In December, Global Electric Motors (GEM), LLC began its tenth year of operation as the fi rst and only successful maker of all-electric, low-speed vehicles in North America.
In December, Global Electric Motors (GEM), LLC began its tenth year of operation as the fi rst and only successful maker of all-electric, low-speed vehicles in North America. These plastic-bodied, battery-powered “neighborhood electric vehicles,” or NEVs, are street-legal in 40 states for off-highway driving at up to 25 mph. President and COO Richard J. Kasper says more than 33,000 GEM cars are running on college campuses, military bases, retirement communities, parks, and other municipal facilities. Since 2000, GEM has been a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler. The GEM plant in Fargo, N.D., can produce 275 cars a day with two shifts, says director of sales and marketing Russ Kiefer. Sales have grown 10% to 15% annually over the last fi ve years, and the company has a four- to six-week order backlog. GEM cars start at about 1000 lb and prices of $7000 to $9000. Six models (for two, four, or six passengers and three sizes of utility trucks) share a simple design: An aluminum and steel frame is covered with eight to 12 thermoformed panels—underbody tub, two side panels, two mud guards, hood, fender, and roof. The largest models have three-piece tubs and roofs. All these parts are formed from a tri-layer coextruded sheet with an ABS substrate topped by colored weatherable ASA and a glossy, clear acrylic capstock. The sheet is extruded by Spartech Corp., Clayton, Mo., and formed by Wilbert Plastic Services, White Bear Lake, Minn. Thermoformed panels replaced thermoset FRP composites in 1999, Kasper says, because of inconsistent quality in the FRP parts and because thermoplastic sheet eliminated painting. GEM vehicles also have injection molded upper dashboard panels and “hard” doors (a clip-on option instead of canvas doors). GEM: (888) 871-4367/www. gemcar.com • Spartech: (888) 721-4242/www.spartech.com