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Nickel Ride is swapping free shuttle rides for free electric car rides in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG —Say goodbye to downtown's elongated golf carts.

Nickel Ride isn't going anywhere, but the free ride share app is replacing its fleet of electric vehicles with enhanced electric cars and expanding its coverage area.

Starting Wednesday, six 2019 Nissan LEAF cars will take the place of the five-seat shuttle cars Nickel Ride has been operating since August. The fleet will cover more ground in the city, and even take passengers to St. Pete Beach and back.

Nickel Ride CEO Judah Longgrear said St. Petersburg is one of the company's best performing markets and that the past ten months have proven "that we needed to scale our operations to keep pace with the growing demands from our riders and advertisers."

The new cars will still be wrapped in advertising and have five seats, which is where the "Nickel" comes from.

Nickel Ride covers customers' costs through the advertising revenue it gets on each car and partnerships with local businesses. During drives, riders are given pamphlets and watch advertising on in-car television screens. The enhanced fleet will air a new "Nickel TV" channel as another way to generate ad revenue.

The company says to think of each car like an interactive billboard.

The new cars are sponsored by restaurants such as 400 Beach and have a large "Nickel City" sign on their roofs. Another perk? Because the new cars are traditional vehicles, they can operate like normal in the rain. The former shuttles, like golf carts, didn't have windows.

Nickel Ride is in five Florida cities and has a total of 22 eco-friendly vehicles. It estimates it has given about 70,000 rides 758 gallons across its market so far.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.