplied will be renewable, from either solar or wind and sourced in Michigan," said Cooper.

The train depot building has been in Cooper's family since 1988. In cooperation with brother-in-law Marty Lagina and sister Olivia, E-Company decided to uphold the building's original purpose.

"We believe it should be maintained as a transportation center," said Cooper. "Even though there is no passenger rail service and the Dinner Train no longer continues, we believe this building is too vital in terms of its long term application. These vehicles will be ideal for people if rail service should ever return to this area."

The company rents and sells the fully street legal LV-1model and the upgraded LV-2. Equipped with two separate batteries, one for accessories and one for movement, each vehicle will run 40 miles before recharging (relative to terrain and weight).

"They've often been referred to as neighborhood vehicles-ideal for nipping around town, going grocery shopping, taking the kids to ballet," she said. With a 7.5 cubic-foot trunk, it will hold 5-7 grocery bags.

The vehicles are limited to 25 mph and need to be operated on streets less than 40 mph. According to Cooper, this particular vehicle began its life as a micro-car in Europe. It was not and has never been a golf-cart. It's based on the micro-car technology built with good suspension and ability to handle higher speeds.

Rental begins at $65 for a half day two-seater and $75 for four passengers. Weekly, monthly and seasonal rentals are also available.

Purchase a Kurrent for $9,800-$13,800 depending on model and added creature comforts like blue tooth technology, bimini style roof (removable canvas) and deep cell gel battery-maintenance free battery. Cars may be charged at home in a regular household current.

"We are just putting the finishing touches on some of our marketing materials, but we can rent them anytime," said Cooper.

"Being a resident of a community like this in a beautiful area, naturally we want to preserve," Cooper added.

As Traverse City grows, the company predicts that in a decade or two, the train depot location might become the center of the city. BN