BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – The lack of sales for Byron Holcomb's new business hasn't clouded his vision.
“This is the future right here,” he said, leaning against a four-wheel drive batterypowered buggy. “The electric car is coming, and it’s going to be the dominant means of transportation in the U.S.”
Holcomb, a retired attorney, opened Go Green, Bainbridge Island’s one and only car dealership, in October. And in true Bainbridge style, all the cars are electric, and the showroom is a slick little Winslow storefront that could have just as easily been an art gallery. Actually, it’s that too. Abstract originals adorn the walls, and an espresso bar is in the works.
Go Green hasn’t sold any of his electric cars, but Holcomb says interest is growing.
“You can’t believe the amount of foot traffic here – 50 people an hour,” he said.
People stop in, ask questions about the cars – which look like cross between a Jeep and a golf cart – and occasionally take a test drive.
The 14-horsepower cars can go up to 25 mph and have a 20-mile range on an overnight charge, which Holcomb said amounts to about 35 cents on the electrical bill.
Besides the highway, most roads on the island are fairly low-speed, and the island’s shops, parks and other destinations are well within the car’s battery range.
“They’re ideal for the island – going to the ferry, going shopping, picking up the kids from school,” Holcomb said.
The cars require little maintenance beyond battery and tire replacements every eight or so years, he said.
The sticker price is just under $11,000, or $10,400 for a bare-bones model.
The cars are manufactured by Bad Boy, an Arkansasbased company that has built a reputation for heavy-duty riding mowers. The company’s catalog features endorsements from famous country music singers and glossy photos of electric all-terrain vehicles tackling farm fields and hunting grounds. The streetlegal model Go Green offers is a fairly new Bad Boy product.
Holcomb admits Bad Boy might not initially seem like a good fit for Bainbridge Island. For one thing, the cars have no doors.
“You can’t expect people in the Northwest to drive a vehicle without doors, especially with our cold and rain,” he said. “That’s one mistake. I would have sold any number if I had doors.”
Holcomb made the issue known to Bad Boy, which is now developing attachable doors that should arrive at Go Green in the coming months. Anyone who buys now will get their doors shortly, Holcomb promised.
“Maybe it’s not the style the island wants,” he said. “They want a car that’s going to be able to go on the freeway and shows prestige. These cars show prestige a different way. They show you’re concerned about the environment and the community.”
Holcomb says his cars reduce dependence on foreign oil, help cut down on air pollution and support an American automaker.
And the cars can help make roads safer, he said, because they can’t do much damage if they’re traveling under 25 mph.
Parents of beginning drivers might want to take note. “They’re perfect for teenagers,” Holcomb said. “They can’t go very far or very fast or hurt many people.”
And drivers who like to mix sports and shopping should sign up for a test drive, he said.
“If you’re a golfer, you can play 18 holes and then go to Safeway — all in one car,” he said.
Holcomb bristles at the notion that car-buyers may prefer new electric car models produced by Chevy and Nissan that can go faster and travel farther.
His competitors’ greater distance is achieved only with ideal driving conditions, few hills and lightweight passengers, he said.
Holcomb had been looking for a post-retirement career. He’s written a novel, and thought he might try starting up a business.