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VENTURA : Electric Car to Have Impact on County Fair

General Motors’ hot new prototype electric car is making the rounds in Ventura County and will land at the Ventura County Fair Agriculture Building today and Saturday.

The sleek silver two-seater with rack-and-pinion steering and anti-lock brakes bursts from zero to 60 m.p.h. in 8.5 seconds in a shiftless acceleration. Its cockpit-like console provides digital readouts for the driver.

Except during acceleration, when the Impact produces a sound reminiscent of a tiny jet engine, the car is soundless.

“It’s an amazing little car,” said Rob Davis, a Southern California Edison spokesman who is displaying the car. Edison, GM and 14 other utility companies are sponsoring a two-year marketing research program designed to let 1,000 potential customers test-drive the prototype.

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Edison and other utilities will benefit from the advent of electric cars with a greater demand for their product. And the environment will benefit as well, Davis said.

“It’s a lot easier to clean up emissions from a generating plant than it is from thousands of vehicles,” he said.

The car features computerized systems such as one that checks and adjusts tire pressure for optimum mileage.

Lead-acid batteries provide near pollution-free power to the car, which weighs about 3,000 pounds. Its range is about 90 highway miles and 70 in the city.

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Although only 50 of the prototypes will be built, GM plans to have the Impact in production by 1998 at a cost to the consumer of around $20,000, Davis said.

But the prototypes cost considerably more to develop--about $600,000 each. Consequently, Davis said, visitors at the fair this weekend won’t be able to test-drive or sit in the car.

“At that price, we probably don’t want people sliding in and out of it with their ice cream,” he said.


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