In a sign of the times, Hopkins this fall has equipped two stalls in its municipal parking ramp with plug-ins for electric cars.

At the request of an electric car owner who wanted to charge his electric Zenn during the day for his commute between Bloomington and Hopkins, the city extended electricity to the two stalls and established a $280 annual fee for their use.

"If we were approached by more people we would look at extending this,'' said Jim Genellie, Hopkins assistant city manager. The city wants to "go green'' in every way it can, he said.

The Zenn is a small two-seater with a hatchback that goes a top speed of 35 miles per hour. The owner, who declined to be quoted, bought it when gas was $4 a gallon. The car doesn't have the range he was hoping for -- it goes only about 25 miles on a single charge before it slows down, he said. It was supposed to be able to go over 30 miles on a charge, he said. With the limited range, the length of his trip from Bloomington -- 14 miles each way -- makes a charge advisable for the trip home, he said.

Hopkins made the parking spaces available in late October at a cost of $10 a month more than regular spaces. For a quarter, the comparison is $77 for the electric car and $47 for a traditional car. The annual rate is $280.

Genellie said the city wanted to establish a reasonable charge for the electricity and estimated the cost for the first year.

Four outlets have been installed at the two lots. Parking could easily be extended to four electric cars with extension cords.

One drawback is that the two electric spots are reserved at all times, which means that even if they are not in use they are not available to anyone else, Genellie said.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711