Focusing on Adults 50+ in Mesa, Delta, Montrose Counties

Passing the gas pump

Apr 3, 2012, noon
Al Inglis, 88, stays young by cruising around Grand Junction in his GEM electric car.


Inglis offers rides to his friends for short trips and quick errands.


Inglis heeding the call of the open road.


Inglis plugs in at home.

By Carla Johnson

Rising fuel prices have forced more than a few road warriors to the curb, especially those on a fixed income. But when Al Inglis, 88, hears the call of the open road, he fires up his 2008 Global Electric Motorcars (GEM) e2 electric car and hits the streets of Grand Junction at a dizzying 26 miles per hour.

Some would say that’s a pretty tame ride for a former airplane pilot and World War II era smokejumper, but Inglis said it suits his way of life.

“It goes every place I want to go in town: to the bank, to church every Sunday, and the occasional fast food restaurant,” Inglis said.

Inglis bought his GEM brand new for $8,000. After Margaret, his wife of 57 years, died four years ago, he loaded the 1,000-pound mechanism into a U-Haul truck and moved to Colorado to be close to his son and daughter. Now a resident at Mesa View Retirement Community, he offers rides to his friends for short trips and quick errands.

The GEM battery-electric vehicle produces zero emissions, runs as quiet as a whisper, and leaves a barely perceptible carbon footprint. Unlike a golf cart, the e2 is street legal. It has standard safety belts, a windshield with wipers, headlamps, brake lights, and turn signals. Inglis is also required to license his electric car.

“It’ll go maybe 30 miles on one six-hour charge, so it’s no good out of town,” Inglis said. “But I like the turning radius. I wish it did 40 miles per hour, but it would cost another $1,000 just to bring it up to 35.”

The GEM seats two relatively comfortably. The interior temperature is controlled by a blanket that also doubles as a seat cushion and plastic side windows that zip onto the canvas doors.

Although the GEM maintains a low profile in traffic, Inglis found out the hard way that it does not necessarily fly under the radar. Recently, while driving on the shoulder of a wide street on Orchard Mesa, he passed an off-duty police officer traveling in the same direction.

“I came up to a stop sign and should have gotten behind the other cars,” Inglis admitted. “A uniformed police officer came to my house later that day and issued me a ticket for passing on the right.”

Inglis’ traffic infraction cost him $113.

“I asked the officer if he would rather I drive safely or legally. The officer said legally,” Inglis said.

Inglis confided that he has three terminal diseases.

“One, old age. Two, I’ve had 3-1/2 heart attacks. Three, I’ve just been diagnosed with MAC,” he said.

Mycobacterium avium complex is a chronic lung infection. Inglis still takes the stairs instead of the elevator to his second floor apartment and walks at a surprisingly brisk pace. But the avid harmonica player acknowledged the toll MAC has taken.

“It’s decreased my lung power and it shortens my breath,” Inglis said.

Inglis said his family seriously considered having his driver’s license revoked after heart bypass surgery.

“I had a professional examiner evaluate my driving,” Inglis said. “It cost me $400, but I was declared competent to be behind the wheel.”

A retired minister, Inglis has pursued a life of peace and simplicity. His choice for transportation reflects his philosophy of life.

“We senior citizens aren’t very concerned with the way we’re leaving things for our grandchildren,” Inglis said. “We ought to conserve more.”

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