Speed limits lowered to push electric cars 

In an effort to make the city safer, the speed limit in parts of two thoroughfares was reduced to make way for the slow Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, even though only one such vehicle — owned by the police department — is confirmed to exist within town.

On Monday, the Foster City Council unanimously moved to drop speed limits to 35 mph on parts of Shell and East Hillsdale boulevards and begin actively promoting the use of NEVs within the city.

Like the tougher, adventurous older sibling of common golf carts, NEVs are licensed, legal vehicles for use on roads to be driven no faster than 35 mph. That speed, coupled with the 30-40 mile range on a full battery charge, limits the vehicles to neighborhood trips and short commutes within town.

"Foster City is kind of self-contained, so I think there will be a practical application for these cars," Councilman Rick Wykoff said.

The council voted to approve the lowered speeds on Dec. 18, with Vice Mayor Pam Frisella the only dissenting vote. Because of lingering questions, the item was brought back for a vote on Jan. 2, and the council then decided to spend more time researching the topic until Monday.

Frisella’s concern was that because there is only one known vehicle in town, lowering the speed limit was an unnecessary burden on traditional drivers. There is a rumored resident who owns an NEV, but there is nothing more than anecdotal evidence.

Before the vote, there were only five stretches of road in Foster City with speed limits higher than 35 mph, and a number of Foster City drivers told The Examiner that the change would not be significant.

And while the city also plans to promote the vehicles using the police department’s car at official functions and inviting dealers to official events, the cars may not expand far beyond Foster City’s borders.

Because of the speed limit, they can’t travel on highways and would not be able to access major arteries like El Camino Real.

Michael Kelley, who sells Global Electric Motorcars at San Francisco Chrysler, said Foster City is a perfect fit for his cars, because it’s a flat, planned city similar to recent developments in Arizona, where the majority of the vehicles are sold.

The dealership is selling approximately 25 electric vehicles each month, in two-, four- and six-person models. Pickup models can now carry up to 1,400 pounds of cargo.

Foster City police use their vehicle for public events and Cpt. Matt Martell said they are sometimes put to use on night patrols through parks and open areas where the silence of the electric motor is needed.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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