ATLANTIC CITY — It felt more like an airplane taking off than a car accelerating, as the Tesla Model 3 performance vehicle hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds on the old Bader Field runway Monday.

In the passenger seats were a Tesla representative and a reporter, their bodies pushed back into the seats as the silent car suddenly gained speed.

In the driver’s seat was Assemblyman John Armato, D-Atlantic, an experienced drag racer.

But racing experience wasn’t necessary to test drive electric cars at Environment New Jersey’s “Ride and Drive” event, just an interest in the vehicles.

Elected officials were particularly targeted to drive the cars in the hopes they might convert some or all public fleets to electric, said Environment New Jersey Executive Director Doug O’Malley.

“Atlantic City is one of the most well-visited towns,” said Mayor Frank Gilliam.

Gilliam said government should be leading the way to encourage more use of electric vehicles, he said, for both cleaner air and — especially on a barrier island — to combat climate change and the flooding it brings.

Last week the Senate Environment and Energy Committee advanced a bill to jumpstart electric vehicle purchasing and charging stations in the state, which O’Malley said is desperately needed.

Atlantic County Freeholder Caren Fitzpatrick, who called herself a “total car chick” who jumps at the chance to test drive a new car, said she will introduce a resolution in support of the legislation at a freeholder meeting soon.

“We have to get rid of range anxiety,” said Fitzpatrick, adding that some people won’t buy electric cars until there are more charging stations that they can count on.

“It has torque,” said Armato after the test drive of the $80,000 performance Tesla. The basic Model 3 starts at $39,000, said Zora Berman, an energy adviser at Tesla Cherry Hill.

Gilliam got his feet wet driving the all-electric Chevy BOLT -- the Volt is a hybrid -- the personal car of ChargEVC CEO Pam Frank. He raced against Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo driving a Tesla.

While the Tesla was faster, the BOLT hit 60 mph in about 7 seconds.

“This beats most cars at a traffic light,” said Frank of her two-year-old BOLT, a premium model for which she paid about $42,000 (minus the federal tax credit of $7,500). “And there are no tune ups. All those things you do to service a gas vehicle are gone.”

A basic BOLT goes for about $35,000, she said — minus the tax credit. And there is no New Jersey sales tax on electric cars, she said.

There are no moving parts to the motors that power electric cars have, said Berman, adding that’s why they don’t need the usual maintenance of gas-powered engines.

“It’s a different kind of maintenance, mostly about software,” Berman said.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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