Road Use Regulations Roundup – December

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • Continued passage of ordinances allowing  LSVs and/or golf cars on local streets
  • Municipalities considering regulations that will allow the use of LSVs as taxis or rental vehicles
  • Trends towards expansion or restriction, depending on the locality, regarding the use of UTVs and/or mini-trucks on public streets

Illinois – Effective January 2010 Illinois will allow low-speed vehicles on any road with a posted limit of 30 mph or lower, effective January 2010. Previously, individual communities had to adopt laws to permit the use of low-speed vehicles on local roads.

Orting, WA – Passed an ordinance to allow golf cars on city streets as part of a one year pilot program.

Manhattan, KS – Amendment allows citizens may operate golf carts and “work-site utility vehicles” on city streets marked with speed limits of 30 mph or less.

Austin, TX – City officials considering legislation that would allow the use of LSVs as taxis in downtown area.

Austin, MN – Responding to farmer requests, Mower County officials drafted an ordinance that allows the use of mini-trucks on county and township roads.

Ocean City, NJ – City council voted to allow local business to rent out LSVs.

Wisconsin – Two representatives from the state legislature are sponsoring a bill to allow the use of light utility vehicles on some public roads for agricultural purposes.

West Vancouver, CA – City officials pass ordinance allowing NEVs to be used on roads with speed limits of 50 km/hr or less.

Hamlin, West Virginia – Town council approved the changes to the town’s ordinance dealing with ATVs, utility-terrain-vehicles (UTVs) and off-road motorcycles that specifically prohibits the operation of the vehicles on any streets.

Oregon – Rule change requires that as of January 1, 2010 anyone under 18 years old riding in an off-highway vehicle such as a side by side will have to wear a helmet.

Recent Company News

Navistar and Modec complete joint venture agreement – Navistar International and Modec completed their joint venture agreement for the production of Class 2c-3 commercial trucks. The all electric trucks will be produced in Elkhart, Indiana. In 2010 400 of the trucks are expected to be produced. Learn more:

Northwire introduces charging cable for electric vehicles – Northwire, Inc. announced the availability of CoilBoss Retractile Cords for use in electric and hybrid vehicles. All EV Cable options are available in standard or custom configurations. Customization includes hybrid designs, colors, private labeling and more. Learn more:

GM & SAIC Motor Corp pursuing venture – GM and SAIC Motor Corp, China’s largest automaker, are looking to create a joint venture to sell minivans, mini-trucks and mini cars in the Indian market.  It would be a 50-50 joint venture.  Learn more:

Smith Electric Vehicles places battery order with Valence Technology – Smith Electric Vehicles placed a $1.4 million order with Valence Technology for batteries to be used in their Newton electric truck being produced in Kansas.  Learn more:

Think thinking of Indiana for plant site – Think North America is in negotiations with officials from the state of Indiana and Elkhart County as it tries to decide on where to locate a manufacturing plant.  Besides Indiana, Oregona and Michigan have been on their short list.  Elkhart County is considering ten years of tax abatements to attract the company.  Learn more:

Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules On Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court recently ruled that the Garfield County District Court, which had ruled in favor of LSV dealers and customers in October, did not have jurisdiction in the case and vacated that court’s order.  For dealers and customers this means that the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s previous letter rulings on qualified vehicles now apply again.  Some vehicles purchased with the understanding that they would be eligible for the state tax credit are no longer considered eligible.

It appears that the bulk of the rulings by the commission are not in favor of the manufacturers.  For example, the Badboy Buggie XT LSV, the Stealth Patriot LSV, the Fairplay EVE, Fairplay Goat, American Custom Golfcars Hummers H3, American Custom Golfcars Escalade, American Custom Golfcars Roadster Limo and Titan UTV Hunting Buggy do not qualify.  Per the commission they do not qualify because…

The term ‘qualified electric motor vehicle property’ shall not apply to vehicles known as ‘golf carts,’ ‘go-carts’ and other motor vehicles which are manufactured principally for use off the streets and highways.

Some of the vehicles that do qualify include:

  • Most but not all Bigman models
  • Club Car Carryall 2 & 6 LSVs
  • Columbia ParCar Mega Truck models and Summit models with enclosures
  • All the GEM models
  • A few of the Star models
  • Wheego Whip

The complete set of ruling letters for twenty-three manufacturers can be found hereLearn more:

Comment: When I first spoke with the Oklahoma Tax Commission after their initial ruling they  talked about trying to clarify the law and that revenue concerns were not the issue.  When they appealed the district court’s ruling they noted that the tax credit could cost the state upwards of $40 million. In my opinion they are trying to avoid losing revenue from tax credits. It would be interesting to see, in detail, how they are deciding which vehicles qualify and which ones don’t. – Marc Cesare

E-Z-Go Wins IndustryWeek Best Plants Award

E-Z-Go’s Augusta, Georgia plant that produces golf cars and turf utility vehicles earned a 2009 IndustryWeek Best Plants Award.  Using a continuous improvement process management dramatically improved a number of operating benchmarks and even brought some parts manufacturing back in-house. Key improvements from 2005 to 2008 include:

Plant specific

  • 90% increase in plant-level profitability in past three years
  • Inventory turns improved by 30% between 2005 and 2008
  • More than 1 million hours without a lost-time injury using a behavior based safety program

Company wide

  • Increased profitability 200%
  • Cut its supplier base by 60%
  • Improved first-pass yield by 24%

One highlight for the plant was the introduction of E-Z-Go’s new AC drive golf car, the RXV.  The company used benchmarks from BMW, Harley-Davidson and Honda to build a new production line and then ramp up  to full production in only seven weeks.  Management makes several benchmarking trips to other companies during the year. Learn more:

Columbia Lands Another Government LSV Order

Columbia ParCar announced today that the company had been awarded an order for 192 vehicles by the US government.  This follows on the heels of a previous order for the US Army of 799 vehicles.  The vehicles for the latest order are destined for U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine installations, as well as certain FAA installations, Kennedy Space Center and numerous National Parks.  The mix of LSVs include a four passenger vehicle for transporting personnel and a utility vehicle that can carry cargo and two passengers.  Both orders are required and expected to be fulfilled by March 2010.  The Army reports an annual energy savings of $740 for each vehicle compared to a gas powered car.  Learn more:

Comment: I find two aspects of this order that are significant.  First, the speed with which the government has followed up on the previous order I believe is an indication that they are pleased with how well the vehicles fit their needs.  Second, that some of the vehicles are headed for other branches of the Armed Forces points to a much greater market potential.  The Army originally noted that beyond their initial plan for 4,000 vehicles they could envision ordering another 6,000 vehicles, and 10,000 vehicles each for the Navy and Air Force.  This order could be an early sign of those projections coming to fruition, and driving growth in the LSV market for a number of years. – Marc Cesare

Polaris CEO Tiller Moves To Abound Solar

Abound Solar (formerly AVA Solar), a manufacturer of low-cost, thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, today appointed Thomas Tiller Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Tiller comes to the company from Polaris Industries, where he served as CEO for 9 years. He will assume the position of CEO effective January 18, 2010, at which point current interim CEO of Abound Solar, Doug Schatz, will assume the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors.  Learn more:

Tazzari Zero Revealed At Bologna Auto Show

Tazzari Zero

Tazzari Zero City Car

The Tazzari Zero city car debuted at the Bologna Auto Show earlier this week. Aiming at the high end of the market, the stylish and sporty Tazzari Zero features a 160 Ah lithium battery pack, a range of 88 miles in economy mode and an MSRP of $29,900. The Italian made vehicle has a top speed of 56 mph which can be electronically reguated and operates on a 72 volt system. Standard features include a radio and CD player, leather seats, heating system and anti-theft device. The vehicle will be available in the US in 2010 as an LSV, and will be distributed by Verdek-EV. Learn more: Autoblog Green

Comment: At that price for an LSV it will probably be purchased more by collector types or higher end buyers willing to tinker with the speed controls. If medium speed regulations are adopted, and that’s a big if, the vehicle becomes more viable but still limited to the higher end of the market or perhaps a younger demographic willing to spend extra money for the “cool” factor. – Marc Cesare

GEM Goes Lunar

GEM will be participating in a University of North Dakota project developing the  next generation  lunar  exploration system.  The  university was awarded a three year $741,109 grant by NASA to support the design and development of a three-part system: a lunar rover; inflatable modular habitat units; and a lunar exploration suit. Other companies participating in the project include Boeing Company, Cirrus Aircraft, ILC Dover,  Packet Digital, and Paragon Space Development Corporation.

I assume GEM will be involved in the rover development. – Marc Cesare

Learn more:,

Garia Premieres Golf Car; LSV Version Will Launch In March 2010

Garia Luxury Golf Car

Garia Luxury Golf Car

Targeting the luxury golf car segment Denmark based Garia had their world premiere for their Garia golf car.

… The Garia features a double wishbone front suspension similar to those found in sports cars and inspired by Formula 1 cars. The drive train is built by an Italian company that also produces Ducati gearboxes. The aluminum profiles in the frame are made by the same company that supplies aluminum profiles to Aston Martin, Jaguar and Volvo. Hydraulic brakes on all four wheels with discs in the front and drums at the rear. The Garia is manufactured at the Valmet Automotive factory in Finland, manufacturer of the Porsche Cayman and Porsche Boxster.

Top it all off with an in-built refrigerator, hand-stitched seats and an exclusive personalization program where you can choose to have The Garia painted in your favorite color or matched to your other cars.

The vehicle features a 4hp AC motor and is powered by six 8 volt Trojan batteries. The base MSRP for the Garia is $17,499.

In March 2010 at the Geneva Auto Show Garia will launch an LSV version of the vehicle for the US market.

Learn more:

ZENN To Stop LSV Production; ZAP Phasing Out Xebra?

ZENN announced that it will be stopping production of their LSV in April 2010. As had been reported earlier the company is shifting it’s focus to the development of electric drivetrains based on EEStor technology. The company reports selling about 500 of their LSVs in three years.

Learn more:

In another story about phasing out a vehicle, a careful examination of ZAP’s most recent quarterly findings, seem to indicate that they will be phasing out their three-wheeled Xebra model. From their 10-Q for the quarter ending September 30, 2009:

The decrease of $1.5 million (in revenue) is primarily due to the phase out of our three wheeled Xebra vehicle with reduced selling prices.

In addition the company appears to be putting less emphasis on development of the Alias model.

Research and development expenses decreased by $57,000 from $138,000 in 2008 to $81,000 for the third quarter ended September 30, 2009. The decrease was due to less work on the development of the Alias prototype vehicle

Learn more: