CHARGE! Mangrum fills up his ZENN.


For now, it may be easier to imagine a more modest — if still impactful — future for the electric vehicle in Rhode Island and nationwide; something like what James Mangrum, an architect on the East Side of Providence, his wife Laura McPeake, and their toddler are living now.

The couple has owned a Subaru Outback for some time. But with the birth of their child, they needed another car — something that could get McPeake, a doctor, to and from the hospital a mile-and-a-half away.

Mangrum had an uncle in California who owned a ZENN (Zero Emissions No Noise) electric vehicle — a converted diesel-fuel car. Intrigued, he went looking for a ZENN of his own and found a shiny blue model — a little two-seater with some trunk space in the back — on eBay for $6000.

The car runs on six car batteries. It’s quiet when it starts up. And it tops out at 40 miles per hour, which is just fine for the city streets if not quite highway grade. “I did accidentally take it on 95 going to the bus once,” Mangrum says, with a grin. “I had no business being there.”

McPeake says she was skeptical when her husband was eyeing the car online: “He said, ‘It has a heating system,’ and I said, ‘Yeah right.’ ” But it does have a heating system — even if it feels a bit like a hair dryer — and she’s warmed up to the car. It’s even made it through a couple of snowstorms.

This is a second car for a family that can afford one. It is a commuter vehicle that wouldn’t suffice on its own, but takes the Mangrum-McPeake clan most of the places it needs to go — the Whole Foods down the road, a monastery in Cumberland where the dogs, Pepper and Alice, like to run.

And with little else like it on the road, the car comes with another, less tangible perk. “I’ve never had a trendy vehicle before,” McPeake says, “and this one turns heads.”

David Scharfenberg can be reached atdscharfenberg@phx.com.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  | 
Related: The plan to turn Rhode Island red, Chafee’s number, Up in smoke?, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Politics, Rhode Island, Transportation,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   LIBERAL WARRIOR  |  April 10, 2013
    When it comes to his signature issues — climate change, campaign finance reform, tax fairness — Whitehouse makes little secret of his approach: marshal the facts, hammer the Republicans, and embarrass them into action.
    A key Brown University oversight committee has voted to recommend the school divest from coal, delivering a significant victory to student climate change activists.
  •   HACKING POLITICS: A GUIDE  |  April 03, 2013
    Last year, the Internet briefly upended everything we know about American politics.
  •   BREAK ON THROUGH  |  March 28, 2013
    When I spoke with Treasurer Gina Raimondo this week, I opened with the obligatory question about whether she'll run for governor. "I'm seriously considering it," she said. "But I think as you know — we've talked about it before — I have little kids: a six-year-old, an eight-year-old. I'm a mother. It's a big deal."
  •   THE LIBERAL CASE FOR GUNS  |  March 27, 2013
    The school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut spurred hope not just for sensible gun regulation, but for a more nuanced discussion of America's gun culture. Neither wish has been realized.

 See all articles by: DAVID SCHARFENBERG