Ashlander drives conversation piece, continued
Ashland, OR - Heads turn when Tonya Granam drives through town.
"I know if I look up at a traffic light, somebody's going to be
looking at me," she says. "I've heard people talking at intersections,
`what the hells that?'"
The buzz began when Graham started commuting around town in a little, white, three-wheeled, electrically powered
vehicle that looks like a cross between a golf cart and a motorcycle. The Eugene-based company that built the rig
calls it a Gizmo. Graham calls it cheap, fun,
"It always felt like I was driving too much car," says Graham, who tooled around town in a 1980 Mustang
in her pre-Gizmo days. "I couldn't (afford to) keep driving it around town and I didn't want to.
"I feel much better about my own piece of the (transportation) puzzle moving around in this," she says.
"It's very satisfying to drive. I know I'm not spewing suff into the air, or adding to congestion or
taking up a Huge parking spot." Graham, who works for the Headwaters environmental group, first saw a
prototype of the Gizmo several years ago at an environmental trade show. She bought one as soon as the Neighborhood
Electric Vehicle Co. (NEVCO) began offering them to the public. NEVCO president Carl Watkins says Graham's Gizmo
is the only one on the road between Eugene and San
"Most of the 14 we've made are in Eugene," he says. "There's one in
San Francisco, one in Vancouver, B.C., one in Madison, Wisconsin, and on
in North Carolina."
Watkins says the Gizmo was designed to provide the basic energy-efficient transportation that most Americans need.
"Sixty percent of the people live within 5 miles of work," he says.
"Seventy-five percent of the people in the United States go less than 25
miles in a day. We don't really need all the extra capacity (of a
typical car) to do that."
Watkins says the Gizmo emerged when designer Mark Murphy pared transportation down to its bare essentials. Its
three-wheel configuration provides stability without the cost of building a four-wheel frame. Steering levers eliminate
the need for elaborate steering gear. A single-speed chain drive gives the Gizmo enough zip to merge with town
traffic. A fiberglass shell shelters the driver from
"It isn't an all-purpose vehicle," he says, "but it does what it does
extremely well." Graham says the gizmo's silence and its quick acceleration make it fun
to do errands and drive to work. It drives more like a motorcycle than a car," she says. "There's
nothing up in front of you like there is in a car. It's got great visibility. It picks up nicely. I jump into traffic
much more aggressively than I do in my old car because it accelerates better," she says. "I haven't
had any problem moving around in traffic." She says the Gizmo's only major drawback is its relatively rough
ride. "It isn't quite as smooth as a car. I have to watch for potholes more. In Tonya's perfect world it would
have a smoother ride."
The gizmo's top speed of 43 mph prevents Graham from driving it on freeways or fast roads. She uses her old Mustang
for those trips, but the car hasn't had much use since the Gizmo arrived two months ago. "I've bought one
tank of gas," she says. The electricity to run the Gizmo hasn't made enough difference in her electric bill
fo her to notice. "It costs about a penny a mile."
She's learned to enjoy the conversations with strangers who want to
know more about her "car". "Kids yell, `Hey lady can I have your car?' They want to know if they
can drive it before they're 16. I've gotten to meet a lot of people. Pretty much anywhere I stop, people come
up and talk to me."