One of the reasons golf courses choose gas powered golf cars over electric is the additional power they provide for hilly terrain but the introduction of electric golf cars like E-Z-GO’s RXV may turn the tide in favor of electric golf cars. E-Z-GO’s RXV is driven by an AC motor rather than a DC motor and is designed to provide more power and additional range per charge. According to reviews from The Club at Cordillera in Vail, CO the new golf car delivers on these promises. Management at the course are impressed not only by the vehicle’s power on hilly terrain and additional range of the RXV but the dual braking system which engages automatically on steep slopes and recharges the batteries. Additional options have made the vehicles easier for the club to maintain and easier for patrons to drive.
Despite the general downturn in the economy, the UTV (utility terrain vehicle) market is still attracting new entrants. Motorsport Aftermarket Group, Inc. recently announced its acquisition of DragonFire Racing, a leading supplier of aftermarket racing and performance parts for ATVs and UTVs.
Brian Etter, President and CEO of MAG said, “We are excited to continue our expansion into the Off-Road market with the addition of DragonFire Racing. DragonFire Racing, with its comprehensive line of performance parts and accessories, launches us into the attractive UTV segment.
MAG is a group of businesses that design, build and sell products for Street and Off-Road motorsport markets.
After a six month trial the US Army has decided not to use GEMs at garrisons across Europe.
During the trial three vehicles were tested at US Army garrison Grafenwohr in Germany. The vehicles were used for trash site inspection, mail delivery and housing area checks. According to Stars and Stripes,
Last week, Grafenwohr’s director of public works, Tom Hays, said the cars failed to impress.
“They broke down too often and didn’t have enough range,” he said of the cars made in the States by a Chrysler subsidiary.
Other comments by Hays suggest that the primary problem is with the vehicle’s limited range, about 30 miles. The article notes that these test trial results does not preclude the Army from revisiting the use of electric vehicles in the future.
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CT&T, a Korea based electric vehicle manufacturer, has developed the e-Zone EV low speed vehicle (LSV).
The vehicle comes with a 72 volt electric motor which can be powered by one of three battery pack options, flooded lead acid with a range of 35 miles or two different lithium ion packs with ranges of 45 and 75 miles. The company is establishing an assembly plant in Fiji which will be able to produce up to 10,000 vehicles annually. For North America, CT&T reports it is building an assembly line in conjunction with Royal Laser Mfg. in Toronto, Canada with an annual capacity of up to 15,000 vehicles and a projected start date in March 2009.
In the US the vehicle will be marketed as the CT Series Micro Car by T3 Motion. The company is targeting the public safety and private security markets and has contracted for 4,000 vehicles from CT&T. The deal is reported to be worth $50 million or about $12,500 per vehicle. The company reports orders for 100 vehicles already.
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According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) has started an investigation into UTVs like the Yamaha Rhino and similar vehicles from other manufacturers. There have been 30 deaths reported involving the Rhino and the company has had more than 200 lawsuits filed against it related to the vehicle. There currently aren’t any safety standards for these type of vehicles because they are essentially a new class of vehicle. According to the article:
They aren’t subject to ATV safety standards because of design differences such as having a steering wheel, in contrast to the ATVs’ handlebars. But the novel off-road vehicles also aren’t subject to the much-tougher standards for cars. Owners of UTVs don’t have to register them.
“When there is no standard in place, we have to basically determine if there’s a substantial risk of injury and death, and there’s a hurdle there that has to be met,” says Jay Howell, acting assistant executive director of the CPSC’s office of hazard identification and reduction.
This is how consumer regulation often works: Products hit the market governed by no particular safety standards. If injury reports later arise concerning a product, these gradually get the attention of both manufacturers and regulators — often with a spur from lawyers for those injured.
Based on figures provided by Power Sports Marketing for the article, approximately 150,000 Rhinos have been sold since 2003. Yamaha incurred a charge of $136 million in 2007 related to potential product liability expenses. Last month, most of the leading manufacturers of UTVs (Arctic Cat, BRP, Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, and Yamaha) started the Recreational Off Highway Vehicle Association which has put out a set of safety rules and received ANSI accreditation to develop standards for the vehicles which they now refer to as Recreational Off-highway Vehicles (ROV).
Ontario will allow low speed vehicles on public roads as long as they have certain safety features. According to a press release from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation
Low-speed electric vehicles can be driven safely on public roads as long as they include a number of additional safety requirements and follow appropriate road restrictions, according to a National Research Council study released today by the Ontario government.
The list of additional safety requirements based on the National Research Council study includes:
- Windshield wipers
- Windshield defogger and heating system
- Three-point seat belts
- Slow-moving vehicle identification emblem
- Seat belt anchors
- Brakes on all four wheels
- Federal standards for occupant protections
- Safety glass on all windows
- Only permitted on roads with a speed limit of 50 km/h or less
- Infants and children may not be permitted to ride in an LSV
The complete report from the National Research Council should be available here (pdf) but the link was not working as of this posting.
Cities across the country continue to both pass or reject ordinance regarding LSVs and golf cars. A number of common issues keep surfacing including:
- Safety concerns when mixing LSVs with larger & faster vehicles
- Legality of crossing over state highways
- Allowing golf cars on public roads and grouping these vehicles together with LSVs
On the last point, I believe the LSV manufacturers will need to do a better job differentiating themselves from golf cars. You often hear LSVs/NEVs referred to as “glorified golf carts” or a similar moniker. This only creates confusion and blurs the real safety differences between the two different types of vehicles. This melding of vehicle types and their perceived level of safety, often attributing LSVs with a golf cart level of safety, ultimately makes it harder to pass ordinances allowing LSV use on city streets.
Commerce City, CO – approved revised ordinance allowing the use of NEVs
Deer Park, WA – repealed ordinance allowing golf cars to be operated on city streets
Berthoud, CO – passed ordinance allowing NEVs on the road
Loveland, CO – considering NEV ordinance
Stuart City, FL – failed to pass an ordinance that would allow LSVs and golf cars on designated streets. There were concerns about safety and access because the vehicles cannot cross state highways.
Bismarck, ND – passed ordinance allowing use of LSVs on certain streets
Zion, Il – ordinance allowing the use of LSVs on hold until the city can resolve questions about insurance for the vehicles
Bainbridge, GA – considering ordinance that would allow the use of golf cars on streets
Winter Garden, FL – six month trial period allowing the use of golf cars on city streets
Wausau, WI – the state DOT rejected an ordinance for LSVs, needing to examine state highway crossovers more closely
In a recent press release Electric Mobility Canada responded to recent attacks on the safety of LSVs. The following excerpt provides some data on LSV safety performance in the real world.
Low-speed electric vehicles are statistically amongst the safest classes of vehicles in the world. A single manufacturer Reva, who sell their low speed electric vehicles throughout Asia and Europe and have amassed over 50 million kilometres in mixed use environments, report that there have been no associated fatalities with this particular vehicle. Similarly, with over 10 years of statistical data available from the United States, and a fleet of over 45, 000 low-speed electric vehicles in operation on public roads there have no associated fatalities with this class of vehicle.
Electric Mobility Canada is a national membership-based not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the promotion of electric mobility as a readily available and important solution to Canada’s emerging energy and environmental issues.