Council discusses electric vehicle issues

By Nicola Crean

In a study session Tuesday night, the Champaign City Council discussed the possibility of extending the area where gas-powered Neighborhood Electric Vehicles are used in the city.

The vehicles have only been permitted in the University District since November 2007.

The gas-powered vehicles are designed to go up to a maximum speed of 25 mph. The driver must have a license in order to drive the vehicle that has safety equipment such as seatbelts and tail lights. According to state law, the vehicle can only be operated on streets with a speed limit of 35 mph.

At-Large Council member Tom Bruno said that it should be required for operators to have insurance for their vehicles since it is a motor vehicle, even though it is a specific type.

The issue of safety was a concern for some of the Council members.

Dist. 5 Council member Ken Pirok questioned whether the vehicles are too slow to pass on city roads that tend to have more traffic then the University District.

“I think the streets should be looked at as to which ones may be more hazardous,” said Pirok.

The Council discussed ordinances that could be enacted so vehicles that are operating on a city road above 35 mph would receive a violation.

Bruno said this is the type of new innovative technology that the city needs.

“The University is a trendsetter, and the green light should be given for Champaign,” he said. “It gives residents the opportunity for alternatives.”