ZENN Motor Co. is looking for sites to build a R&D facility that will focus on developing their Zennergy Drive System. The facility will have an initial budget of $40 to $50 million over three years according to CEO Ian Clifford. ZENN has applied to the governments of Ontario and Michigan for financial assistance. Government funding will be a major factor in choosing where the facility is located. Learn more: Montrealgazette.com
Michael R. Parkhurst, vice president of sales at E-Z-Go, announced that Five Star Golf Cars will be its distributor for golf courses and facilities in northeastern New York and most of New England, including Maine, eastern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Laconia, NH based dealer will sell, service and support E-Z-GO RXV and TXT fleet-golf cars, the MPT line of turf-maintenance vehicles, and the ST line of heavy-duty utility vehicles. Key personnel at Five Star Golf Cars includes a PGA Golf Professional and a former service manager for a golf-car distributorship. Learn more: Worldgolf.com
GM is holding talks with their Chinese Partner SAIC Motor Inc. to explore selling Wuling produced minitrucks for the Indan market. The Wuling minitrucks are sold in China in 0.3 to 0.8 tonne versions. The Wuling offers GM a faster entry into the market since relatively few modifications of the existing vehicle platform and technology would be required. SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile is a joint venture between GM and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation(SAIC) of China and Wuling Automobile Co., Ltd. Learn more: Wheelsunplugged.com
Korean electric vehicle maker CT&T plans to open manufacturing and distribution facilities in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas. The company will be making LSVs, which retail for about $12,000, at each of the locations. The company expects to employ about 200 people at each facility. In Philadelphia the company is looking at locations along the Delaware river and in Pittsburgh they have toured five sites in around the city.
CT&T’s long term strategy is to open 40 regional assembly and sales systems in North America as they target city and municipal fleets in particular. They currently have a contract to supply California police departments with 4,000 vehicles for use in parking enforcement.
On Thursday the Oklahoma Tax Commission issued a ruling to “clarify” a tax credit for electric vehicles that has been in effect since the mid-nineties. According to the ruling, vehicles with golf cart or go-cart like bodies or principally designed for sporting or recreation purposes do not qualify for the state tax credit which amounts to 50% of the purchase price and can be spread over five years. Consumers who previously purchased vehicles this year expecting a tax credit may not receive one depending on which vehicle they purchased. As of yesterday the commission had qualified the Wheego and Club Car’s Carryall 2 and Carryall 6 models. Learn more: NewsOK.com
Dealer Roger Gaddis of Ada Electric Cars has filed a lawsuit to get the commission’s ruling revoked. Among the vehicles that Gaddis sells are purpose built LSVs from Tomberlin which, as of now, no longer qualify for the state tax credit, although they did so last year.
I spoke with Mr. Gaddis yesterday and he stated that vehicle owners, other dealers and OEMs have contacted him about turning the lawsuit into a class action. He suspects that the new ruling was made because of an unexpected surge in tax credits related to the vehicles and subsequent lost revenue for the state. Sales of these vehicle have increased significantly fueled by a federal tax credit for 2009 that also applies to LSVs. The combined federal and state tax credits can drop the cost of some vehicles to near zero.
In support of this suspicion Gaddis noted that a tax commissioner had contacted him and wanted to know how many vehicles he had sold. Gaddis responded by asking the commissioner what sales figures had to do with whether vehicles qualify for the tax credit or not. While Gaddis would not provide specific sales figures to the commissioner or myself he told me that sales had improved “dramatically” with the dual tax credits.
Mr. Gaddis also remarked that there has never been a vehicle qualification or certifying process for vehicles to qualify for the tax credit. If the vehicle met NHTSA’s LSV standards than they qualified. Furthermore he stated that the original purpose of the tax credit was to reduce the use of fossil fuels, reduce the use of foreign oil and encourage the use of environmentally friendly vehicles.
I have placed a call with the Oklahoma Tax Commission and hope to speak to them soon. Learn more: Forbes.com,
Update: I spoke with Paula Ross the spokesperson for the Oklahoma Tax Commission late today. She said that the emergency ruling was prompted by the large number of requests by people asking if particular vehicles qualified for the state tax credit. Previously only a minimal number of people applied for the tax credit, approximately 100 in 2008. Although the commission is still compiling figures, the number is much higher this year and a greater variety of vehicles are involved than in previous years. The ruling was meant to clarify the situation but as Ms. Ross noted, it may have caused more confusion.
Right now the commission is gathering data in hopes of understanding the market better and clarifying the situation. The governor has 45 days to approve the ruling, and until that approval and more information is gathered, the tax commission will refrain from releasing a complete list of qualified vehicles. Ms. Ross also remarked that the impact on revenue will not influence the qualification of vehicles but could be something addressed by the legislature for 2010. – Marc Cesare
ZENN recently announced that they will not be mass producing the highway capable cityZENN and instead will focus on developing their ZENNergy Drive Systems, which incorporates EEStor technology. The change probably means an exit from the LSV manufacturing business as well. Management notes competition from a large number of well-funded new and existing automotive OEMs that have now entered the electric vehicle market as a factor in the decision to become more of a supplier to vehicle OEMs rather than a vehicle OEM itself.
This strategy plays into ZENN’s technology advantage arising from their relationship with EEStor, of which ZENN owns 10.7%. Of course this relies on EEStor delivering on their promised technological advancements. With regards to the viability of EEStor’s technology, ZENN CEO Ian Clifford states,
EEStor has publicly stated that they expect to complete initial component testing in September 2009 and deliver functional technology to ZMC by the end of the year.
Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:
- Some cities and states are expanding road use regulations to include mini-trucks and other off-road vehicles
- LSV/NEV road use ordinances continue to be passed by local municipalities although safety concerns, usually raised by the local police department, remain an issue
- In some localities the new LSV ordinances prohibit the use of golf cars which previously had been allowed
- Texas MSV and Massachusetts LSV laws went into effect
Boonville, Ind – Warrick County officials have taken the first steps to allowing ATVs to use some county roads.
Baraboo, WI – City Council approves ordinance allowing NEVs to be used on most city streets.
Minnesota – Minnesota House of Representatives passes bill allowing the use of mini-trucks on local streets and highways under a special permit issued by the local governments.
Ocean City, NJ – Ordinance banning the use LSVs on city streets which was supported by the police department failed to pass.
Peabody, KS – Local ordinance is passed allowing alternative transportation vehicles on city streets including ATVs, golf carts and mini-trucks.
Saanich, British Columbia, Canada – City Council bans the use of NEVs on city streets because of concerns about the safety of vehicles in crashes with highway speed vehicles.
Neoga, IL – City Council passes ordinance allowing NEVs to be used on city streets.
Wheeling, IL – Village Board passes ordinance allowing NEVs to be used on city streets.
Massachusetts – On July 31, 2009 the states NEV ordinance , which allows vehicles to operate on streets with speed limits of 30 mp or less, went into effect.
Colorado – State Senate passed a bill allowing NEVs and street legal golf cars to be operated on streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less.
Texas – On September 1, 2009 the state’s MSV law, which allows NEVs to be operated on streets with speed limits of 45 mph or less, went into effect. In addition a new law stops the state DMV from registering golf carts but allows cities to pass their own ordinances governing golf cars.
Chesterton, IN – State LSV law went into effect on July 1, 2009 that excludes the use of golf cars on the city streets. Chesterton previously allowed the use of golf cars on city streets.
Nebraska – State legislature is considering whether mini-trucks and other off-road vehicles should be allowed on public roads.
Abilene, KS – City passes ordinance allowing the use of work-site utility vehicles and mini-trucks on city streets except main thoroughfares.
ZAP received the first shipment of small electric trucks from Wuling Motors of China earlier this year. To date approximately 100 of the vehicles, which are classified as LSVs, have been shipped to the US. Most of the vehicle is manufactured by Shanghai-GM-Wuling except for the transmission, battery, controls and motor. The batteries are provided by HOPPECKE Batterien GmbH & Co. KG and the vehicles have an AC motor. Besides ZAP, Green Go Tek also distributes the electric trucks.
Wuling is planning on rolling out their Smile-E micro car for the NEV markets such as gated communities and retirement areas as early as next month. The Smile-E will be distributed by Green Go Tek and Ruff and Tuff vehicles. Learn more: ChinaBizGov
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has compiled information regarding medium speed vehicle (MSV) and mini-truck laws by state. According to the institute Kentucky, Montana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Washington currently have MSV laws. Oregon’s law will go into effect at the end of September and Colorado has a law that will be triggered by the US DOT’s setting of MSV standards. The latter may not happen anytime soon:
In 2008 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) denied several petitions to create a new class of vehicles known as medium-speed vehicles (MSVs), which would have a top speed of 35 mph. The petitioners asked that MSVs be subject to a set of safety standards greater than those applied to low-speed vehicles (LSVs) but substantially less than those applied to conventional passenger cars. NHTSA denied the petition because unlike LSVs, which are permitted to have a top speed of 25 mph and are intended for use in controlled, low-speed communities, MSVs are traveling in higher risk traffic situations and should comply with all of the safety standards set for passenger cars.
Kentucky, Montana and Colorado’s laws allow for a top speed of 45 mph for MSVs while all the other states with laws allow for a top speed of 35 mph. Learn more: IIHS.org
The following states have mini-truck laws: Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. There is more variance in the laws for these vehicles since states classify them differently. Some are classified as mini trucks or mini utility trucks and others as utility vehicles, off highway vehicles, or even LSVs or MSVs since some mini trucks are speed restricted although many can go 45 to 55 mph. Top speeds allowed by the vehicles vary from 25 mph to a high of 55 mph, and the types of roads they can be used on vary as well. Learn more: IIHS.org
Previously I posted a story about GEM stating their vehicles qualified for a federal plug-in electric vehicle tax credit. I have since checked on other manufacturers such as Tomberlin, Columbia ParCar and Wheego and they are also claiming their LSVs qualify for the tax credit as well. Columbia ParCar’s website has some good information on the subject. LSVs are apparently eligible for two tax credits in 2009, the larger EESA or plug-in tax credit and the smaller ARRA LSV tax credit, but taxpayers can only claim one for a given vehicle. The EESA tax credit should provide a significant boost to sales of LSVs for the remainder of 2009.