LSVs Will Be Hurt By Proposed Changes To Plug-In Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

The Senate Finance Committee is currently proposing changes to the plug-in electric drive motor vehicle credit by increasing the 250,000 vehicle limitation to 500,000. The bad news for LSV manufacturers and purchasers is that the changes also exclude low speed vehicles from qualifying for the credit. Instead they are creating a separate tax credit for LSVs, motorcycles and three-wheel vehicles of 10% up to $4,000. The credit will be good for vehicles sold before 2012.

Given the price ranges of current LSVs and three wheel vehicles, the changes mean a significant reduction in the tax credit for these vehicles. The original tax credit started at $2,500 and increased for vehicles with battery packs over 4KW in power. As I interpret it, a $10,000 to $15,000 LSV will now only receive a tax credit of $1,000 – $1,500, a sixty to forty percent reduction in the tax credit that would be available under the current law.

On a related note, according to people I spoke with at the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the IRS has still not ruled on the eligibility of various vehicles under the current tax credit rules .

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Valmet To Manufacture Luxury Golf Car For Garia

Valmet Automotive has won a contract to engineer and manufacture a luxury golf car for Garia A/S of Denmark.  Production will begin in the third quarter of 2009 and the vehicle is expected to be on the market in 2009.

Garia Golf Car

Garia Golf Car

Total production is expected to be a “few thousand” per year in the next few years.  Valmet reports that it is investing two million euros and committing 50 people to the project.  A test fleet is already in use at a golf course in Denmark.  The electric golf car will be introduced at PGA Las Vegas in late August and then in the Middle East.

In April of 2008 Garia, which was founded in 2005 to build high end golf cars, opened sales offices in the U.S. with plans to have 15 to 20 dealers within a year.  The company is targeting the luxury golf car segment in Florida, Georgia, California and Arizona.

Valmet has previously produced vehicles for Porsche and recently won a contract to produce the Fisker Karma hybrid vehicle.  Learn more

Another Sign of Electric Vehicle Popularity

South Seattle Community College is offering a number of courses focusing on electric vehicles.  Developed in conjunction with the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association, the courses cover topics such as electric vehicle conversion, batteries and safety.  The conversion workshop involves the actual conversion of a vehicle to electric power.

Road Use Regulation Round Up

Ocean City, NJ – Police urge city council to keep golf cars off city streets for safety reasons.

West Baraboo, WI – Passes ordinance allowing NEVs on low speed streets and certain crossings of state highway.

Charleston, NC – A limousine service with two Tomberlin E-merge vehicles as part of their fleet had to cease using the LSVs when the city attorneys determined the vehicles violated city code and zoning ordinance. The owner hopes the city will revisit the issue later in the year.

Wausau, WI – City amends ordinance to allow NEVs to be driven on some city streets.

Massachusetts – Legislation bans the use of NEVs on roads with speed limits above 30 mph and requires that they follow the same licensing and registration rules as cars. Additional legislation allows the Registry of Motor Vehicles to register as “motorcycles” three-wheeled electric vehicles that have standard safety equipment and travel no faster than 40 miles per hour. (i.e. Zap Xebra) Such vehicles could be registered at the discretion of the Registrar, and would be limited to traveling on public roads having speed limits of 40 miles per hour or less.

Pittsfield, IL – Ordinance proposed to allow the use of NEVs and golf cars to operate on city streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less and cross streets with higher speed limits.

Indiana – Legislation proposed to allow mini-trucks to be licensed and titled. Apparently the state’s motor vehicle department has been inconsistent in their approach to these vehicles. The department plans to title them as off-road vehicles, which allows owners to drive them on secondary roads in some Indiana counties.

ZAP Developments

Last week ZAP announced that partner Integrity Manufacturing had completed its application for a $200 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. The loan is for a manufacturing facility in Kentucky for producing ZAP vehicles as well as other all electric vehicles.

Later this month, at the National Automobile Dealers Association conference in New Orleans, ZAP plans to debut their new Shuttle and XL Truck. These LSVs have a top speed f 25mph and a range of 30 miles. The Shuttle has an MSRP of $14,700 and the truck will list for $14,500.

Vantage Vehicle International Introduces New Electric Vehicles

Vantage Vehicle International has introduced four new electric vehicles, two utility mini-trucks and two vans. The LSVs have a top speed of 25 mph and a range of 55-65 miles. The vehicles operate on 72-volt systems using either six 12-volt batteries or twelve 6-volt batteries. The vehicle chassis are imported from China and the electrical components are installed in the company’s facility in Corona, CA.

Firms Collaborate To Boost US Advanced Battery Manufacturing

Last month an effort was announced by fourteen U.S. technology companies to develop advanced battery manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. The batteries will be lithium ion and targeted for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Seeing the strategic importance of securing a battery supply and developing technological expertise, the companies are trying to secure $1 billion in federal aid to build a manufacturing plant. Firms involved in the effort include Johnson Controls, Enersys, 3M co., Mobius Power, FMC and ActaCell. While some of the technical know-how behind advanced batteries has been developed in the U.S., the manufacturing has migrated overseas to countries like China where, according to the article, over four dozen advanced battery factories are being built.

In a related story, GM has also identified battery manufacturing as a core competency and is planning to build their own lithium ion battery plant to supply their Volt vehicle production.

While the advanced battery production is clearly aimed at highway speed vehicles, the developments should help efforts to improve the performance of battery powered LSVs. While most of these vehicles use lead-acid type batteries, some are using or exploring the use of more advanced batteries. More production, competition and technological advances will only make these batteries more feasible for use in LSVs and utility vehicles in the future.

Chicago To Allow LSVs?

Mayor Daley of Chicago is set to introduce an ordinance in the City Council today that will allow residents and city agencies to use LSVs on Chicago streets with speed limits up to 30 mph.

The ordinance is part of the Mayor’s “green Fleet” initiative which already includes the purchase of four GEMs for use inside fleet management facilities. The city expects to add more vehicles for parking enforcement, some refuse collection tasks and crowd control in contained areas.

From our point of view this is a significant development that such a large city is moving towards allowing LSVs. To date, mostly smaller communities have adopted LSV ordinances. This action could set a precedent for other large cities, provides high profile exposure for LSVs and offers a test case for the use of LSVs in urban areas. We will be watching to see if the ordinance passes and how many of Chicago’s residents will choose to use LSVs.

Special Edition Gators: Targeting The Enthusiast Market

John Deere recently announced the introduction of Special Edition XUV 620i models available in Midnight Black or Metallic Silver. According to the press release:

The Midnight Black features a carbon-fiber pattern that is professionally applied through the exclusive Final Finish® process for a long lasting and realistic appearance on the hood and steering wheel cover. It also sports premium SLX polymer high gloss black fenders that deliver an automotive painted look in a mold-through color that has superior UV fading and mar resistance. The Metallic Silver Edition includes automotive quality paint on the hood, fenders, cargo box and tailgate.

The new special edition models also feature five-spoke alloy wheels, special 21 inch high-back sport seats, billet aluminum controls and a special edition nameplate on the front fenders. Custom options include adventure lights, a high-performance slip-on exhaust, a heavy-duty brush guard, heavy-duty fender guards, several windshield options and more!

The models are targeting the outdoor enthusiast or what we would call the recreational utility vehicle segment. In particular, the new Gators are for those utility vehicle owners that want to customize their vehicles.