Columbia announces first all-electric, free shuttle

cleblanc@thestate.comMarch 25, 2013 

— Visitors and workers in Columbia’s central business district have use of the city’s first all-electric, free shuttle.

A 2012 Nissan LEAF hatchback has been available since early February on a first-come, first-served basis. An updated version, wrapped in bright yellow and blue vinyl, will be presented at a 10 a.m. announcement today Tuesday by City Center Partnership, city officials and representatives of Dick Smith Nissan.

The formerly silver electric vehicle now sports the partnership’s logo and contact information for riders in eye-catching colors.

The LEAF replaces a Jeep Wrangler that city center business group had leased for the past three years, said Matt Kennell, the group’s director.

The vehicle is being leased for 38 months by the partnership at $299 per month, said Taylor Smith, fleet sales manager at the dealership. Monthly payments will be about $100 cheaper than for the former vehicle and fuel savings will amount to about $750 monthly, Kennell said.

Sponsors of the electric hatchback hope its novelty of it will attract more riders. The Jeep traveled an average of 80 miles daily in the 36-block business district bounded by Gervais, Elmwood, Assembly and Marion streets.

Riders may request the shuttle, which will be clearly marked with a vinyl wrap and logos, by calling 309-7758.

The LEAF carries enough of an electric charge to keep it running during the daily 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. service period, said Roger Davis, the business group’s director of operations. But it’s likely to be down about an hour daily for recharging during mid-afternoon down periods. Generally, demand dips between 2-3 p.m., Davis said.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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