WAUNAKEE, WI - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently unveiled its first "E-Ride" electric vehicle to be used at state parks this year.

Twenty-three electric vehicles are headed to 22 parks, with Peninsula State Park earmarked for two, according to the DNR. The new vehicles are street-legal with enclosed cabs, seat belts, all necessary lights, and capable of traveling up to 25 mph with a daily range of 50 to 75 miles per charge, according to the DNR.

Manufactured by Columbia ParCar of Reedsburg and E-Ride Industries of Princeton, Minn., "These electric vehicles are more efficient to operate, will reduce air pollution, and will showcase to 14 million annual state park visitors each year our commitment to energy independence and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said DNR Secretary Matt Frank at the April 21 unveiling.

DNR expects each vehicle to emit 9,450 lbs. less CO2 per year compared to a ¾- ton pick-up driven 8,000 miles per year.

According to Frank, the vehicles are between 30 and 50 percent less expensive to purchase compared to pickups currently in use by the fleet. The electric vehicles also are less expensive to operate, he said. The electric vehicles cost about $0.02 per mile compared to $.62 per mile operating costs on average for the vehicles being replaced.

Money from the Parks Heritage Account is being used to purchase the vehicles. The account is funded by payments and fees collected from utilities and other groups seeking easements onto Wisconsin State Parks for utility lines and communication installations.