UPS to Use Golf Cars for Residential Deliveries in Kentucky

UPS golf cara

A UPS delivery golf car in use in another state.

The United Parcel Service is planning on using golf cars to deliver packages in residential areas in Kentucky. The state government recently passed a law that will allow the use of golf cars or low speed vehicles for commercial delivery in residential areas.

The plan is to use the vehicles during the peak November to January delivery season, with Louisville as a potential location. The golf car or LSV would be stored in the neighborhood in a portable storage unit, and packages would be delivered to the unit as well. A driver would then deliver packages to the local neighborhood. The vehicles would be modified to carry packages and bear a UPS logo.

Teamsters Local 89 is against the plan because the drivers would be paid less than the traditional truck drivers. UPS confirmed that seasonal workers, who are paid less, will be used. According to the company, they already use golf cars for deliveries in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Learn more:  Bizjournals.com ;  Vehicle in use (youtube)

Comment:  A good example of how LSVs, golf cars and UTVs can be used in niche applications to improve efficiency and lower costs. Why use a full-size delivery truck when a much smaller and possibly electric powered vehicle can be used? I suspect this vehicle application is most efficient during the peak season when package volume is high in certain neighborhoods.

Marc Cesare, Smallehicleresource.com

GEM Recalls Certain 2016-17 Models

The 2016 GEM e2.

Polaris Industries recently announced a recall of certain model year 2016 and 2017 GEM electric vehicles because lug nuts on the front wheels can loosen and the front wheels potentially detach. The recall pertains to certain GEM E2, E4, E6 and ELXD models with steel wheels. As many as 1,254 vehicles may be affected. GEM will notify owners and is currently finalizing a remedy.

Given their recall troubles in the side-by-side market, this is unwelcome news for Polaris. While the number of vehicles affected pales in comparison to the massive RZR and Ranger recalls, it is a sizable chunk of their total annual sales of GEMs. Only a few thousand GEMs are sold annually. The 2016 model year GEMs represented a major relaunching of the line. Earlier this year there was another recall for these vehicles related to the drive mode switch.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

The following information is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

April 26, 2017 NHTSA CAMPAIGN NUMBER: 17V279000

Front Steel Wheel Lug Nuts may Loosen
If a wheel separates from the vehicle, it can increase the risk of a crash.

NHTSA Campaign Number: 17V279000

Manufacturer Polaris Industries, Inc.

Components WHEELS

Potential Number of Units Affected 1,254

Summary

Polaris Industries, Inc. (Polaris) is recalling certain 2016-2017 GEM E2, E4, E6, and ELXD electric vehicles, equipped with steel wheels. The lug nuts on the front wheels may loosen, potentially resulting in a front wheel detaching from the vehicle.

Remedy

GEM will notify owners. The manufacturer has not yet finalized a remedy plan, nor provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact GEM Consumer Service Department at 1-855-743-3436. Polaris’ number for this recall is L-17-01.

Notes

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

8 Affected Products
Vehicles

MAKE MODEL YEAR

GEM E2 2016-2017
GEM E4 2016-2017
GEM E6 2016-2017
GEM ELXD 2016-2017

Another Polaris Recall: RZR, RZR Turbo & GENERAL Vehicles

The model year 2017 is the General 1000 EPS Hunter Edition in Polaris Pursuit Camo is one of the vehicles involved in the recall.

Polaris announced a recall of model year 2016 and 2017 RZR 900, 1000, Turbo and GENERAL 1000 utility vehicles. The recall involves approximately 13,500 vehicles. According to the notice, “The vehicle engine can misfire and the temperatures of the exhaust and nearby components can get too hot and cause the components to melt, and/or a contaminated brake master cylinder may cause unintended brake drag, posing burn and fire hazards.”

Relative to more recent Polaris recalls this one is not that large, but compared to more typical recalls in the industry that involve a few thousand vehicles, this is a large recall. The recall does include RZR 900, 1000 and RZR Turbo models that have previously been recalled. The GENERAL 1000 being involved in a recall is a new development.

Based on recent quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street analysts, the management has put a lot of money and manpower into fixing the underlying product development issues that lead to their recent massive RZR and Ranger recalls. The origin of the issues for this latest recall probably pre-date these efforts, but management is likely disappointed with this development as they have been trying to put these recalls behind them and repair damage to the Polaris brand. A recent report from BMO Capital Markets states that the recall is considered a ‘non-event’ by dealers who are having strong start to the year and think the recall will only have a ‘minimal impact’.

The following information is from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Recall Details

Units:  About 13,500 (The RZR Turbo and RZR 900 and 1000 have previously been recalled.)

Description:  This recall involves model year 2016 and 2017 RZR 900, 1000, Turbo and GENERAL 1000 recreational off-road vehicles (ROVs). “Polaris” is printed on the front grill and “RZR” or “GENERAL” is printed on the side of the rear cargo area. The ROVs were sold in various colors. Visit the CPSC website see a complete list of the models involve.

Incidents/Injuries:  Polaris has received 14 reports of vehicles catching fire related to the brake master cylinder and one report of fire and two reports of melting vehicle components related to an engine misfire. No injuries have been reported.

Remedy:  Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled ROVs and contact Polaris for a free repair. Polaris is contacting all known purchasers directly, and consumers can check their VIN on the Polaris website.

Sold At:  Polaris dealers nationwide from August 2015 through February 2017 for between $12,800 and $24,000.

Importer(s):  Polaris Industries Inc., of Medina, Minn.

Distributor(s):  Polaris Industries Inc., of Medina, Minn.

Manufactured In:  Mexico and U.S.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Self-Driving Vehicles = Growth For STOVs?

Google Prototype self-driving low-speed vehicle.

My colleague recently penned an article exploring the nexus of self-driving cars and golf car-type vehicles. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Hardware costs are dropping precipitously and may soon be within striking distance of being affordable for golf car type vehicles.
  • Golf car manufacturers are already exploring the technology and in some cases conducting testing.
  • Other companies are using GEM vehicles as self-driving test vehicles.
  • Gated communities with low speed vehicles provide a lower complexity environment that is more conducive to self-driving solutions.
  • Self-driving technology could expand potential growth avenues in non-golf car markets, an area of focus for golf car manufacturers

The article points to gated communities and urban fleets as potential market segments for deployment of self-driving technology. There are also other potential market impacts not addressed in the article that this technology can have.

For one, self-driving technology could provide an impetus for LSVs sales in the personal transportation sector. Purpose made LSVs have not quite reached their potential in this segment due to the relative cost of LSVs compared to the available market alternatives such as used golf cars, golf cars modified to be LSV compliant, customized golf cars and new golf cars. Put simply, not enough customers have found the additional price of LSVs to be worth the additional benefits. LSVs for personal transportation have done best where local regulations have favored them such as where golf cars or modified golf cars are not allowed on public roads but LSVs are, or where night time driving or other driving restrictions require LSV compliant technology.

Self-driving technology could be a differentiator for personal transportation LSVs. Since they are higher priced, LSVs are likely to feature self-driving technology before traditional golf cars. While it is possible existing golf cars could be retrofitted with self-driving technology, it may prove cost prohibitive and, more importantly, likely to encounter regulatory issues. It’s one thing to slap on some lights and an auto-style windshield, it’s quite another to install the software and hardware components necessary to create a self-driving vehicle, not to mention supporting the system with updates moving forward.

Regulatory issues brings to mind another consideration in regard to self-driving technology, medium speed vehicles (MSVs). While a few states in the US allow medium speed vehicles, at the Federal level NHTSA has never created a MSV classification and, in fact, has strongly opposed the idea on safety grounds. A MSV would require prohibitively expensive safety features akin to a highway capable vehicle.

Can self-driving change this dynamic? It is a possibility worth considering. In January, 2017 NHTSA completed their investigation (PDF file) of Tesla’s Autopilot and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system, which was initiated following a fatal crash of a Tesla with a tractor trailer in Florida. Their conclusion was that, “A safety-related defect trend has not been identified at this time and further examination of this issue does not appear to be warranted.” However, for the purposes of this discussion, the most important finding of the report was related to Tesla vehicles before and after they had Tesla’s Autopilot Technology Package (ATP) installed at purchase or through updates. “The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.”

This is an astonishing drop, and even more so considering it does not take into account whether Autopilot was in use. Therefore, this improvement is likely a conservative finding. The question is straightforward. Can MSVs use self-driving technology to make them safe enough to pass NHTSA’s regulatory rigor? Why rely on a package of older and likely more expensive safety technology to improve MSV safety when a potentially cheaper and possibly more effective solution is on the horizon. It may soon be time to revisit the possibility of creating an MSV classification, which could open up a range of potential growth markets.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

BRP Recalls Can-Am Defender UTVs

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

2016 Can-Am Defender

The 2016 Can-Am Defender is part of the recall.

BRP has issued a recall for about 780 model year 2016 Can-Am Defender utility vehicles because the vehicles can unexpectedly roll away when in the “park” position. The recall includes Defender, Defender DPS and Defender XT models. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a BRP dealer to schedule a free repair.

This recall is on the small size compared to what is typical in the industry. Luckily, no injuries have been reported.

The following information is from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Recall Details

Units:  About 780

Description:

This recall involves model year 2016 Can-Am Defender, Defender DPS, and Defender XT model side-by-side off-road vehicles. The vehicles were sold in various colors and have four tires, two seats and a cargo box on the back. “Can-am” is printed on the side of the cargo box and the model name is printed on the side of the front of the vehicle beside the headlight. The model name and vehicle identification number (VIN) are printed on a label under the glove box. Contact BRP or a BRP dealer to verify VINs included in the recall.

Incidents/Injuries:  The firm has received six reports of the vehicles moving when in the “park” or “P” position. No injuries have been reported.

Remedy:  Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled vehicles and contact a BRP dealer to schedule a free repair. BRP is contacting all known purchasers directly.

Sold At:  Can-Am dealers nationwide from October 2015 through December 2016 for between $10,000 and $15,700.

Importer(s):  BRP U.S. Inc., of Sturtevant, Wis.

Manufactured In:  Mexico

Consumer Contact:  BRP toll-free at 888-272-9222 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET any day or online at www.can-am.brp.com and click on the Off-Road website and then the “Owners” tab at the top of the page and then “Safety” and then “View Notices” for more information.

Polaris GEM Issues Recall

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Polaris GEM e2

The 2016 GEM e2 is part of the recall.

GEM, owned by Polaris, has issued a recall for 2016-2017 e2, e4, e6, and eL XD models because the drive mode switch can send an incorrect signal, causing the vehicle to go in the opposite direction than intended. This is a fairly large recall for GEM in relation to their annual sales. It seems few Polaris brands can escape recall issues of late.

The following information is from NHTSA.

Campaign Number: 16V884000

Manufacturer Polaris Industries, Inc.

Components ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

Potential Number of Units Affected 1,644

Summary

Polaris Industries, Inc. (Polaris) is recalling certain 2016-2017 GEM e2, e4, e6, and eL XD electric vehicles manufactured May 29, 2015, to November 18, 2016. The drive mode switch can send an incorrect signal, causing the vehicle to go in the opposite direction than intended.

Remedy

Polaris will notify owners, and dealers will replace the drive switch, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in December 2016. Owners may contact GEM Consumer Service Department at 1-855-743-3436. Polaris’ number for this recall is L-16-01.

Notes

Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Should Autocycles Be Next For STOV Manufacturers

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Arcimoto SRK

The electric powered Arcimoto SRK is expected to be available later this year.

I have come across a number of articles recently focusing on autocycles and I thought this might be a potential product development direction for STOV manufacturers.

First, what is an autocycle? It is basically a three-wheeled vehicle such as the Slingshot by Polaris, or offerings from start ups such as Elio Motors and Arcimoto. There is no standard definition for an autocycle in the US or other countries. In the US, an autocycle is typically classified as a motorcycle, although not always, as Polaris discovered with their Slingshot. They have had to work with some states to develop legislation to allow their vehicles on the road. (See how the classification for the Slingshot varies by state.)

The benefit of being classified as a motorcycle is that the vehicle does not have to conform to more expensive automobile safety standards. This benefit is key to providing STOV manufacturers with a new product opportunity. In particular, I believe Polaris and the golf car manufacturers are well positioned to produce a more practical neighborhood electric vehicle that can provide a good value proposition in relation to street legal golf cars (new or used), low speed vehicles and lower priced highway capable cars.

Now Polaris already has the Slingshot, but this is more of a recreational vehicle designed for those interested in a motorcycle like experience with a greater sense of safety and requiring less driving skill. The Slingshot is highway capable, features a gas engine and pricing starts around $22,000. The not yet in production Elio Motors autocycle is also gas powered, highway capable and has a base price of $7,300. The electric powered Arcimoto SRK is expected to be available this year, has a top speed of 80 mph and starts at $12,000 for the 12kWh model which provides a 70 mile range. Like Slingshot, the Elio and SRK provide seating for two but they are placed front to back rather than side to side as in the Slingshot. All three feature two wheels up front and one in the rear.

While all three of these vehicles are capable of highway speeds, I propose that there is a real market opportunity for a medium speed vehicle (MSV). The medium speed, say up to 40-45 mph, would make the vehicles more practical to use for personal transport than golf cars or LSVs which top out at 19-25 mph. STOV manufacturers have pushed for a MSV designation but NHTSA has not been willing to budge on the costly safety standards for four-wheeled vehicles. This is why the motorcycle/autocycle classification is critical to this opportunity. A MSV autocycle would be a more viable second vehicle for many households and a more versatile neighborhood vehicle for those in gated or retirement communities.

The vehicle should also be electric powered to maximize the environmental benefits and also take advantage of electric motorcycle incentives where available. An electric autocycle would provide a significantly less expensive electric vehicle option to green consumers than the currently available electric cars. A MSV would also require a smaller battery pack than a highway capable electric autocycle, further reducing costs. Of course, a highway capable option could be made available but that would start driving up the costs.

Besides the aforementioned startups, who is positioned to develop these type of vehicles? Polaris is an obvious choice. They already have experience designing, engineering and producing an autocycle and they are innovators. They also have been acquiring electric drivetrain technology (Brammo) and electric vehicle brands such as GEM, Goupil and Taylor-Dunn. It is a vehicle that could potentially fit nicely into their portfolio of the brands that are sold internationally. The biggest challenge for Polaris would be distribution. A MSV autocycle would probably not be a good fit for their powersports dealers, as the customers would be more transportation than recreation oriented. Their brands such as Goupil, Taylor-Dunn and even GEM are geared more towards the commercial customer. Polaris might have to partner with another company to access the right distribution channels.

This brings us to the golf car manufacturers. They have the expertise in developing and selling electric vehicles, but not necessarily the three-wheeled variety and have been more focused on lead acid battery packs. One could argue that they also haven’t been that innovative. They do however have the right distribution network. Their customers are already coming to them for personal transportation solutions.

A MSV autocycle could find a home in Textron’s (maker of E-Z-GO) Specialty Vehicle division which encompasses a wide range of small, task-oriented vehicles. They have also been striking out into new territory with new ATV and UTV products under the Bad Boy Off-road brand. Another option is Yamaha Golf Car, although they are the smallest of the big three manufacturers. This leaves Club Car. As a subsidiary of Ingersoll-Rand they certainly have the financial wherewithal to develop a vehicle on their own, and they may be the best fit for a partnership with Polaris. Unlike Yamaha and Textron they do not compete directly with Polaris in the recreational UTV space. They are also considered by many to be the highest quality brand of the three and have over 600 distributors, dealers and factory branch locations.

It will be interesting to see if the autocycles from Elio and Arcimoto prove to be popular and encourage other manufacturers to join the fray.

Learn more:  Arcimoto.com

Learn more:  Eliomotors.com

 

NHTSA: New Sound Requirement For LSVs

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

The all new 2016 GEM e2.

New NHTSA regulations will require LSVs like the GEM e2 to emit sounds at low speeds to alert pedestrians.

New National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations will add a sound requirement to hybrids and electric light-duty vehicles to make them easier to perceive. The requirement mandates that hybrids and electric cars with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less must emit an audible sound when traveling at speeds of of approximately 19 miles per hour or less and when moving forward or in reverse. The regulation will apply to low speed vehicles. According to NHTSA,

“The new federal safety standard will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision, and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped….Manufacturers have until Sept. 1, 2019, to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new federal safety standard. Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline.”

At first glance the regulation does not cover golf cars, even tough in many areas they are allowed to operate on local streets. From NHTSA’s point of view a golf car is not a street legal vehicle, and therefore not regulated as a motor vehicle. LSVs, on the other hand, are street legal and regulated. A gray area may be modified golf cars which may meet LSV requirements but are not purposely manufactured as LSVs. I spoke with Thomas Healy in NHTSA’s legal office and a key determining factor is the speed of the vehicle. If a vehicle’s top speed is not more than 20 mph then it is not considered a motor vehicle. However, a golf car modified to meet Federal LSV requirements and modified to have a top speed over 20 mph may technically fall under this new regulation.

I also spoke with a dealer that sells LSVs to both colleges and consumers. The colleges like the idea of these vehicles having sound as a safety feature, since they are often navigating a campus environment crowded with pedestrians. A key reason colleges purchase LSVs rather than golf cars are the vehicle’s safety features. On the other hand, according to the dealer, consumers do not like the idea of constantly hearing a noise, especially at night. In fact, one of the reasons they like electric powered LSVs is their quiet operation. The irony is the regulation could incentivize LSV owners to drive faster, maintaining a speed over 19 mph as much as possible to avoid emitting the sound.

I also spoke with a public safety officer at The Villages in Florida. They have thousands of golf cars and LSVs and many miles of multi-modal paths. He stated that the lack of noise from electric powered vehicles did not stand out as a significant safety issue. In part, he suggested that the level of awareness among residence is a mitigating factor. With the large number of golf cars and LSVs operating in the community, as well as the multi-modal paths, residents have a heightened awareness of their surroundings and the dangers while traveling on foot. He also suggested that a safety sound emanating from so many vehicles could prove to be very annoying.

Learn more:  NHTSA.org (Press Release)

Learn more:  NHTSA Quiet Car Rule (PDF)

Road Use Regulation Roundup: November 2016

golf cart signThe following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels since August 2016.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • Almost all of the regulation activity is occurring at the city level
  • Most of the ordinances are being considered but have not been passed yet.
  • Most of the ordinances concern allowing UTVs on city streets and a few concern golf cars or low-speed vehicles.
  • One city repealed an ordinance allowing utility vehicles on city streets because of safety concerns.

Nashville, TN – Elkhart County Commissioners passed an ordinance which would allow golf carts on all non-numbered county roads. The ordinance as proposed would allow the use of golf carts in all of the unincorporated areas of the county with the exception of numbered county roads, which for the most part would restrict their use to residential subdivisions. Vehicles could be used only from sunrise to sunset. The ordinance also regulates LSVs.

Kearney, MO – The city is considering a citizen’s request to allow the use of ATVs within the city. UTVs are already allowed. There is some concern by officials about the safety of ATVs being operated among larger vehicles such as trucks.

Fort Scott, KS – City officials are drafting an ordinance that will allow UTVs to be used on city streets. The police chief researched similar UTV ordinances in nearby communities and recommended that they be operated by licensed drivers at least 18 years of age and restrictions in place for certain city streets. There was some discussion on the speed of UTVs and whether tires on the vehicles are strictly for off-road use and would have proper traction on city streets. The city already has a golf car ordinance in place.

St. Augustine, FL – The City Commission passed new definitions and standards for low-speed vehicles like golf cars. They also discussed safety issues of using low-speed vehicles, golf cars and ScootCoupes (3-wheeled vehicles that can travel up to 40 mph) on certain roads. They are planning on analyzing the use of these same vehicles on a for-profit basis.

Hapeville, GA – The city is considering regulations to promote the use of low-speed vehicles and/or golf cars.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada – The city is considering the use of ATVs and UTVs on municipal roads similar to other nearby municipalities.

Jasper, IN – The Jasper Police Department plans to increase enforcement of golf cars on city streets.

Landis, NC – The North Carolina Department of Transportation denied town requests to change the speed limits on two streets. In August, Landis made the request to lower the speed limit on both roads — along with several others — from 45 mph to 35 mph in order to allow golf carts and other low-speed vehicles to travel within the city limits.

Garner, IA – The City Council is considering an ordinance that will allow the use of ATVs and UTVs on city streets.

Kansas – The Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission is considering regulations that will allow golf cars and UTVs to be used on state park roads between sunrise and sunset.

Great Bend, KS – The City Council passed ordinances that would allow ‘micro-utility’ trucks on city streets. These vehicles are defined as any motor vehicle which is not less than 48 inches in width, has an overall length, including the bumper, of not more than 106 inches, has an unloaded weight, including fuel and fluids, of more than 1,500. Golf cars or all-terrain vehicles are not included.

New Hampton, IA – The City Council is likely to pass an ordinance that will allow golf cars and utility vehicles.

Festus, MO – Citing safety issues, the City Council repealed an ordinance passed last year that allowed utility vehicles to be used on city streets.

Nashville, TN – The Metro Transportation Licensing Commission voted to restrict pedal taverns, pedicabs and other pedal carriages as well as low-speed vehicles from operating between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Congestion and safety concerns were the reasons.