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Electric pickup is a real charge (cost of driving isn't bad either)

Brad Pillow behind the wheel of his Zap pickup truck. The truck weighs almost a ton, carries up to 300 pounds, goes 45 mph with a range of 40 miles per charge. Bottom photo, the sidewalls and tailgate fold down to accommodate bulkier loads. - Richard Walker
Brad Pillow behind the wheel of his Zap pickup truck. The truck weighs almost a ton, carries up to 300 pounds, goes 45 mph with a range of 40 miles per charge. Bottom photo, the sidewalls and tailgate fold down to accommodate bulkier loads.
— image credit: Richard Walker

Diesel prices have passed the $5 mark. The price of regular gas, as of Friday, neared the mid-$4 mark.

But you won't hear a gripe from Brad Pillow of Friday Harbor, especially since it only costs him 31.71 to fill 'er up.

That's 31.71 cents, not dollars.

Pillow, who's accustomed to being behind the wheel of a full-size Chevy pickup with a 350 V8, now cruises island streets in a pickup truck made by Zap, an electric vehicle manufacturer.

Pillow bought his Zap pickup April 27, after a dump truck and his 38 mpg Honda Civic had an unfortunate meeting.

Faced with ever-increasing fuel prices, Pillow’s wife, Liz, recommended they look at options. He did some research into electric vehicles, learned about Zap, connected with an owner in Olympia and went for a test drive. He was sold. His pickup cost him $13,000.

Turns out, the smart blue pickup has proven to be an ideal vehicle for tooling around the island. It goes 45 mph and has a 40-mile range on one charge. (The golf cart-like electric cars manufactured by GEM go 25 mph, have a 20-mile range per charge and cost about $18,000.)

Pillow's pickup is cozy – it has two doors, two seats, seatbelts and stereo. Just how cozy is it? "I like to say that you have to step outside to change your mind," Pillow quips.

It's so quiet it has a signal that alerts motorists and pedestrians that it is backing up. A full charge is 4.2 kilowatt hours, at 7.55 cents per kwh. You can top off anytime you want.

It's built Zap tough: it weighs almost a ton. The batteries have a life of five to seven years. The differential takes one pint of oil a year.

Now, here’s the part that’s anti-Danica. The Zap pickup carries a maximum of 300 pounds – that’s including driver and passenger. The winter cold can affect the battery charge, so you've got to park this rod in the garage. And speed and length of battery charge are affected by road grade; the flatter the grade, the longer the ride.

And the nearest Zap dealer is in Oregon.

Pillow said the benefits far outweigh any disadvantages.

Zap vehicles are actually classified as motorcycles (they have three wheels). So, to register your vehicle you pay a motorcycle rate. Insurance is a lot cheaper. And, as a "motorcycle," you can be first on and first off the ferry, Pillow said.

"The savings are astronomical. I save about $100 a month in gas," he said. "Liz puts her bike in the back, we drive into town together and then she rides her bike to work."

Pillow's top reason for recommending that others go Zap: "Social responsibility."

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