Before Leaf, Volt or Prius, Rick Erhlich's all electric car dealership wasbuzzing
If you’re anything like me – or the average Houstonian, for that matter – you do a lot of driving. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average Houstonian drives 36 miles per day. Houston is a fantastic city, but it does have its downsides, and chief among them is urban sprawl. It’s no secret that driving is necessary in order to get anywhere in town.
Unlike New York or Chicago, Houston is also lacking in pubic transportation infrastructure. The METRO Light Rail is a great first step, and I look forward to its expansion. But until that happens, most Houstonians will continue to rely on their automobiles for daily commuting.
Enter Houston Electric Cars. “It doesn’t make sense to talk about green living without addressing the No. 1 cause of pollution in America,” said owner Rick Ehrlich as he showed me around what he bills as "Houston's first all electric car dealership."
The average American family produces 10 to 25 tons of pollution per year just from vehicle exhaust. In fact, vehicle exhaust makes up the majority of most Americans’ carbon footprint. According to Ehrlich, “Families can lower their pollution count easily by trading one gas guzzler in for an electric car.”
In recent months, there has been a lot of talk about the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, and other new electric cars that are now available in select regions. But electric car technology has been around for almost twice as long as gasoline powered vehicles, and cars are available now at Houston Electric Cars that are much less expensive than the Leaf. In fact, the cheapest model at Houston Electric Cars costs $1,975.
Erlich took me for a ride in his personal Zenn, which weighs about 1,360 lbs. While the small form factor may make the vehicle unsafe for highway driving, we had no problems zipping around the streets of EaDo, where the dealership is located. He estimates that the Zenn costs him about two cents per mile drive. “There are no moving parts, and the only things that require maintenance are the tires and brakes.”
As for charging time, it takes about eight hours to go from zero to one hundred percent.
But I was still skeptical: Doesn’t it cost a lot of money to charge one of these things? And doesn’t electricity generation still depend on the use of fossil fuels?
“I keep around 8-12 electric cars on the lot, and my electric bills are generally around $50-$70 a month, depending on the time of year,” Erlich explained. He then proceeded to pull out his Green Mountain Energy electric bills to prove his point.
“Texas has more windmills than any other state in the country, and so consumers who want to power their cars with clean electricity can switch to Green Mountain without incurring many additional costs. And even if you charge your car with a ‘dirty’ electric bill, it’s cleaner than the cleanest hybrid.” He also explained that solar charging units are dramatically decreasing in price.
After losing his job several years ago, Rick opened his dealership, which originally started as a Zenn franchise. Since then, he has expanded his offerings and made it his personal mission to teach people that electric cars can work for everybody, due to their extremely low cost.
Houston Electric Cars also offers full electric car conversion services and sells hybrid to plug-in hybrid kits. With one of these, owners of hybrid vehicles can convert their cars and not use any gasoline.
Rick’s vehicles may not be ready for cross-country road trips, but they are perfect for those who just need an efficient vehicle to get around town, and a fantastic way to truly go green.