NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Verdugo Park was a virtual test track Wednesday, as a noiseless fleet of electric cars glided over park roads.
The event, held by Glendale-based Environmental Motors, unveiled what organizers called a “new generation” of cost- and fuel-efficient vehicles, designed for 25- to 40-mile trips.
“They’re catching on, especially in light of rising gas prices,” said Joe Caracciolo, general manager for Environmental Motors.
“If you want something for in-city use, these are perfect.”
The vehicles are battery-powered and can travel 25 to 40 mph, depending on the model, he said.
And, unlike some earlier versions of electric vehicles, the cars are rechargeable through a standard 100-volt outlet, said Bill Williams, regional sales director for Zenn Motor Company.
In an age of growing awareness of the effects of the gasoline-powered engine, electric vehicles are the next logical step toward more environmentally responsible travel options, he added.
“We all want to help the environment,” he said. “So it’s walking that’s the best thing; biking, No. 2
and it’s this that’s further up the chain.”
The transcendentally named “Zap” and “Zenn” were on display Wednesday, and some drivers had the opportunity to take them for a test drive.
Nicole Landers, an eco-consultant with the company Green Living Lifestyle, has been testing the Zenn since February, driving the car all over Los Angeles.
“I think it’s a great vehicle for those who stay within 10- to 20-mile radius of their home,” she said.
Environmental Motors was started in 1999, by Kent Sokolow, who owns Colonial Honda in Glendale. S
okolow sold early electric cars such as the Sparrow and the “ebike,” a battery-powered bicycle created by automotive industry giant Lee Iacocca.
But those early attempts to introduce the electric car to consumers fell short, until Environmental Motors was relaunched this year with Sokolow’s daughter, Taryn Sokolow, joining the effort.
Taryn Sokolow was looking for a way to get involved in the family business after graduating from college and gravitated toward making a difference on the environmental level.
“After I saw the movies ‘Inconvenient Truth’ and ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ that’s really what got me going.”
With the new electric vehicles on the market since only May, sales figures are not yet available, she said. But Environmental Motors officials are working with municipalities that want Zaps and Zenns in their fleet, Taryn Sokolow said.
“We need people to embrace this,” Landers said.
“Just like they’ve embraced hybrids, they need to embrace electrics.”