2020 Small Task-Oriented Vehicle Study

Club Car Onward 4-passenger lifted PTV
Club Car Onward 4-passenger lifted PTV

In a new market study on the small task-oriented vehicle (STOV) market in the US and Canada, Small Vehicle Resource (SVR), LLC describes an industry in midstream transition as:

  • Climate policies, COVID-19 effects and new technologies usher in the urban/suburban mobility market and underpin an expanding consumer market for personal transportation vehicles (PTVs), as well as commercial markets for light duty utility vehicles;
  • The transition from lead acid to lithium batteries continues, raising performance and transforming vehicle longevity and recycling value.
  • The maturing off-road utility and recreational UTV market remains fundamentally strong and highly competitive, and is poised to follow the automobile and golf-car type vehicle markets into electrification;

The study provides a strategic analysis of the rise of urban/suburban mobility market driven in the context of the STOV industry. Steve Metzger, SVR Managing Director, states that, “The intersection of climate policy, new technologies and COVID-19 effects will lead to a ‘dispersed living lifestyle’, and provide new opportunities in the urban/suburban mobility market.”  He further remarks, “The STOV industry, particularly the Big Three golf manufacturers with a foothold in gated communities, have the core competencies to transition from golf-centric to urban/suburban centric. The question is will they?” 

Marc Cesare, SVR Managing Director, adds that, “While the UTV manufacturers will see solid growth in their market, some are capable of pursuing the urban/suburban mobility market as well. However, their DNA, profit centers and distribution channels are primarily off-road and powersports. Culturally, the pursuit of the urban/suburban mobility opportunity may be a difficult paradigm shift.”

The study, the tenth in the series since 2000, covers market trends from 2016 and develops projections to 2025. The key segments are golf fleet, personal transportation vehicles, light-duty utility vehicles, and off-road utility and recreation vehicles. In total, these segments are forecasted to reach close to 1,200,000 new vehicles in 2025. Electric powered vehicles continue to make inroads. Approximately a third of the market is electric powered, primarily in the form of fleet golf cars, PTVs, as well as light duty utility vehicles, of which approximately 80% will be electric by 2025. Key trends and projections for the market include:

  • Demand for electric powered STOV vehicles will increase to over 450,000 vehicles in 2025.
  • Golf course fleet demand will decline slightly during the trend period but will remain overwhelmingly electric powered, around 80%.
  • Demand for PTVs will be strong.
  • Lithium battery powered vehicles will continue to make inroads as more models become available with this option.

            The study is entitled, Trends and Outlook for Small, Task-Oriented Vehicles-2016-2025- An Analysis of the Emerging Urban/Suburban Mobility Market.  For additional, detailed information see the study brochure with table of contents or contact:

Steve Metzger smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com

(914) 293-7577

New Mobility Tech Challenges PTVs

Cruise Origin offers mobility through autonomous driving
The recently announced Cruise Origin self-driving vehicle that GM plans to start building in 2022. A potential threat to PTVs in gated communities?

The Mobility Tech Challenge

New urban and micro mobility technology creates a potential challenge to the existing players in the PTV market. This technology is wide ranging from electric skateboards and electric bikes to three-wheeled and larger autonomous vehicles. While the technology is typically discussed in the context of the urban environment, it can also be well suited to the gated and vacation community markets. These alternative mobility technologies do not provide a head-on, direct competition to PTVs, but neither are they merely tangential. They can challenge the existing PTV players by taking multiple, smaller slices of the market pie. In addition, they are attracting a host of new players and new investment.

Electric Bikes & Scooters

The gated and vacation community skews older so skateboards are probably out, and at first glance electric bikes and electric scooters (Vespa like) may not seem to make sense. However, electric bikes and scooters can offer a slice of the market an alternative transportation experience. An electric pedal assist bike can provide exercise without as much exertion as a traditional bike. In addition, if you already bike, it extends your existing trip range and experiences. Scooters offer an alternative to PTVs for quick single or two-person trips. This technology can also be applied in the form of a bike or scooter share program, providing access to the whole community. A share program would seem well suited to a planned community that has a large enough population and well planned out destination points.

Pros

They are fun to ride and, in the case of bikes, can provide additional exercise opportunities. They are a less expensive alternative, especially if you need an occasional second mode of transportation and have a small footprint. Furthermore, their speed range fits well in the low speed planned community environment. They can also be used to venture outside the community with likely less restrictions than PTVs.

Cons

On the other hand these modes of transportation have some drawbacks that limits their appeal. First, they can only accommodate one or maybe two people in the case of scooters. They have limited carrying capacity for running errands. They also do not provide any protection from the elements or as much collision protection from other vehicles as a PTV does. In addition, older folks may not feel as physically capable of operating these vehicles. Although, the low speed and well planned roadways can ameliorate this issue to some degree.

Three-wheelers & Autonomous Vehicles

Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle - FUV
The electric powered Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) is just coming to market.

On the other end of the spectrum you have larger multi-passenger vehicles that provide a more direct competition to existing PTVs. Vehicles like the FUV can carry two passengers or one with cargo. As a three-wheeler, the FUV can operate at higher speeds and has no restrictions for venturing outside of communities on public roads. At the same time, this vehicle can be speed limited for golf course and planned community use. With autonomous vehicles planned community residents could displace at least some of their PTV usage, and possibly all of it if the the service is robust enough.

Pros

With the ability to travel from golf course to community roads to public roads, the three-wheeled vehicle offers greater versatility than PTVs. Capable of higher speeds, it also has greater functionality than PTVs for certain use scenarios. For autonomous vehicles, the low-speed, well-defined and relatively limited planned community road networks offer an ideal environment. For residents less inclined or capable of driving a PTV, they provide a method to maintain mobility.

Cons

The FUV is currently much more expensive than PTVs and even LSVs. Therefore, customers may not find the increased versatility and functionality worth the price. They also are limited to two passengers, and as a result are less useful for family outings. For autonomous vehicles the technology is still in the development phase. In addition, some customers may prefer the convenience, customization and the statement made by owning a PTV. Furthermore, the cost of this type of service is not currently known.

New Players, Investment & Disruptive Innovation

Harley Davidson electric bicycles

An additional aspect of urban and micro mobility that PTV manufacturers must contend with is the increased number of market players, capital investment and disruptive product innovations that the technology brings. For example, Harley Davidson and Jeep have revealed at least prototype electric bikes. Completely new companies like Arcimoto have entered the market. Tech companies like Alphabet (Google) and traditional auto manufacturers are developing highly sophisticated autonomous vehicle technology. In addition, you have ride share companies.

PTV manufacturers are potentially at a disadvantage because they have neither the focus of disruptive startups or the financial resources of much larger companies. On the other hand, they do possess strong knowledge of the market and a distribution network to serve the market. They also have experience in developing and manufacturing electric vehicles in a highly competitive environment.

Potential Strategies

One strategy for PTV manufacturers to take is to start developing new mobility platforms themselves. The question is whether they have enough resources and commitment. They would have to balance maintaining their current product lines while trying to introduce entirely new a category of products. Another strategy would be to leverage their distribution and marketing expertise by acquiring or partnering with new market entrants to launch to product categories. They could also decide to keep improving their existing products and manufacturing efficiency. As a result, they could maintain or lower prices while increasing the value of their products. Therefore, new entrants could find market entry to difficult or limited to niche markets. However, compared to the other two strategies, this strategy offers less upside. In addition, it still leaves them vulnerable to a disruptive technology. The first two strategies provides the opportunity to potentially expand into urban markets.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Tropos Motors and Panasonic Partner

Able pickup CUV from Tropos Motors
The Able electric compact utility vehicle from Tropos Motors in a pickup configuration.
Tropos Motors Able XR CUV
The Tropos Motors Able XR model with a view of the lithium battery packs.

Panasonic is partnering with electric compact utility vehicle manufacturer Tropos Motors to improve vehicle performance. Tropos Motors manufacturers the Able and Able XR electric compact utility vehicles that are low speed and electric powered. The Able features a 72V system with a 13 hp motor and gel lead acid batteries for a 50 mile range. In contrast, the Able XR uses lithium batteries in a 96V system with a 13 hp motor and a range of up to 160 miles.

Compact Utility Vehicle Niche

The electric compact utility vehicle (CUV) is part of the “right-sizing” trend in commercial vehicles. Smaller than a full-size pickup but larger and more capable than a modified golf car, CUVs are designed to be the right tool for the job. Or, in many cases, multiple jobs. In particular, they are useful on college and corporate campuses and urban environments where their smaller size is an advantage and a high top speed is less critical. Like many CUVs, a user has the option of limiting the Able models top speed to 25 mph. Therefore, with the proper safety options, they can be classified as street legal low speed vehicles.

Tropos Motors Capable and Versatile

Tropos Motors Able CUV trades package
The Tropos Motors Able CUV with the trades bed package.

The Able lineup has 1,100 lbs of payload capacity for the street version and 2,000 lbs for the campus version. Similarly, the towing capacity is 2,000 lbs and 3,000 lbs. Clearly they are capable of hauling and towing for a wide range of applications. Like many CUVs the Able lineup is versatile with their Easy-Swap system of bed packages to perform a wide range of on campus tasks. The bed packages include a pickup style, boxed van for hauling cargo, trades/maintenance configuration for carrying tools, a special sweeper package and a trio of emergency services packages.

Green and Cost Efficient

By virtue of their electric powertrains, electric CUVs can help organizations meet their sustainability goals while limiting air and noise pollution on campus. These smaller vehicles usually have a lower cost of purchase. Furthermore, the electric drive train also produces a lower cost of operation.

SVR’s Take

Currently, Tropos Motors is a relatively small manufacturer but landing Panasonic as a partner is big deal. What could be an important factor in the growth of this niche is the decreasing cost of lithium batteries. Partnering with Panasonic gives Trompos Motors access to a high volume lithium battery manufacturer. The trade-off between the range, performance and reduced maintenance of lithium batteries and their higher costs is key. As the price comes down, a wider set of applications become possible and less frequent re-charging is needed. The latter may also translate into less charging infrastructure needed. Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Urban Mobility Market for STOV OEMs

fuel cell powered urban mobility vehicle
Yamaha’s fuel cell powered urban mobility vehicle for a new ride sharing service.

Recent vehicle news from Asia spurred some thoughts on the opportunity urban mobility presents to small, task-oriented vehicle (STOV) manufacturers.

Urban Mobility Changing

Battery Swapping Autorickshaws

The first article reports on the use of battery swapping to power electric autorickshaws in India. Battery swapping removes the very expensive battery component from the upfront purchase price and reduces long term operating costs. In addition, the electric part moves toward a more climate friendly and less polluting transportation system.

The current thinking by some is that smaller two and three-wheeled vehicles provide the best economic case for battery swapping. In contrast, larger vehicles require larger batteries. This means more expensive and complicated swapping stations, and higher up front investment costs for the battery supplier. While this an India based example, the advent of e-scooters, e-bikes and startups offering three wheelers indicate market potential in the US.

Fuel Cell Powered Small Vehicle

This week Yamaha Motor announced the public testing of a prototype fuel cell vehicle for a vehicle sharing service. The vehicle looks like less than a typical automobile but more than a golf car. The technology advances new concepts in urban mobility as well as initiatives in Japan to promote hydrogen based fueling. Though the fuel cell provides greater range and less refueling needs, the more important part of this test for STOV OEMs is the vehicle form. The vehicle size and level of complexity should be a good fit for their capabilities.

Is Urban Mobility Too Small for Traditional Auto OEMs?

These transportation technologies represent a new opportunity for STOV manufacturers to leverage their existing manufacturing and technology expertise into new vehicle markets. The traditional automobile manufacturers are less likely to view these markets as an opportunity. Although, in the long term they could represent a threat to their dominance or at least reduce their addressable market. They are already pouring billions of dollars to enter the highway capable EV market. However, they must balance investment between highly profitable and traditionally popular ICE vehicles and lower margin and riskier EVs. Smaller, alternative energy vehicles are even farther down the list. In addition, their work force arguably did not join their companies to produce small, urban vehicles.

Urban Mobility Attracts Diverse Providers

Entrants in the urban mobility space include startups like Arcimoto and traditional small vehicle manufacturers serving Asian and to a lesser degree European markets. Startups have the advantage of creating purpose-built vehicles specifically for new mobility markets. However, they lack the manufacturing expertise, financial resources and distribution networks. Traditional foreign small vehicle manufacturers know their home markets, and have the distribution, financing and manufacturing assets. However, they do not have a strong presence in the US market.

Other potential entrants include the likes of bike sharing companies as well as Lyft and Uber that have moved into ride sharing with e-scooters and e-bikes. However, these company’s expertise is not in manufacturing. They provide the platform for people to access mobility. One can argue that the platform itself does not provide as a wide moat as the manufacturing and technology assets. The strengths and weaknesses of these potential providers and the dynamics of the urban mobility market suggest an opening for existing US STOV manufacturers.

Best Positioned US STOV Market Leaders

Among the current leading UTV, golf car and LSV manufacturers companies Polaris, Textron and Yamaha appear to be best positioned to pursue this new opportunity. Polaris owns Aixam, the leading European quadricycle brand as well as the GEM, Goupil and Taylor-Dunn electric vehicle brands. These brands provide them with electric vehicle technology as well as a range of distribution networks. On the other hand, the DNA and profit driver of Polaris is off-road motorsports. They may see relatively greater returns on investment in their traditional markets.

After the acquisition of Arctic Cat, Textron is similar to Polaris and now has an expansive small vehicle portfolio. Their DNA is more golf car and PTV, and therefore likely better suited towards urban mobility. However, the integration of Arctic Cat has been bumpy and they were slow to recognize the original UTV opportunity. As a piece of a larger conglomerate, their Textron Specialized Vehicle division may not be entrepreneurial enough or have the freedom to pursue this opportunity.

Yamaha has both off-road and golf car type offerings as well as e-bikes, but are not well coordinated. These businesses are in separate business units. In addition, their golf car portfolio has been emphasizing gas powered technology rather than electric technology. Yamaha’s existing mobility concept testing along with having one foot in the Asian market and another in the US should be an advantage. However, their slow re-entry into the UTV market after problems with the Rhino side-by-side speaks to a more cautious corporate approach.

The STOV OEMs appear to have many of the necessary requirements to pursue the urban mobility opportunity. The question remains whether they believe in the opportunity and if they are willing to take the risk.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Road Use Regulation Roundup – November 2018

golf cart signRoad Use Regulation Summary

The following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels since June, 2018.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • There is a fairly even split between ordinances that will allow more small vehicles on the roads and ordinances that will restrict use or clarify existing regulations.
  • California is allowing San Diego cities and the county to create a regional LSV plan..
  • Once again most of the legislative activity occurred in the Midwest and Southeast.
  • Florida municipalities were the most active followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Road Use Regulation by Location

Largo, FL – Largo officials denied a request from a mobile home community to allow the use of golf cars on nearby public roads. Officials cited safety concerns and potential cost issues as signs would be needed to notify other drivers that golf cars might be on the roads.

St. Johns County, FL – The county Board of Commissioners is replacing the existing golf car ordinance with one that would provide more clarity and uniformity in the county so the Sheriff’s Office can provide better enforcement.

Panama City Beach, FL – The Florida Highway Patrol reported a number of low seed vehicle and golf car accidents on Back Beach Road which is a state highway route. According to road use regulations the vehicles are not allowed on the route.

Holmes Beach, FL – The town commissioners are considering new golf car regulations that would require the addition of limited safety equipment or a full LSV set of accessories. In addition, they are considering keeping the vehicles off main thoroughfares.

Oconto, WI – The Oconto City Council revised an existing golf car ordinance to allow the use of utility vehicles on city streets. In response to citizens, the Council is considering an ordinance allowing ATVs and UTVs on some city streets.

Greendale, WI – The Greendale Village Board passed an ordinance to allow the use of low speed vehicles on certain city streets.

Austin, MN – The local police department is making an effort to educate citizens that UTVs and ATVs are not allowed on city streets.

St. Cloud, MN – Stearns County passed an ordinance to allow golf cars and LSVs on public roads. A similar ordinance had sunsetted in May.

Covington, OH – Operators of OGGO and Gest low speed vehicle transportation companies asked the city to amend their current low-speed vehicle ordinance to allow the company’s LSVs to operate on certain streets. The transportation is free for the riders. The services will be operating in Cincinnati and Newport as well and generate revenue from advertising.

Toledo, OH – The City Council is considering making permanent an ordinance that allows recreational and commercial use of golf cars in certain areas of the city. Currently a pilot program, the council is also considering expanding the areas of the city where the ordinance would apply.

Edmonton, KY – The Edmonton City Council approved an ordinance that would allow golf cars, ATVs, UTVs and mini-trucks on city streets.

Reedsville, WV – The City Council considering changes to the local vehicle ordinance listened to concerns of citizens regarding the use of UTVs and ATVs on town roads. Some citizens use their vehicles for practical purposes while others are “joy” riding on off-limit streets. The vehicles can be used on certain roads for a legitimate farm use. The changes would require drivers to show proof of farm use and have safety signage attached to the vehicle.

Woodstock, GA – The Woodstock City Council tabled a small vehicle ordinance in order to further discuss the definition of golf cars, ATVs, low-speed vehicles and personal transport vehicles, and the safety features required for each.

Poplarville, MS – The Board of Alderman is sending a resolution to the state legislature to allow the use of golf cars and other low speed vehicles on city streets.

California – Governor Brown signed a bill that gives cities in San Diego County and the county itself the authority to establish a LSV transportation plan.

South Carolina – A new law is about to go into effect designed to more easily allow police to enforce violations related to driving golf cars and other low speed vehicles. Violating any golf cart rule will be a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $100 or 30 days in jail, unless the offense is deemed to be a felony.

 

 

Arcimoto FUV: A Threat to PTVs?

Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle - FUV

The electric powered Arcimoto FUV (Fun Utility Vehicle) is just coming to market.

Oregon based Arcimoto is beginning to roll out their three-wheeled Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV). The combination of price point, size, electric powertrain and ability to travel public roads makes the Arcimoto FUV an intriguing alternative to golf cars, PTVs and LSVs.

Update – Arcimoto responded to a number of questions I sent them and I have added the information to the relevant sections below.

Arcimoto FUVs already on the Road

The first 10 FUV prototypes hit the road this past June. The company completed another 15 vehicles, referred to as their beta series, in September. These went to five customers and the remainder to rental locations. Vehicle rental franchising in tourist locations is a key part of Arcimoto’s marketing plan. As of the end of June the company has 2,800 reservations for the FUV.

Volume Production

Management expects to begin production and delivery of their A series of vehicles during this quarter. The A series marks the move to higher volume production. Plans call for a run rate of 200 vehicles/week or roughly 10,000/year by the end of 2019. The company has deliberately designed smaller sized production facilities that can produce approximately 10,000 vehicles per year.  A production facility costs approximately $10 million. This limits initial capital costs and creates a facility that can be profitable relatively quickly. Furthermore, the facility can be easily replicated in other parts of the country or the world.

Vehicle Features and Specs

The Arcimoto FUV is a three-wheeled vehicle powered by a 67 hp electric motor and a 12 or 20 kWh lithium-ion battery for a range of 70 or 130 miles and a top speed of 80 mph. As a three-wheeler, most states classify the FUV as a motorcycle or similar vehicle. Therefore, it does need the same  safety requirements as a full-sized, highway capable vehicle. The FUV can seat two passengers, one behind the other, and features regenerative braking, hydraulic brakes, a windshield with wiper and defrost, and heated seats and hand grips. Additional options include full HVAC, soft or hard shell doors, rear cargo box, bluetooth speakers and racks for golf clubs, bikes, surfboards, etc. The target price for the base model is $11,900 with a fully decked out model reaching the $19,000 range.

Arcimoto FUV Dimensions

Arcimoto FUV Dimensions

Versatility and Price Point Creates an Alternative to PTVs

The FUV is a versatile vehicle for gated communities. The vehicle can move from golf course, to community pathways to public roads. On public roads the FUV faces none of the restrictions of a golf car, PTV or LSV since it is classified as a motorcycle. Therefore, it can travel on higher speed roads and at night. The FUV can travel faster and farther as well. In terms of speed, the FUV may need a speed limiter option for use on golf courses or within communities depending on local regulations. According to Arcimoto, the vehicle does have the capability to cap speeds to meet specific needs.

The company is targeting a $12,000 base price. Therefore, the FUV is pricier but competitive with LSVs and fancier PTVs given the trade off between price and functionality. One of the reasons LSV sales never really took off in gated communities as expected is that the additional price premium did not offer a significant benefit over new or refurbished golf cars. LSVs are most successful where regulations greatly restrict the use of PTVs or golf cars on local roads. However, if anything, municipalities are becoming less restrictive regarding golf car use. Furthermore, in states like California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Arizona, and Illinois there are tax incentives available for the FUV. There is also the possibility that electric motorcycle or similar incentives could be brought back at the federal level. The company is lobbying to have the tax credits for motorcycles and three-wheeled vehicles brought back. This additional cost reduction could further boost the attractiveness of this alternative vehicle.

Arcimoto FUV Drawbacks

There are some potential drawbacks to the Arcimoto FUV in the gated community setting.

Higher Driving Speeds

Some communities may object to the vehicle’s higher speed capabilities. Some type of speed limiter could address this, or not, depending on the locality. In addition, given the older demographic in gated communities, some drivers may not feel safe driving at higher speeds on local roads. Nevertheless, driving up to 40 to 45 mph would include a large swath of vehicle usage inside and outside a gated community. In effect, the FUV could displace both PTV miles and a sizable chunk of driving performed with highway capable vehicles.

Seating Configuration

Seating configuration is another potential drawback. The seating in an FUV is one passenger behind the other rather than side by side. Some users may feel this reduces the social aspect while riding in the vehicle, particularly on a golf course.

Vehicle Storage

For seasonal usage by vacation home owners, there is often a need to store the vehicle for several months without any usage. This can be an issue or at least require some planning for the current battery powered vehicles. According to Battery University a lithium ion battery should be stored at 40% percent charge if being stored for an extended period. Arcimoto did not answer my question directly on this subject but expect to have a battery pack with a lifetime of “…8-10 years with normal vehicle usage, and still maintain more than 80% of their original charging capacity.” The pack replacement cost is expected to be under $2,500 inclusive of the residual value.

Marketing, Pricing and Local Regulations Critical to Success

The success of the Arcimoto FUV in displacing golf cars, PTVs and LSVs will depend on three key elements:  marketing, pricing and local regulations. The last may be the most important. If gated communities object to the FUV’s higher speed capabilities, and there is no technological fix, foreclosing the market. The pricing may be the easiest to address. If Arcimoto can hit their target price at volume production, even without tax incentives there is a compelling cost benefit story for the FUV.

The marketing element depends in part on where Arcimoto’s management wants to invest resources. The gated community market may be too small to target during the initial phases of the vehicle’s rollout. In addition, golf car dealers mainly serve this market. The company likely does not have relationships with this distribution channel. On the other hand, their rental franchise plan could overlap with these dealers as some are located in tourist oriented beach communities and have high PTV use. This angle could serve as an entry point to the market. In response to my questions Arcimoto stated that they put on a test ride event for the FUV at The Villages, a gated community in Florida, on November 12th. They also noted that the short drives and warm weather make resort communities a great market for the vehicle.

In a years time we will have a better idea whether the Arcimoto FUV has met with success, and whether it threatens the PTV market.

Marc Cesare, SVR

Road Use Regulation Roundup: June 2018

golf cart signThe following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels since January, 2018.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • This roundup saw more legislation related to allowing LSVs on roads as opposed to golf cars and ATVs/UTVs but it is too early to tell if this represents a long term trend and reversal of previous legislative trends favoring golf cars and UTVs.
  • Of special note is legislation in California that is focusing on the development of a regional multi-city plan for LSV transportation. I believe this is the first time a regional approach has been covered in the roundup.
  • Most of the legislative activity occurred in the Midwest and Southeast.

Highland Village, TX – The City Council approved an ordinance allowing the use of NEVs, LSVs and golf cars in the city with certain restrictions.

Myrtle Beach, SC – The City Council passed an ordinance requiring businesses that rent golf cars to get $10 tags on each vehicle.

Glendale, MO – City officials passed an ordinance allowing golf cars to be used on city streets provided they have certain safety features.

Bay St. Louis & Waveland, MS – The state passed legislation that allows the use of LSVs on certain city streets.

Oxford, MS – The owner of a local LSV taxi service requested that the city lower the minimum driving age of such vehicles from 21 years old to address a driver shortage. They lowered it to 20 years old.

Audubon, IA – City Supervisors will likely pass an ordinance allowing the use of ATVs/UTVs on county roads if they have certain safety features.

Newport, RI – The City Council passed an ordinance allowing the use of electric LSVs on local roads.

SanDiego, CA – State legislation is being considered that would allow the use of LSVs on a county wide basis. The legislation, backed by North County cities, would allow for the implementation of regional LSV transportation plans.

Cincinnati, OH – The City Council passed an ordinance creating a three year pilot program for the use of LSVs in the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods.

Augusta, GA – The City Commission is considering an ordinance that will allow the use of personal transportation vehicles (PTVs) in the central business district. They would initially be used to provide prearranged tours as opposed to taxi service, and could eventually lead to PTV permits for individual owners.

Sanibel Island, FL – The City Council denied the application for the opening of a seven vehicle LSV rental business citing concerns about traffic, safety and the concept being inconsistent with city planning aimed at reducing auto ridership.

Planned Development Communities As Incubators For Future Mobility

Eli Zero NEV

The new Eli Zero NEV from Eli Electric Vehicles is expected to reach market in late 2018 and is positioned as an urban transportation solution and future mobility concept.

My colleague Stephen Metzger recently wrote a piece on how gated communities could serve as an excellent incubator for testing future mobility systems. These systems include on-demand vehicles, self-driving and autonomous driving technology, ride-sharing systems, and new public transport options. Future mobility concepts typically feature electric vehicles being used in urban environments. He argues that the urban environment presents a myriad of obstacles and complexities for future mobility to overcome and solve, but gated communities offer a simpler but still useful testing ground for future mobility concepts.

Some of the advantages for gated communities include:

  • A better planned transportation environment into which mobility concepts can more easily be introduced
  • Population already using or conditioned to small, electric vehicles like golf cars and LSVs
  • Portion of the population that cannot drive themselves and could benefit from greater mobility

The article concludes with some examples of new small, electric vehicles with an eye towards future mobility that are entering or trying to break into the market.

Learn more:  Smallvehicleresource.com

 

Tropos Motors Unveils Electric Utility Vehicles

Topos Motors ABLE FRV f

The Tropos Motors ABLE FRV fire response vehicle.

Tropos Motors, a distributor of Cenntro Metro low-speed electric vehicles and trucks, is now manufacturing their own vehicles under the ABLE brand. Their first vehicles include the ABLE FRV, a fire response vehicle, and the ABLE EMS, an emergency medical service vehicle. The latter comes in an open or contained configuration.

The ABLE FRV features a 125 gallon skid unit tank, electric rewind Hannay series reel and Scotty Around the Pump class A foam system with 5 gallon foam cell. The electric powertrain includes a 10 kW/13 hp motor and a 72V DC power system with gel lead acid batteries. The rear wheel drive vehicle can put out up to 752 ft. lbs of torque. The ABLE FRV has an adjustable top speed of 25 mph to 35 mph for on road use and 40+ mph top speed off-road. Other specifications include:

  • Power steering
  • Four wheel disc brakes
  • Reinforced ABS bodywork
  • 14″ alloy wheels
  • Halogen headlights and LED signal lights
  • 157 inch turning radius
  • 78″ height that allows access to most parking garages, factories and warehouses
  • Kimtek Firelite Transport Deluxe
  • 9 hp electric start water pump
  • 100 foot Mercedes Boostlite hose
  • 20 foot suction hose
  • Fully enclosed tool box area
  • 1/4 turn ball valves
  • Power Hose Retract
  • AM/FM bluetooth USB stereo
  • Heater/Defroster
  • Back-up camera

Tropos Motors ABLE EMS

The new electric powered ABLE EMS from Tropos Motors.

The ABLE EMS can carry one patient on a full-size, standard ambulance stretcher and one EMS attendant in the bed area. The bed area has a lockable storage box, can accommodate a range of stretcher locking mechanisms and features additional security straps for rugged terrain use. Like the ABLE FRS the electric powertrain includes a 10 kW/13 hp motor and a 72V DC power system with gel lead acid batteries. The rear wheel drive vehicle can put out up to 752 ft. lbs of torque and has a top speed of 25 mph to 35 mph for street legal use or 40+ mph for off-road use. Other specs and features include:

  • 2-person open or enclosed cab
  • Power steering
  • Four wheel disc brakes
  • Reinforced ABS bodywork
  • 14″ alloy wheels
  • Extended rear bumper
  • Halogen headlights and LED signal lights
  • Kimtek MEDLITE Transport
  • 3-position jumper seat with seatbelt
  • Railing stainless grab bars
  • Diamond plate flooring
  • Sliding rear window
  • 2 lbs ABC fire extinguisher
  • 692 lbs payload capacity

The ABLE product line features the Tropos Motors Easy-Swap bed platform system that allows for the customer to switch between different bed packages and customize the vehicle to their specific applications. Easy-Swap bed packages include the:

  • Pickup package with an all aluminum pickup truck style bed with three drop down sides, corrugated flooring and 1,100 lbs payload capacity.
  • Trades package with “Rack-it” brand lumber rack, strap tie downs, aluminum diamond plate flooring, built-in lumber bed side inserts and 1,100 lbs payload capacity.
  • Cargo package with an 123 cubic foot enclosed cargo box with curb side hinged swing door, fully gasketed doors with stainless steel latches and hinges, aluminum diamond plate flooring and 1,100 lbs payload capacity.

Learn more:  Troposmotors.com and PRnewswire.com

Eli Electric Vehicles Launches Eli Zero NEV

Eli Zero NEV

The new Eli Zero NEV from Eli Electric vehicles is expected to reach market in late 2018.

Eli Electric Vehicles is launching a new NEV, the Eli Zero, with the intention to”…fundamentally shift how people engage with modern communities and urban environments.” The company, which is co-headquartered in Long Beach, CA and Beijing, China where the vehicles are manufactured, is now taking reservations for the Eli Zero. The plan is to deliver the first 100 vehicles by the end of 2018. The first 100 customers reserving a vehicle will receive a discount of $2,200 off the expected MSRP of $9,900 to $10,900. The vehicles are targeting the urban mobility space. The base model is expected to have a 55 mile range and the Plus model with a larger battery will have an 85 mile range. The Eli Zero will be using Samsung 18650 lithium cells in the battery pack. Like all NEVs the top speed is limited to 25 mph. Key features of the Eli Zero include:

  • 2-passenger seating plus cargo area behind the seats
  • AC asynchronous motor
  • 48V system
  • 6.0 kWh or 8.3 kWh battery packs
  • Toyota MCU
  • Vehicle Management System that monitors data, malfunctions and energy optimization
  • High-tensile aluminum frame
  • Doors made from a single sheet of thermoplastic-reinforced tempered glass
  • 877 lb/904 lb curb weight for the Base/Plus models
  • Four wheel disk brakes
  • Regenerative braking
  • Cruise control
  • Wide field of vision from the drivers position
  • 24 ft. turning circle
  • Driver proximity detection system to automatically unlock doors
  • LED signal lighting
  • Sunroof
  • Anti-theft system
  • Press to start
  • Multi-function dashboard control dial and LED dashboard display
  • Bluetooth
  • Radio
  • Heat and AC and Defrost
  • Adjustable driver’s seat

Learn more:  NewAtlas.com and Eli.world.

SVR’s Take:  The Eli Zero appears to be a step above the current NEVs on the market in terms of technology and design. The question is whether that is appealing enough to enough consumers. NEVs have consistently fallen short of market expectations in the consumer segment even though a strong argument can be made for their use based on efficiency, appropriateness for urban mobility, size and impact on the environment. An issue in the urban environment is that if a consumer can only own one car will they make it an NEV limited to low speed roads when they can spend several thousand dollars more and have a more versatile highway capable vehicle.

In gated, summer or other communities with widespread use of lower speed vehicles, NEVs are typically the most expensive option. Other available options include used golf cars, refurbished golf cars and new golf cars which can all be customized to a fairly high degree for the same price as an NEV or be equipped with less and cost significantly less. A large swath of that market elects to own less expensive golf cars. From my experience, NEVs have been most successful in these types communities where local regulations are most restrictive regarding the use of golf cars. Perhaps the design and tech of the Eli Zero will have enough appeal to make it a primary choice in a wider range of communities.

In the urban environment NEVs will more likely have a greater appeal where their is a shared fleet of vehicles. In this situation the consumer isn’t making an ownership choice but a ride choice. Do they really need to ride in a highway capable vehicle for a short intra-city trip or will a NEV, likely for a lower cost, be more than sufficient and better for the environment?

Marc Cesare, SVR