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Scoot on over to a better gas bill

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

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Once upon a time, gas was relatively inexpensive and behemoth, gas-guzzling vehicles were all the rage. Dinosaurs once roamed the earth, too.

But with $4-a-gallon gas on the horizon, filling a big tank can be an act of financial self-destruction. Maybe it’s time to ditch the car and get a scooter? After all, most scooters get an average of 75 to 80 mpg.

Scooters are like the short history of soccer in the United States, says Stephan Henkel, owner of Scooter Station in Portland. The rest of the world has long been passionate about them as efficient and stylish transportation, but few people here know anything about them, says Henkel.

“In America, big is what counts,” he says.

That could be changing. Over the past decade, new scooter sales in the United States have climbed from about 12,000 in 1997 to 131,000 in 2007, according to the trade group Motorcycle Industry Council.

Paula Daniels, co-owner of Scooter Street in Portland, says she’s seeing more customers interested in buying a scooter not just for recreation, but also to be thrifty. “A lot of people can’t afford to buy a hybrid car,” she says.

Newer scooters are also cleaner for the environment, Henkel says. Scooters with the more recent 4-stroke engine technology are more fuel-efficient and emit less carbon than the older 2-stroke type, while electric scooters reign supreme atop the eco-friendly pyramid.

Depending on the power and make, a new 49cc scooter with a top speed of about 40 mph can cost around $1,600, while more powerful and faster 150cc and 250cc scooters cost between $3,500 and $4,500.

With that, a scooter could be economical for both businesses and consumers. Not only do they cost less and use less gas, but many parking garages give the little guys a price break.                                  

JASON SHUFFLER



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