Electric Vehicles in Rural Communities

Electric Vehicles in Rural Communities

Episode 4138 , Episode 4152
Lucas Oil "Keep That Engine Alive"Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

Those who live in or near large cities enjoy ready access to public and private transportation, where bus, rail, taxi and ride share options are plentiful. But for smaller communities, getting around can be a real challenge. Well, we recently visited one Texas town that has found a smart, clean solution for shrinking this big problem.

Bastrop, Texas, is located about 30 miles southeast of Austin. It covers nine square miles and is home to around 9000 people. It’s a pleasant place to live or visit, on the edge of Texas hill country with the Colorado river passing nearby; a thriving main street downtown and a relaxed vibe all around.

Typical of small towns in the area, there are no city buses or subways here. Carts, the capital area rural transportation system, offers low-cost van rides for folks to get around within the city limits, or to connect with regional transit options.

And since December of 2019, Bastrop has collaborated with the lone star clean fuels alliance and e-cabs of North America to provide a cost-free and emissions-free micro-transit ride service using GEM low-speed battery electric vehicles. The US Department of Energy funded this two-year pilot project to explore how well these low-speed EV’s could meet a rural community’s first- and last-mile transit needs.

The GEMs carry 5 passengers and can legally travel on roads with speed limits up to 45 miles per hour, though the cabs themselves top out at 25. They can sustain 3 to 4 hours of continuous duty per charge.

E-cabs operates on evenings and weekends, and covers a limited area surrounding downtown Bastrop, but there are no pre-determined routes. It’s all on-demand and on the rider’s schedule, and these things stay busy! They also offer a para-transport option with a foldaway accessibility ramp.

The system allows riders to request electric cab service through a phone call or a mobile app. The e-cab driver is alerted immediately, and pickup time is typically fifteen minutes or less.

Bastrop mayor Connie Schroeder is a frequent rider, and she knows a thing or two about riding in style!

MAYOR CONNIE SCHROEDER: It doesn’t matter if you’re in a small town or a big town, you need to be able to get around. Everybody needs to go to the post office, go to a doctor, maybe get something to eat, and that last mile can be extremely hard. It can be hard if you don’t have a vehicle, it can be hard if you’re elderly.

JOHN DAVIS: Frequently taking the place of larger conventional vehicles, the system’s electric vehicles translate into lower per-trip fuel consumption and emissions.  Bastrop’s e-cabs are re-charged using electricity from the Texas grid, which relies on one of the country’s highest proportions of renewable energy sources.

Nationwide, adoption of electric vehicles has lagged in rural areas when compared to urban markets. The hope is that the electric shuttles can increase comfort and familiarity with EV technology in the community, and could lead to greater interest in electric vehicle ownership, too.

CHRIS NIELSEN: This is a good idea because it’s incredibly inexpensive to operate, it’s efficient, the people like it. We have a lot of traction, and we’ve been adopted by the community here. And we’re a part of it now, and this has happened everywhere that we’ve deployed.

JOHN DAVIS: The e-cabs are bringing new mobility options to the citizens of Bastrop, and showing that even a small town can set a big example for clean transportation.

MAYOR CONNIE SCHROEDER: They take care of the environment, they’re convenient, they’re easy, and there isn’t anything better than waving to your friends when you’re in a free e-cab ride.


1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750

Tire Tracks: 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750

by Roger Mecca
Episode 4235
Lucas Oil "Keep That Engine Alive"Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

In the 137-year history of the automobile, there have been many that both captured our attention, and progressed to legendary status. But then there are others that, while coveted when new, are less well known to collectors of today. Now, one such car recently caught the eye of our own Roger Mecca, who decided this particular Italian coupe deserved a return to the spotlight.

ROGER MECCA: For many devoted gearheads, there’s that one car classic car they yearn for, endlessly scouring websites, auction catalogues and local car shows looking to find that pristine example or restorable project– that Holy Grail to make their car dreams a reality.

For these fanatics, just mentioning that particular make and model can induce regret-filled stories of missed opportunities or a longwinded discussion on why it’s the ultimate in driving excellence.

Once such example is the Alfa Romeo GTV, produced between 1965 and 1974. It was a designed to be the great balance between a family car and something you could rip down any tight Italian road. And while it’s flown under the radar for many car fans, most Alfa enthusiasts will tell you this is what made the brand so iconic.

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Richard Garre owns this 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750, a car he’s loved for 50 years. In 1973, a college roommate who owned a GTV tossed Richard the keys and they went for a drive. Within moments, he had an epiphany.

RICHARD GARRE: I was in the car for about 10 minutes and I go, ‘I need to own this car!’

It had everything. It had the looks, it had the sound, it just– it, it had just such a great visceral experience. I go, ‘this is it- I gotta own this car!’”

The GTV, after driving it and owning it, it really did kind of change my life, especially towards being in the car business. I realized after working on cars for a while, that, uh, I think this is a good business I’m gonna be in. So, the start of my senior year, I was looking for employment either, you know, twisting wrenches or working for a car company or a dealership.

ROGER MECCA: Which he did from then on, including once having his own shop that specialized in, you guessed it, Alfa Romeos, and other high-end European brands.

There were four main variations of the GTV, based on the displacement of the 4-cylinder twin cam aluminum engine. The 1300, the 1600, the 1750, and the 2000. Now, while each has their own followers, most Alfa fans, including Richard, will tell you the 1750 is the sweet spot. It gives you the best balance of power and finesse.

Delivering 130 horsepower and 125 pounds of torque, the 1750 redlines at 7000 RPM. And when you get there, the little 1.8 liter starts to sing. Downshifting and throttling into a corner, it sounds and feels like you must be going 80, though you’re barely doing 30. In fact, it takes almost 10 seconds to reach 60. But trust me, when everything feels and sounds this good, you don’t care.

The five-speed doesn’t like to be rushed, but it’s velvety smooth. The feather-light steering provides intuitive feedback and the cornering grip and stability encourage you to go harder and faster.

1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750 Interior1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750 Interior

The GTV is so much fun to drive, you almost forget just how great it looks- even 45 years later. It was the first model designed by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, created when he was just 22 years old. Known for such icons as the Lotus Esprit and BMW M1, he never liked the GTV. Though it’s hard to understand why. Simultaneously masculine and elegant, one look and there is no mistake what the GTV was designed for: driving fast and having fun, but still being refined and exotic.

Now, if you’d like to own a GTV, you are in luck because they made more than 40,000 of these over the years. The challenge, however, is finding one that’s in really good shape.

These were notorious rust buckets, and a lot of people didn’t treat them very well, so finding one that’s in excellent condition- that can be a hassle. Finding one that’s in perfect condition? That can cost you $100,000.

But if you do find one to make your own, please do yourself and every GTV lover like Richard a favor: don’t keep it safely tucked away like a museum showpiece. Drive it as often as you can, just like Alfa Romeo intended. But I have a feeling that once you get behind the wheel, that won’t be a problem.