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NEV plan goes international

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln’s neighborhood electric vehicle program drew international attention July 9 as a film crew from South Korean public broadcasting filmed the innovative integration of all-electric vehicles to standard roadways. According to Assistant Producer Chong Lee of the Korean Broadcasting System, the United States “leads the way” in electric vehicle technology and its integration, and Lincoln and another city in Florida are leading the United States’ efforts. “Lincoln is a leader in the United States for incorporating electric vehicles and providing a town where you have a safe community (for their use),” Lee said. Is it fair to say Lincoln is a world leader in its plan for NEV usage? “It absolutely is,” Lee said. The five-man film crew is working on a documentary focusing on the future of clean-air vehicles with interest in four topics – clean diesel, hybrid, fuel cell and all-electric. Lee said he and his crew found Lincoln on an Internet search and chose it over the Florida town because it was closer and “looked nicer.” The documentary’s purpose is to encourage South Koreans to adopt similar programs and focus on using electric vehicles. “Certainly, this is a great contribution to air quality,” Lee said. According to Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove, who accompanied the film crew on a tour of various NEV-related areas in Lincoln – including charging stations, the offices of the Department of Pubic Works and Sun City Lincoln Hills – Lincoln is in an area that is less than ideal for air quality. “The fact that we have integrated these into our current transportation plan has really helped with our air quality,” Cosgrove said. Lincoln Hills resident Dan Karleskint has owned an NEV since 2003, and got a second one in 2006 that was fully enclosed. As one of the NEV drivers who accompanied the film crew on its tour, Karleskint said he got a different world perspective on the environment. “It sounds like the South Koreans are really jumping on the global warming initiative,” Karleskint said. Lincoln’s NEV transportation plan is something to be proud of, according to Karleskint. “I think it’s a model for the state and the nation,” Karleskint said. “I’d like to see both Rocklin and Roseville accomplish the same thing. That program includes NEV signage, special NEV lanes and a plan to integrate NEVs in regular lanes on roads where the speed limit is 35mph or less, according to Cosgrove. NEVs are a sub-class of low-speed vehicles and are limited to 25mph, according to a brochure from Public Works. NEVs, unlike golf carts, have vehicle identification numbers, must be registered and insured, have seatbelts, lights, mirrors and four-wheel brakes. They are also larger. According to Lt. Paul Shelgren of the Lincoln Police Department, the transportation plan is working very well and police continuously talk with public works to ensure that it is always up to date. “The NEV program is definitely a positive, a plus,” Shelgren said. “It’s good for the city.” Buzz Rognlien, vice president of the Lincoln Hills group for low-speed vehicles/NEVs – which includes more than 200 vehicles – said it was interesting that representatives from other parts of the world are interested in helping reduce the consumption of energy. For that reason, Rognlien said the Korean crew’s selection of Lincoln as a filming location did not surprise him. “Definitely, Lincoln leads the country,” Rognlien said. Rognlien has owned an NEV for four years, adding that he almost never drives a regular car in Lincoln Hills. In fact, over the past 2 1/2 years, he has put about 9,000 miles on his NEV. Sharing the roadways with cars has not posed a problem, according to both Karleskint and Rognlien. “The biggest problems that I’ve noticed are misunderstandings about parking,” Rognlien said. “There are clearly marked NEV parking spots, and sometimes people park their regular vehicles in them. They’re for NEVs for a reason.” Often, those parking spots are near charging stations. “I think overall (the NEV transportation plan) is very friendly,” Rognlien said. The only thing I notice is that some people have never seen a vehicle of its type so they do a double-take.” Cosgrove was also not surprised that the Koreans picked Lincoln. “I think it is good for Lincoln in the sense that we’ve really taken a lead in putting NEVs into practical use in the community,” Cosgrove said. “It’s a good opportunity for other jurisdictions to take a look at how it can be done.” According to Cosgrove, the NEV plan in Lincoln had modest beginnings, with the city installing much of the infrastructure and letting the program grow from there. “Including it in our updated general plan it proves our commitment,” Cosgrove said, adding that every village in the new general plan will have NEVs incorporated into the village square, with connections to the other villages and the rest of Lincoln. “They will be able to get everywhere. That’s the intention,” Cosgrove said. “That’s been the biggest challenge – connectivity. We’ve been working to make everything connected.” Brandon Darnell can be reached be e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.