Such low-maintenance vehicles are perfect for Ashland and meld well into our conservation ethic.

A slight fall chill was in the air as Harriet Scott pulled up in front of my house in a sleek, forest green and white Global Electric MotorCar e-2, a two-passenger transport styled much like a golf cart.

She bounded from the GEM and we spent some time on the porch discussing her purchase and quickly locked our minds on a common goal: making Ashland into a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle friendly environment, where many types of electric cars are encouraged and accepted as an environmentally positive alternative to the internal combustion engine and the attendant revved-up lifestyles associated with over-consumption and hundreds of horsepower.

Scott moved to Ashland from Santa Fe, N.M., in 1997, having jettisoned her 23-year-old habit of tooling about in a Volkswagen Bug. She found Ashland a wonderful place to live and soon bought an EV Rider three-wheeler for sidewalks, which met most of her needs. She has kept it to use during her regular trips to the YMCA.

The GEM e-2, however, seats two instead of one and is street legal with quartz-halogen headlights, high-mounted brake and turning lights, a windscreen wiper, three-point safety belts and "¦ well, it is a hoot to drive and draws smiles, shouts and applause as she attends to her daily errands about Ashland.

Scott bought a basic model ($7,395 new) from a friend, though many accessories are available to upgrade both comfort and convenience. Fabric or hard doors ($1,135 and $2,095, respectively) can be added, as well as a heater/defroster ($445) and sound system ($695). She prefers the no-door basic model, as she is always within a few minutes from her next stop and prefers unlimited visibility in all types of weather.

Charging the GEM costs about 10 cents worth of electricity per hour of use. With a range of 25 miles and a top speed of 25 miles per hour, it makes economic sense to drive one while shopping and store the groceries in the lockable fiberglass storage bin attached to the rear.

The only way that I could tell that it can also double as a golf cart was the four cup holders on the dash — a convenient feature for those long, dry, fairways leading up to the money putting on the greens. A flick of a switch puts the GEM into golf mode by reducing the top speed, allowing you to drive with style as you hook and slice your way through the afternoon.

Scott went on to say: "I have spotted four other of these GEMs in town, as well as an assortment of other electric cars, bikes and scooters. It would be an inspiration to see more of these vehicles on the road, especially if city employees used these to go to and from their many meetings. Charging stations located conveniently around town would also help set the tone."

With that, she glanced at the time and announced that she had to meet someone on the other side of town. I watched her buckle up and smoothly and rapidly accelerate away from the curb.

She had a big, electric smile on her face as she left and, after inspecting her GEM e-2, I now know why. Such low-maintenance vehicles are perfect for Ashland and meld well into our conservation ethic.

Go to www.gemcar.com and check out the company's many variants of a well-executed concept that qualifies for up to a $6,500 stimulus check from the federal government, as the GEM is street legal. Traditional golf carts do not qualify for this generous check.