A number of events have occurred recently that demonstrate the need for an advocate for the LSV industry and raises the question of why there currently isn’t one. First, at the beginning of the year when the “fiscal cliff” bill was passed, a package of electric vehicle tax provisions were extended but LSVs were specifically excluded. The exclusion was typically framed as no tax credits for “golf cars”. In part this was the result of politics dating back to the original tax credits in the stimulus bill. A number of news outlets promoted the idea that these were tax credits for golf cars, which was factually wrong. At the time, the only push back I saw from the LSV manufacturers came from Tomberlin. For this latest bill where was the advocacy for extending the tax credits for LSVs. These had provided a significant boost to the market when they were in place.
There was also NHTSA’s proposed rule regarding a warning alarm for electric vehicles. It’s application to LSVs in low speed environments such as university campuses and parks makes no sense since the alarm would be continuously sounding. This is a major market segment for LSVs. The rule also applies to electric motorcycles and within days the relevant industry association had commented on the ruling but there were no comments from LSV manufacturers.
Another event was the recent funding increase for California’ Clean Vehicle Rebate Fund. The increased funding was earmarked for only highway capable vehicles. Now, I understand that CARB wants to promote advanced technology, but at the same time LSVs have been successful in displacing fossil fuel use. They are being used as primary transportation in gated communities, viable secondary vehicles in communities with public road access and replacements for pickup trucks on college campuses and in public parks. They may not be advanced technology but they are affordable technology that can help towards the same goals.
More of a trend than a single event, is the use of golf cars on public streets. While early on local officials, usually with the support of the local police chief, were voting to not allow golf cars on public streets for safety reasons, that trend seems to be reversing based on what we have been tracking. In addition, some states allow golf cars to be modified to meet LSV standards. Both of these trends undercut the LSV market. Many people will choose to purchase a cheaper golf car without the safety features than an LSV or they can highly customize a golf car for the same price as an LSV and add the safety standards.
Part of the reason there is no voice for the LSV industry is that the market is still small in size. There are quite a few manufacturers but many are small and the for larger manufacturers LSVs represent only a small portion of their sales. In addition, golf car manufacturers, logical choices to be more aggressive advocates, entered the LSV market relatively late. The market for LSVs continues to grow and hopefully in the future a forceful voice for the industry will develop. It would be helpful for not only LSVs but also if manufacturers ever want to establish a medium speed vehicle standard which would increase the utility of these types of vehicles and broaden the potential market.