Newspaper article on the's
Sparrow Electric Vehicle

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The following article appeared August 29, 2005 in the


Commercial vehicle, or rad ride?
By Tanya Caldwell
Staff Writer
Boca, car owner dispute labels on both sides of car

   Richard Newman and his electric car were fine until he got a call from Boca Raton's code enforcement department a couple of weeks ago.

   Turns out he can't park his three-wheeled car, the same kind featured in Austin Powers in "Goldmember", in his driveway because the city considers it a commercial vehicle. The city prohibits commercial vehicles parked in driveways or along the street.
   Newman has, the Web site for his nonprofit organization, labeled on the sides of the car and the front bumper.

    Now that the city's got its eyes on the Sparrow, Newman said, his electric sensation has run into trouble.

   It used to be that wherever Richard Newman and his 2000 Sparrow went, they were a hit. They'd head out for bagels on the weekends, or to the post office, or the bank.

   "Wherever I go, it creates an instant event," he said. If the electric car ever ran out of juice, Newman just plugged it in to get it charged for their next outing.

   That was before a code enforcement officer saw the car parked in the science philanthropist's driveway. Newman said Code Compliance Supervisor Kenneth Massalone told him to cover up the side labels because it classified the car as a commercial vehicle.

   If something's not done soon, Newman could face fines.

   "There are a number of things he could do to prevent a rigamarole over this thing," said Jorge Camejo, the city's director of developmental services.

   For starters, Camejo said, Newman could leave the Web site on his front bumper instead of on the side of the car. Or he could drape the car with a vehicle cover or a tarp while it's parked in the driveway.

   "It just needs to be covered," Camejo said. "It shouldn't be that big of a deal."

   Newman said he agrees that it shouldn't be a big deal. That's why he doesn't see a reason for "changing my lifestyle."

   "That kind of defeats the purpose if I have to hide it," he said. "I mean, I'm not doing anything wrong."

   Newman said he's not looking for business. The Web site was only put on there to direct people to more information about his nonprofit organization and to learn more about the car, so they won't always have to stop and ask him questions about it.

   "There's no books, there's no records, there's no checks, there's no employees," Newman said. "It's not a business in any shape, fashion or form."

   In fact, the Sparrow is legally a motorcycle, Newman said. The single-passenger vehicle has one wheel in the back and two in the front, and runs on 13, 12-volt batteries. It can go as fast as 80 mph and up to 50 miles on a charge, Newman said. It takes about six hours to fully recharge when plugged into a household socket.

   The only business Newman runs is High-Tech Productions, which produces videos and DVDs for government agencies. Newman said he uses the profits to fund his nonprofit agency, which he says donated science exhibits to the South Florida Science Museum and created science and technology labs around South Florida and the country, including Indian reservations.

   "I think the city should be commending me for what I've done instead of fining me," Newman said.

   City officials said it shouldn't come to that. They just want Newman to comply.

   "The city obviously has no issue with the fact that this is an electric car or with the good work he's done in the community," Camejo said.

    For more information on the Science & Technology Centers visit,

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