Transport Canada Crash Test Video Continues Battle Against LSVs

Transport Canada posted video footage from recent crash tests of the ZENN and what appears to be a GEM model to bolster their contention that LSVs represent a safety problem when mixing with regular vehicles on public roads. Transport Canada states that:

A low-speed vehicle may look like a car, but it is not a car. It is not required to meet the large number of safety standards (up to 40) that a regular passenger car must meet. The low speed vehicle class was originally intended for controlled low speed environments, like gated communities, where the risk of a LSV entering into a collision with a faster motor vehicle would be lower than on public roads. Transport Canada’s crash test results to date confirm that low speed vehicles provide a substantially lower level of occupant protection than conventional passenger cars.

According to The Gazette in Montreal, ZENN’s CEO Ian Clifford responded

Releasing these images without the statistical frame of reference is somewhat irresponsible on Transport Canada’s part. …Our assessment is that low-speed vehicles are among the safest vehicles on the road. I drive our vehicles all the time. I drive the vehicles with my children in them.

I contacted GEM to confirm if it is indeed a GEM model in the video and get their response to the testing but have not heard back from them, perhaps after the holiday.

ZAP Introduces LSV Electric Truck

ZAP recently announced the addition of the ZAP Truck XL to their line of vehicles. In a departure from their existing top sellers, the truck has four wheels and is classified as a low speed vehicle. The Truck XL has a payload of 800lbs, a range of 30 miles and can be recharged in 6 hours from a standard 110 volt outlet. Faster charging is available with an optional 220 volt upgrade. The vehicle is targeting industrial and utility fleets and has a MSRP of $14,950.

Kentucky Venture Gets ZAPped

According to a number of reports(Lexington Herald-Leader, earth2tech, autobloggreen), the plans to build ZAP vehicles in Kentucky through a joint venture with Integrity Manufacturing have come to a halt. The company’s CEO Randy Waldman points to the loss of potential investor GE Capital as the primary reason. Apparently GE Capital was to provide $125 million in funding through a sale of bonds (although the Earth2tech story disputes this) but has pulled out of the deal. Integrity Manufacturing is now trying to find money in a $200 billion Department of Energy fund targeting energy projects. An alternative being mentioned by management is to convince another state to provide funding or a manufacturing facility.

NEVs A New Marketing Vehicle

According to a recent article in Brandweek, experiential marketing and design agency Brand Xperience has launched Go Green Mobile Billboard Advertising, an all-electric vehicle fleet that brands can use to market products without emissions or using gas. It is targeting the top 25 metro markets in the beverage, retail, fashion and frozen treat categories with a fleet that currently includes two three-wheelers and three neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) transformed into mobile billboards. The vehicles have the added advantage of being able to be used indoors.

Dynasty Looking To Offer Lithium Battery Pack

In a recent conversation with Dynasty Electric Vehicles General Manager Danny Epp about the plug-in electric vehicle tax credit he revealed that Dynasty is looking to have a lithium battery pack option available for mid-2009. The company is currently talking to several China based producers with the expectation that the battery packs will cost around $4,000, about twice as much as their maintenance free battery option. If the vehicles qualify for the recently passed $2,500 plug-in electric vehicle tax credit then vehicles with the lithium battery pack option would be available at the same or slightly lower price that customers are currently paying for vehicles with the maintenance free battery pack option. Mr. Epp stated that the lithium pack will have twice the life of the lead acid battery pack, can charge faster without damage and has more range because it can discharge to a lower level. The size of the pack is also smaller so you can have the same power in a smaller space or add additional cells, although at an additional cost. No changes have to made in regard to where the battery pack fits in the vehicle. Dynasty is trying to create the best value for the customer by balancing the trade-off between more cost for more battery power filling the same space or less cost for the same power at less weight and less volume.

We also started talking about changes in the current market. Epp reported that despite the recession sales had been increasing and attributed the increase to both higher fuel costs and more awareness of the vehicles. He also noted that his customer type had changed from relatively lower income environmentalists to higher income individuals looking to make a statement, especially if they have larger cars. The vehicles can almost be viewed as a “personal offset”. Epp himself views the vehicles as an “appliance for the house” and tries to sell them from that perspective. Most of the companies sales are in the US and they currently have twelve dealers. For more on Dynasty.

Army NEV Purchase Update

Starting with 800 vehicles in fiscal year 2009 the Army expects to acquire 4,000 NEVs in the next three years for use at 44 installations. The vehicles will be leased through the General Services Administration(GSA) from US golf cart companies like E-Z Go. According to Paul Bollinger, U.S. Army Deputy Assistant Secretary, Privatization and Partnerships, the acquisition is expected to be only a start as he anticipates the Army eventually acquiring 10,000 vehicles. In addition, the Air Force and Navy have reportedly expressed interest in “piggybacking” on the Army program and Bollinger expects that they will have a need for 10,000 vehicles apiece themselves.

The vehicles are reportedly street legal and if this is the case, then they must meet the LSV regulations and this will mean a significant boost to the NEV/LSV market.

via Paul Bollinger – Defense News

Plug-In Tax Credit To Boost NEV Sales?

As part of the recently passed H.R. 1424, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, consumers of plug-in electric vehicles can qualify for a tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500. I have recently spoken with a number of NEV manufacturers to get their thoughts on the legislation and as a group they are cautiously optimistic about the tax credit applying to NEVs. According to Kara Saltness of Miles Electric Vehicles the tax credit originally targeted highway speed vehicles but it appears that NEVs will qualify and that sentiment is supported by a press release from U.S. Representative Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, home of GEM vehicles.

“Congress has taken an important step in encouraging the use of energy efficient vehicles by creating a $2,500 tax credit for plug-in electric drive vehicles like those manufactured by Global Electric Motorcars,”

According to the NEV manufacturers I spoke with the details are still currently being worked out by the government such as, who will qualify, consumers or businesses, likely both is the sentiment, and whether golf carts will be specifically excluded.

Qualifying electric vehicles must be a plug-in and be powered by a battery pack with a minimum of 4 KW of capacity. The credit would increase by $417 from $2,500 for each KW above 4KW. Most of GEMs models have a 4KW battery pack and others have 6 KW. Similarly Dynasty and Miles Automotive believe their vehicles will qualify for the tax credit as well. This could create a significant boost to the NEV market since the $2,500 tax credit translates into a sizable cost deduction for these vehicles. For example, based on prices listed on GEM’s website the tax credit would mean a discount of anywhere from 20% to 37% off the price of a GEM, depending on the model. Dynasty is currently planning on introducing a lithium ion battery pack for their vehicle in the middle of next year and this tax credit would essentially cover the extra cost of that battery, according to general manager Danny Epp.

According to the US Senate’s summary of the bill, the tax credit is slated to start in 2009 and

“…taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the total number of qualified plug-in electric drive vehicles sold in the U.S. exceeds 250,000.”

This means that NEV manufacturers will be competing against manufacturers of full-size and highway speed vehicle manufacturers for a sizable but limited number of credits. However, for 2009 and even 2010 there may not be much competition for the NEVs since not many full-size plug-in electric vehicles are expected to be available.