The Jamestown Sun

Unison bank customers have until the end of June to experience being chauffeured to and from the parking lot and front door in a GEM electric car.

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Bank President Harvey Huber arranged to lease the four-seater in May when construction work closed the parking lot nearest to the entrance of the bank. Construction will be finished the last week of the month, and the car is going back to Fargo. In the meantime, the GEM car spends days transporting customers and nights plugged into a standard electrical socket inside the front lobby of the bank or in Huber's garage.

"It's cute as a bug's ear," he said. "We're having a lot of fun with it."

Unison leased the GEM car from DaimlerChrysler's Global Electric Motorcar plant in Fargo, and Huber hauled it to Jamestown in an enclosed trailer. The GEM car is street licensed and certified, but with a top speed of around 25 mph, it's definitely not meant for highway driving. However, for an in-town car, it's pretty efficient. Huber said it runs a full day at the bank, and he thinks it would probably go at least 100 miles on a charge.

The Gem car is very basic, with windshield wipers, seat belts, turn signals and a heater -- but no air conditioner.

"It has windows," Huber said, smiling.

Lindsey Witthauer, home for the summer from the University of North Dakota, is the official chauffeur. She said the Gem car is fun to drive, and customers like its appearance, which is something like a golf cart with doors.

"They always tell me it's a cute little outfit," she said.

Someday electric cars may become commonplace in Jamestown, but currently Huber said the GEM car draws a lot of attention when he drives it down the city streets.

"It just draws interesting comments," he said.

And customers enjoy the novelty of the ride.

"They're always excited they can tell everyone they've ridden in an electric car," Witthauer said.