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Fresno Piloting Neighborhood Electric Vehicles


Fresno Bee. Fresno, CA, is establishing a pilot program to promote neighborhood electric vehicles.

Neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs)—also called low-speed vehicles (LSVs)— are compact, one- to four-passenger vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries and electric motors. Models cover a range from bulked-up golf carts to small versions of sedans and pickups. (Sample picture to the right is from Dynasty Motorcar.)

In 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officially recognized NEVs/LSVs as a form of transportation. Since then, 37 states have passed legislation allowing these vehicles to be driven on roads with posted speed limits of 35 miles per hour or lower.

NEVs are designed for short distances at slow speeds where traffic, parking, and air pollution may be concerns. With their compact size and zero emissions operationally, NEVs are a cost-effective solution to those concerns.

NEVs typically have an upper speed of 25 mph and a range of some 30 miles. At least one NEV company—Feel Good Cars—is exploring augmenting its line with hydrogen-fueled hybrids. (Earlier post.)

The idea for promoting neighborhood electric vehicles came out of a City Council meeting a little more than a year ago when Lew Solomon, who owns Central Valley Golf & Utility Vehicles, suggested that people could use the vehicles for short neighborhood trips to cut down on air pollution. “I told the city, ‘I’m not trying to sell vehicles, but the situation is the housewives of America could use these things to go to the grocery store,’” Solomon said.

The biggest hurdle Rudd and his staff found is that the vehicles cannot be used on most major streets because of speed limits. That means people can drive them around their neighborhood but can't drive them to the nearest grocery store.

Police Lt. Andy Hall, in charge of the Fresno Police Department's traffic enforcement bureau, said his only concern about the pilot program is the safety of allowing electric vehicles to share the road with gas-powered cars and trucks.


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