I came across a story about how farmers were choosing Japanese mini-trucks to replace pick-ups for use on their farms. This puts them in direct competition with utility vehicles which are also replacing pick-ups on farms, college campuses, parks and other areas. The mini-trucks are typically faster than utility vehicles, a top speed around 50 mph, although some new vehicles are being built to LSV standards, and have the advantage of an enclosed cab. They offer better gas mileage than pick-ups, upwards of 40-50 mpg .
There however is an issue with registration of the vehicles and road use regulations. The law varies from state to state on whether they can be registered and or used on local roads, even if it is driving between parts of the same farm. Louisiana recently passed a law allowing them to be used on certain roads.
Many of the mini trucks are purchased as used vehicles imported from Japan where various regulations apparently make it more economical to purchase a new vehicle after certain amount of use rather than comply with the regulations. Learn more: japanese4x4minitrucks.com and here
I thought it would be interesting to track these type of changes in the market. Once or twice before I have seen a story along the lines of an existing golf car dealership obtaining local government approval to expand their lineup of vehicles to include NEVs. In this case, NEVs will be able to be sold in more and less dense commercial zones in the city. Previously they were treated like used cars when it came to this type of zoning issue.
ECO Motor Car Company, a Seattle startup, is introducing their ECM3, a three-wheeled vehicle that is classified as a motorcycle. The gas powered vehicle with two wheels in front and one in the back has a 1.0 liter, 52 hp engine and gets a reported 60 mpg. The vehicle is built in China by Geely and weighs about 1,400 lbs. The ECM3 is expected to be available in May of 2009 for $13,995 to $14,995 depending on options. Learn more: Autopia
Cruise Car used Earth Day to bring attention to their line of solar electric hybrid low speed vehicles. The full line of vehicles range from 2-14 passenger vehicles including utility vehicles. The Sunray and Solar Kudo models feature a roof top solar panel that can continuously charge the batteries while the vehicle is in the sun.
The company also offers the Sunray Solar Roof Kit that can be retrofitted to most standard electric golf cars on the market. Cruise Car states that
These solar panels can generate up to 180 watts, 60 volts and supply a hefty 3 amps directly to a 36 or 48 volt battery…. Converting a cart to a Sunray top will benefit the end user by increasing the distance the cart can go on a single charge by 30%.
The vehicles with solar panels are also eligible for a federal solar tax credit of 30% and individual states may have additional solar related tax credits as well. Learn more: cruisecar.com
A recent interview with Peapod designer Peter Arnell reveals some more information about the vehicle. The first version of the vehicle will be a four-door version with a 10hp motor. A two-door version, called the Twinpod, is coming later in the year and a utility configuration, the Utilitypod, hits the market in April 2010. Arnell remarks that one of the drivers for their target market of younger purchasers is iPod and iPhone integration. He also refers to the vehicle as an appliance because it is a “personal transport pod” that can be plugged in. Learn more: Treehugger.com
Comment: It will be interesting to see if they can reach the younger market. In other coverage they have talked about college students as a specific target segment. In a recent interview I had with a dealer that sells NEVs, including the GEM, they thought the Peapod might face tough competition from fully functional vehicles like the Kia Soul that do not cost much more than the Peapod. However, the dealer thought the speed restricted vehicle might have some appeal to parents purchasing the vehicle for their teenager to use.
I have spoken with an executive of another NEV manufacturer who also likes to sell their NEV as an appliance, but more in the context of an appliance as part of the typical set of appliances you would associate with a home. It will be interesting to see if this “appliance” label gains any traction in the market. mcesare
Last week Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations and Environment) Keith Eastin appointed Jerry Hansen as the Army’s Senior Energy Executive in addition to serving as the deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Strategic Infrastructure). Managing the Army’s program to place 4,000 electric-powered LSVs across installations will be part of his responsibilities. Learn more: US Army
In cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission Bush Hog has voluntarily recalled their TH4400 (Trail Hand) and 4430 4X4 Off-Road Utility Vehicles. According to the CPSC:
The utility vehicle’s throttle cable can lock in freezing temperatures. This can cause the engine not to return to idle when the driver takes his or her foot off the accelerator pedal, posing a risk of loss of vehicle control and injury to the driver and passenger.
The recall includes approximately 850 vehicles sold from April to December 2008. Consumers should stop using the vehicles and bring them into a dealer for a free inspection and repair. As an incentive for bringing in the vehicles Bush Hog is offering a $50 check. Learn more: CPSC
Peapod Mobility will be taking orders for the Peapod starting on April 22nd, Earth Day. The electric powered, four passenger LSV with a top speed of 25 mph will retail for $12,500. A primary target market for the vehicle is college students. The first vehicles should be drivers hands in September. Learn more: wired.com
Kubota’s RTV1140CPX utility vehicle allows the user to convert the vehicle from one row of seats to two row of seats in a three-step process. The four-wheel drive vehicle has a 24.8 hp diesel engine, disc brakes and a new VHT Plus transmission. The maximum cargo load is 1,102 lbs and towing capacity is 1,300 lbs. Learn more: Kubota.com
As part of their Ambassador Program, ZENN is offering rebates of $4,750 off the sticker price of $15,995. Coupled with the $1,250 federal tax credit available in the U.S. the vehicle cost drops to $9,995. The ZENN rebate is available at the point of sale through June 30th of this year at the more than 40 dealers in the U.S. Purchasers will also receive a ZENN hat and t-shirt as the company tries to spread the word about their vehicle. Learn more: autobloggreen
In other ZENN news: Based on company press releases, ZENN sold 211 vehicles in 2008 compared to 184 in 2007 despite a sharp drop in sales in the last quarter of 2008 because of problems with a supplier of a drive train component and the economic downturn.
The company also commented on plans to develop a new four passenger LSV platform, the cityZENN, a highway-capable full electric vehicle, and ZENNergy drivetrains in anticipation of the commercialization of EEstor’s energy storage technology. Management reports that they are close to signing an agreement with an OEM as a partner in the development of these initiatives. Learn more: ZENNcars.com