The city council of San Antonio has this week announced plans to legalise the use of neighbourhood electric vehicles on the city's streets. This is an issue which has come before the council on numerous occasions in the past although the growing popularity of neighbourhood electric vehicles, as well as improved safety, seems to have swayed the decision of councillors this time around.
The decision will take effect immediately, and while it will lead to a significant number of NEVs hitting the streets, there are a number of regulations and rules which drivers will need to abide by.
While there are many neighbourhood electric vehicles which can hit 45 mph, the vast majority are unlikely to reach anywhere over 35 mph. As a consequence, the city council has determined that the NEVs will only be legal on roads where there is a 35 mph speed limit in place. The idea is that with many neighbourhood electric vehicles unable to hit the 45 mph limit, this could cause significant tailbacks and probably lead to more accidents on faster parts of the highway.
Quote from ElectricForum.com : "Hi all. I'm a recent 2002 GEM short bed utility owner, and loving it. I love it so much I recently sold my other cars. The current batteries are 3 year old, but still give a decent range of about 15 miles. I'm dealing with it right now, but it requires spreading out trips to multiple days."
This makes perfect sense when you take a step back from the situation and look at it in the cold light of day. The fact that neighbourhood vehicles have a journey capacity of around 30 miles before they need recharged will ensure they are not heavily used in all areas of the city.
Registration and insurance
While it goes without saying that neighbourhood electric vehicles will need to abide by the Federal motor vehicle safety standards which include: seat belts, rearview mirrors, head and tail lights, safety glass windshield, vehicle identification number and a parking brake, there are also other aspects to take into account.
Owners of neighbourhood electric vehicles driving on the public highways will need to have liability insurance in place and the vehicles will need to be registered with traditional license plates. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this has upon public transport in and around the area and indeed whether the council bring on board a number of council operated neighbourhood vehicle facilities in time.
Cost of running a neighbourhood electric vehicle
It is estimated that the cost of running a neighbourhood electric vehicle will be but a fraction of the traditional $.10 a mile for your typical gasoline car. Indeed many experts believe it will be in the region of $.02-$.03 per mile and the fact there are no tailpipe emissions is obviously of great assistance to the environment. Even when you take into account the need for insurance, vehicle registration, etc., the running costs and the maintenance cost of a neighbourhood electric vehicle are but a fraction of their gasoline counterparts.
Whether or not the authorities eventually bringing some kind of neighbourhood electric vehicle tax to raise additional funding is an interesting question but at this moment in time the San Antonio authorities seem more concerned about the environmental aspect of NEV travel.
While the main stream electric car market has often failed to shine over the last few years, the same cannot be said of the neighbourhood electric vehicle industry. This is a sector which has gone from strength to strength, with record sales over recent years, and indeed the efficiency, journey capacity and safety aspect of life driving a neighbourhood electric vehicle has improved dramatically.
It will be interesting to see whether any other authorities around the world follow the San Antonio Council in allowing neighborhood electric vehicles more legal access to public highways.