NEV/LSV State Registration Volume Small But Showing High Growth

While the volume of NEV/LSV registrations are typically only in the hundreds on a state by state basis, they are demonstrating a high rate of growth. Not all states have a separate designation for NEVs/LSVs.

  • According to the South Carolina DMV registrations of LSVs increased from 58 as of July 31, 2007 to 140 this year.
  • The Wisconsin DOT reports that 68 vehicles have been registered through August, 2008 since last December’s passage of the state law allowing LSV use. The law requires state approval for instances where the vehicles cross state highways while traveling on local streets and this approval has been hard to come by.

LSV/NEV And Golf Cart Safety Concerns

While many municipalities are passing regulations allowing LSV use there is also an undercurrent of safety concerns related to the vehicles.

  • NEV safety concerns – A few employees working for the city of Alameda have refused to use NEVs because they believe them to be unsafe.
  • Keeping with state law, Elmhurst will not allow the use of neighborhood electric vehicles on its streets. Acting on a recommendation from the Elmhurst Police Department, the Public Affairs and Safety Committee decide Monday that the low-speed, battery-powered vehicles could pose a safety hazard on Elmhurst’s arterial roads.
  • In Perry, GA the town council voted to restrict the use of LSVs to subdivisions out of a concern for safety.
  • Pawleys Island, South Carolina outlawed the use of low speed vehicles on the island over congestion and safety concerns and to be consistent with a previous ordinance outlawing the use of golf cars on island streets.
  • In June Connecticut passed a law outlawing the use of golf carts on public roads unless they are crossing the road to get from one part of the course to another.
  • Delaware, OH City council declined to pass legislation that would allow golf carts and LSVs on their roads.

LSV Road Use Legislative Developments

Despite ZENN’s efforts Transport Canada not fully supporting LSV use – A recent Transport Canada (TC) proposal would include small trucks in the LSV category. Changes would also only allow LSV use on closed private roads such as campuses or parks and not on open public roads. TC does not recommend the use of LSVs on public roads because of safety concerns but leaves the regulation of their use up to Canada’s individual provinces. Legislation by British Columbia lawmakers will allow the use of the vehicles on roads with a speed limit of 40km/h or less and on roads with a limit of 50 km/h if local municipalities agree.

Electric-cars are being allowed in Quebec: The province has launched a 3-year pilot project involving two low-speed vehicles. The ZENN car and the NEMO truck, built in St-Jerome and Ste-Therese respectively, have a maximum speed of 40-kilometres an hour. They’ll only be allowed to travel on public roads where the speed limit is 50-km/hr or less, and will have to travel in the right lane. In light of the pilot program, ZENN is evaluating expanding sales activities in Canada. Transport Minister Julie Boulet says the goal is make the change permanent in the long-term.

More states takes steps to legalize LSVs

  • South Dakota is in the process of passing legislation to legalize the use of NEVs on low speed roads. They would have to be registered with the states DMV and would be issued special license plates. Modified golf cars or homemade vehicles would not be allowed under the bill and cities and counties could adopt tougher regulations regarding their use.
  • Massachusetts passed a bill in the House that will be going to the state Senate but it essentially limits the vehicles to roads with a speed limit of 30 mph or less.
  • Some Kentucky state legislators are pushing forward with legislation that would allow the use of low-speed vehicles on roads with speeds up to 45 mph. Similar legislation had failed to pass earlier this year. Rising fuel prices is an important impetus behind the move. The governor recently signed an executive order to allow the use of LSVs on the road. The states transportation department will be formulating the necessary regulations in the coming months. One of the reasons behind the legislation is that Kentucky is trying to become the location for a manufacturing plant for Zap vehicles in conjunction with partner Integrity Manufacturing
  • Starting on July 1, 2008 in Tennessee medium-speed electric- or gasoline-powered vehicles with four wheels can travel up to 35 mph, and can use roads where the speed limit is 40. Golf carts are excluded. Low-speed vehicles with speeds of 30-35mph will have to be reregistered as medium speed vehicles with the DMV to drive legally on the higher speed streets. In related news, The Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved a study proposed by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to evaluate the potential savings in oil costs from increasing road privileges for NEVs four-wheeled vehicles that can go up to 35 mph.
  • A state legislator is trying to bring a bill to vote that would make the use of NEVs legal on certain low speed limit roads in the state. High fuel prices are the impetus behind the new legislation. Pennsylvania is one of the few states where LSV legislation has not been passed.
  • Colorado State Rep. Don Marostica, R-Loveland, is proposing a bill that will allow golf carts and other small vehicles to travel on some public roads and state highways.

More cities passing or considering ordinances for LSV/NEV use – Wisconsin being the most active. Cities recently passing or proposing ordinance allowing the use of LSVs or NEVs on local roads include:

  1. Appleton, WI
  2. Burlington, WI
  3. Delavan, WI
  4. Edgerton, WI
  5. Fontana, WI
  6. Janesville, WI
  7. Madison, WI
  8. Marchfield, WI
  9. Menasha, WI
  10. Mequon, WI
  11. Milton, WI
  12. Milwaukee, WI
  13. Onalaska, WI
  14. Oshkosh, WI
  15. Pardeevilee, WI
  16. Portage, WI
  17. Racine, WI
  18. Ripon, WI
  19. Thiensville, WI Two Rivers, WI
  20. Union Grove, WI
  21. Verona, WI
  22. Wausau, WI
  23. Wind Point, WI
  24. Du Quoin, Il
  25. Pontiac, IL
  26. Quincy, IL
  27. Rock Island, IL
  28. South Beloit, IL
  29. Berthoud, CO
  30. Ridgway, CO
  31. Edmond, OK
  32. Holmen, OK
  33. Chistianburg, VA
  34. Pulaski, VA
  35. Stuart, FL
  36. Tavares, FL
  37. Baldwin County, AL
  38. Long Beach, CA Winchester, KY
  39. Frisco, TX

Rough Terrain UTVs: Is Electric Power Making Inroads?

Electric ATVs to hit the market – Potentially an indicator of electric power making further inroads into rough terrain utility vehicles, a number of electric ATVs are expected to hit the market in the near future. Barefoot Motors is coming out with their Model One and All Electric Vehicles Unlimited signed an agreement to distribute three electric ATV models under the brand GEO in North and South America. They are manufactured in Italy.

Regulatory & Government Related News Update

The following is an update on some of the regulatory and government related news affecting the NEV market that has occurred from the beginning of the year.

California aims to increase NEV credits – The California Air Resources Board announced and took comments on changes to their ZEV program. One of the proposed changes is to increase the credits for NEVs from 0.15 to 0.3 per vehicles “…to reflect the vehicle’s positive environmental benefits but limited functionality compared with full function battery or fuel cell EVs.” Regulators are calling for as few as 27,500 no-emission vehicles to be introduced between 2012 and 2017, compared with 75,000 in the existing mandate.

The following synopsis is from my interview with a program manager: The proposal will be reviewed within a year or less and other changes may move partial ZEV vehicles into the low emission program and hybrids into the green house gas program which will push vehicles in these programs down to the emission levels of these type of vehicles respectively. The idea is to leave the ZEV program as an incubator for new technologies with the goal of bringing these technologies to market quickly. The inclination is to make these requirements more stringent to speed up bringing technology to the market. This begs the question of where NEVs will fit since their technology is not new and a viable market has been established.

Arizona drafts zero emission vehicle mandates
– In January of this year state environmental officials in Arizona released draft rules that would mandate that 11 percent of each company’s vehicles sold in Arizona beginning in the 2011 model year have zero emissions. The percentage would increase to 16 percent by 2018. Other options for meeting the standards include selling more partial zero emission vehicles or purchasing zero emission vehicle credits from other manufacturers. Currently NEVs are the primary zero emission vehicles operating on the roads.

Alternative fuel vehicle rebates – California is offering rebates of up to $5,000 to residents who purchase alternative fuel vehicles. $1.62 million in rebates are scheduled to be granted statewide by California Center for Sustainable Energy, an independent nonprofit organization based in San Diego. Owners of Vectrix electric motorcycles may qualify for up to $1,500 and Global Electric Motorcars owners may receive $950 and $1,300.

According to the California Air Resources Board website the 2008 model year Miles ZX40S AD and ZX40ST neighborhood electric vehicles have been added to the list of vehicles eligible for rebates under the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentive Program (also known as Fueling Alternatives). They will be available for a $1,500 rebate, Other models from GEM, Zap and ZENN are also available for rebates ranging from $950 to $1,500. See the following list for more information.

New car buyers in the state of Washington are going to get a break on their sales taxes when they buy some vehicles that run on alternative fuels. The tax break (9.3 percent in the Seattle area) covers vehicles that run on natural gas, propane and hydrogen, as well as “neighborhood electric vehicles” or “medium speed vehicles” (street legal, but can’t go faster than 35 mph).

Chrysler, maker of the GEM, and Vectrix, an electric scooter manufacturer, are both trying to get their vehicles covered by a new tax credit for plug-in electric cars. The legislation now covers “regular” sized passenger vehicles which are eligible for a $3,000 tax credit when purchased. Chrysler and Vectrix are pushing for a $1,500 credit for “urban commuter vehicles”. The legislation is part of a larger bill covering renewable energy and other tax credits that may be passed in the coming months.

Current NEV manufacturers listed as GSA suppliers – NEV manufacturers listed on the General Services Administration supplier list include GEM, ZENN, Columbia Parcar and Classic Golf Car

NEV Manufacturers Going Full-size

Since the beginning of the year a number of NEV manufacturers have announced intentions to produce full-size electric vehicles.

RTEV plans wide-ranging electric vehicle product line – RTEV which currently produces LSVs under the Ruff and Tuff brand are planning on expanding their electric vehicle offerings with bicycles and scooters from their Wheego division in 2008, auto-shaped LSVs in 2009 and full-speed electric vehicles in 2010.

In March, 2008 ZENN reported that it was moving forward with plans to sell a highway speed vehicle starting in Fall 2009. The vehicle will be powered by ultracapacitor technology from EEStor, a Texas based firm in which ZENN has a 3.8% equity stake. The highway speed vehicle, to be called the cityZenn, will have a top speed of 80 miles per hour and a range of 250 miles, according to Zenn. The company said the car will be rechargeable in less than 5 minutes.

BG Automotive Group is starting with LSV production but plan to produce full-size vehicles in the following year.

Growing Market Still Attracting New Market Entrants

Electrovaya enters vehicle arena – Electrovaya which develops lithium ion batteries announced it will be producing their own electric vehicle, a two-seater with top speed ranging from 25-45 and a range up to 120 miles. It will be called the Maya-300. The company states that the vehicle could be ready for market by later this year. The initial target market is fleets and the price point is expected to be in the $20,000 to $25,000 range with a longer term price target of under $20,000.

Philadelphia steel wholesaler Barry D. Bernsten has formed BG Automotive Group for the purpose of producing electric vehicles. Plans call form importing 4,000 cars from Asia and installing batteries and electric motors in them at a local assembly plant. The initial vehicles will be low-speed vehicles with plans to upgrade the vehicles the following year to highway-ready vehicles. The initial retail price is expected to be $16,000. Targeting urban commuters, students and vacation homeowners.

Kentucky Moves Quickly To Lure Electric Vehicle Production

According to various news reports, ZAP and their partner Integrity Automotive announced that initial construction has started on a facility in Franklin, Kentucky for the production of electric vehicles. ZAP is a minority stakeholder in the venture. Randall Waldman, Integrity’s CEO expects production at the one million square foot facility to start in approximately one year with a work force of 1,250. While plans are still in the development stage, Integrity management states that the plant will make electric buses in addition to ZAP’s product line. A possible scenario is to have the facility replace all of the production from ZAP’s China facility. Management cited the logistics expense of shipping vehicles from China to California to the East Coast as a factor in building the facility. ZAP had previously made vehicles in the US but lower labor costs in China made manufacturing overseas more cost effective. Government incentives are making US based manufacturing more feasible.

Integrity Automotive is reportedly investing $125 million in the facility and quickly garnered government assistance which came from all levels including:

  • $84 million of tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds for construction of the plant from city an county governments
  • $48 million in tax incentives from the state based on the company’s commitment to create 4,000 full-time jobs within the first four years
  • An executive order from Kentucky’s governor permitting the use of low-speed vehicles on Kentucky highways with a posted speed limit of 45 miles-per-hour or less.

While the production will serve the global market, in some respects, the shifting of production from China to the US is a reversal of the globalization trend I have been seeing in the market in general. I followed up the story with a call to ZAP to understand more about the situation. According to ZAP, the venture came together very quickly and the details of what vehicles will be produced and how many are still being worked out. Like some other electric vehicle manufacturers ZAP is reporting strong sales increases. In the quarter ending September 30th, 240 vehicles were sold including 121 in September compared to just 80 vehicles in the 3rd quarter last year. Most of the vehicles are sold in the US to consumers as well as some municipalities and are primarily the Xebra truck model. The company has increased their headcount by 30% this year and recently opened up a $10 million line of credit to fund expansion. The company is also planning on adding an NEV to their product line.

Army To Purchase Thousands of NEVs

According to a U.S. Army press release, a Senior Energy Council has been established to “…serve as a board of directors focusing on Army energy policy, programs and funding to leverage the Army’s nationwide energy-conservation efforts.” One of the pilot projects underway is the purchase of 4,000 NEVs to replace gas-powered vehicles on various posts. There was no information available on how many vehicles have been purchased so far and what the time line is for purchasing all the NEVs. more info