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States make way for low speed vehicles

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Federal standards established for LSVs in 1998 set equipment requirements and operating standards. What separates NEVs from golf carts, for instance, includes minimum vehicle speed of 20 miles per hour and a top speed of 25 m.p.h. They must have windshield wipers, headlights, taillights, and turn signals, to name just a few differences.

State laws vary. In New Jersey, Pringle successfully lobbied the state to allow LSVs in 2004. Rhode Island and West Virginia permit them on roads posted at 25 miles per hour. Kansas allows them on roads up to 40 m.p.h. and Montana up to 45.

Seizing on their growing popularity, leading manufacturers, like Global Electric Motorcar (GEM), a Chrysler subsidiary, are ramping up production. So is Toronto-based Zenn Motor Company, whose NEV looks more like a regular car than a golf cart. Its sales have jumped 68 percent over the same period last year. Tomberlin and Miles Electric Vehicles have also seen sales surge.

“The biggest increase we’re seeing is due to gas prices going up and people seeing our vehicles as a way to significantly cut costs,” says Kara Saltness, marketing manager for Miles Electric Vehicles in Santa Monica, Calif.

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