Charged up

Keith Spradling

Photo By Kat Kerlin

Keith’s Kars

13203 S Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89511

(775) 741-4652

While other car dealerships are begging people to get their big SUVs off their lots, Keith Spradling has faced a slight upswing in business. He owns Keith’s Kars, which sells electric cars.

When did you open your business?

This particular business I’ve had open since January 2007. I had an RV dealership in town before.

What exactly do you do?

As a car dealership, we’re offering highly fuel efficient and alternative type transportation vehicles, along with used vehicles. We sell ZAP—Zero Air Pollution—vehicles out of central California—like the ZAP Xebra, and it comes in a pickup and a sedan. There’s also the Zapino, which is like a scooter, like a Vespa, but it’s all electric and one of the most powerful ones on the market. It gets a 30 mile range on average, and you just plug it in. It’s just over a penny a mile for one of these vehicles. Let’s say the average car gets 15 miles per gallon, and now gas is over $4 a gallon. So $4 every 15 miles, it’s quite expensive.

So how’s business been lately?

It’s actually been picking up. The word of mouth gets it going pretty good. We have a lot of interest now. It’s been slowly rising ever since the fuel has been rising. People are finding out it makes a great second vehicle that they’re going to wind up using first.

It’s great for short trips—just jump into your electric vehicle and go to the store or the mall or to visit one of your friends.

How far can you go in one of these?

Around 40 miles on a charge is an average. There are low speed vehicles (LSV). One’s a neighborhood electric vehicle, which is typically your golf car type vehicle. These little cars are restricted to streets posted at 35 under. My ZAP vehicles are three wheels and are registered as motorcycles. That’s why it’s more of a city class vehicle, which gives you more speed. One of my customers has 9,000 miles on his already, and he commutes from Verdi to Sparks every day. He’s really getting his money’s worth. It’s like 44 cents to go 40 miles. The one-to-three cents a mile is a reality for him. … We’re not quite there for affordable electric vehicles that can go highway speed for less than $30-$40,000. They’re out there and coming, but the cost is prohibitive. We expect another year or two to see more affordable vehicles hit the market, even from the larger manufacturers. The Chevy Volt is going to have a small generator motor to give it more range, but it’s going to be close to $30-$40,000 itself. We want to see $20,000 or under and be freeway viable. … A lot of us can make a vehicle that only has a 30-40 mile range work.

How did you get into this?

I had an interest with ZAP bringing in the Smart Car with Mercedes, I was the first ZAP franchisee basically in Nevada. I had the Mercedes Smart Car for sale at my RV dealership. They were becoming like a portal for other highly fuel efficient vehicles. It piqued my interest for what’s coming down the road. ZAP is if someone wants to go online and look at their stuff.

I’m looking forward to some of the faster electric vehicles—they’re very exotic-looking. … I’m an electric car dealership, and I offer everything very fuel-efficient or no gas. Everything that’s very economical transportation. That’s my niche.

Isn’t there a local group in town?

Yeah, I’m a member of the Alternative Transportation Club. It’s We’re a chapter of the Electric Vehicle Association. We’re all in a learning curve about these vehicles. It’s something that’s going to happen. It almost has to happen. We’ve got to get off our oil dependency. So slowly we’re weaning ourselves, and this is a way to do it. These vehicles are so sustainable, especially if you want to charge them up with wind or solar power. Plus the maintenance is so low.