More communities around the world continue to embrace neighbourhood electric vehicles (NEVs). Take Lincoln, California, USA, for example.
Now boasting more than 200 NEVs, these alternative cars have already helped Lincoln reduce emissions by 327 kg. And they save the Lincoln residents who use them 25,000 litres of petrol per year.
In a world with an increasing focus on carbon neutrality, the low-speed electric vehicle may offer an important alternative to fossil fuel dependency.
Let’s explore how NEVs are helping to lead the way into an “electric” future.
Low-Speed Small Electric Vehicles Versus Automobiles
NEV makers do not intend for their cars to replace automobiles. Instead, they represent a new “daily driver” alternative. Especially for a quick trip to the corner shop or a student’s daily drive to secondary or senior secondary school.
But what exactly is a NEV as opposed to a standard automobile? Let’s look at a generic definition for this special class of vehicles that includes golf carts and other four-wheeled vehicles of similar size.
Most NEVs meet the following specifications: maximum weight of 1,360 kg and a top speed of 40 km. In places like the US, they may operate on roadways with a speed limit of up to 56 km.
But according to the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989, there’s a fine line between which NEVs prove roadworthy in Australia. Electric golf carts, for example, fail to meet specific street ready requirements (e.g. brake lights, rear visions mirrors, etc.)
NEVs come in many makes and models and are manufactured by companies throughout the world. In recent years, China has made significant gains in the electric vehicle industry including the manufacture of NEVs.
NEV sales in China continue to rise representing a crucial factor driving Chinese urbanisation.
No matter where they are manufactured, NEVs provide an affordable, convenient option for people who’d like to invest in an electric car but don’t have the resources for a high-end model such as a Tesla.
From Electric Golf Carts to the Next Generation of NEVs
The first NEVs were electric golf carts. They remain popular, especially in golf course and beach communities around the world.
NEVs accommodate two people, either seated side-by-side or tandem. They can be as open as a golf cart or as enclosed as an automobile. The latter include many of the amenities of a car.
Electric motor powered, they rely on lithium-ion batteries. Batteries take anywhere from four to six hours to recharge depending on their size.
NEVs prove energy-efficient, compact, and small. That makes them great for densely populated areas where traffic and parking represent significant obstacles to even short excursions for groceries or the bare necessities.
The Next Generation of NEVs
While there are many NEV manufacturers around the world, France’s Renault and the United States’ Eli Electrics have received much attention as of late.
The Renault Twizy
Debuting at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, the eye-catching Renault Twizy has taken Europe by storm. Manufactured in Valladolid, Spain, it is categorised as a quadricycle. It has a maximum range of 100 km.
Sales in France began in March 2012 with other European market introductions soon following. Since 2016, global cumulative sales have totalled 19,432 units.
Unfortunately, Twizys have faced obstacles expanding into markets in Australia. But they continue to help Europeans reduce congestion and pollution in major cities.
The Eli Zero
Eli Electric Vehicles manufactures the Eli Zero. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, the Eli Zero offers electric transportation for highly frequent, short-range trips.
Founder Marcus Li envisions the Eli Zero as a way to reconnect drivers with their neighbourhoods and cities. He sees it as part of a larger vision to reinvent the cityscape through new modes of transportation.
Eli Zero represents Li’s first attempt at a NEV. But he sees a bright future for this type of vehicle. After all, today’s global private transportation models remain unsustainable; especially in populous countries such as the US, India, China, and Australia.
Most car treks are solo passenger trips. They occur within a less than the five-mile radius. According to Li, using massive vehicles to run these frequent trips makes no sense from an efficiency standpoint, let alone an environmental one.
The first Eli Zero’s will come on the US market in early 2019 at an MSRP of $10,900 (AU$15,313). That makes them more affordable for low-income households.
The Benefits of NEVs
NEVs deliver big when it comes to fuel efficiency and savings. For example, it costs approximately AU$1.40 to operate an Eli Zero for 137 km. And those kilometres represent clean ones with zero emissions.
Whether an Eli Zero, Renault Twizy, or electric golf cart, NEVs come with many benefits. They simplify short errand-running excursions especially when it comes to parking.
They allow vulnerable driving demographics, such as teenagers and the elderly, safe and accessible alternatives to expensive, high-speed vehicles. And they lead to better city planning and development.
NEVs requires just one-third of the parking space of a regular vehicle. This means a potential reduction in the need for out-sized parking lots.
They travel at no more than 40 km per hour, optimal for residential areas. And they could foreseeably lead to a decrease in the number of automobile accidents and fatalities seen in major cities.
In densely populated and congested areas, NEVs could reduce traffic loads. Since they prove nimble to navigate in urban areas, they could also reduce inner-city traffic.
NEVs as a Transition to EVs
While the electric vehicle (EV) market continues to face steep challenges when it comes to gaining a foothold in Australia, NEVs could offer an attractive transitional step between petrol vehicles and EVs.
As Australian officials grapple with ways to promote EV car sales, they will need to look at a variety of innovative ways to shift consumer buying trends, too.
Factoring NEV trails and access into city planning efforts would provide consumers with more opportunities to become comfortable with the concept of EVs. This could, in turn, lead more people to purchase EVs sold in Australia.
But what about well-established cities? Can their infrastructure be reconfigured to support NEVs?
One Case Study
The South Bay Subregion of Los Angeles County, USA, is hard at work to promote increased NEV use. They hope to reduce fossil fuel emissions and urban congestion. They also hope to restructure local cityscapes and move away from sprawl.
So far, the results have proven both positive and exciting. South Bay’s efforts demonstrate that even a built-out, the mature suburban area can benefit from promoting the use of NEVs.
South Bay city planners also hope that NEVs will make the transition from standard petrol vehicles to EVs more affordable for the public at large.
Metropolitan areas such as South Bay are actively reinventing their cities to accommodate not only NEVs but also this new mindset. By gradually re-organising low-density destinations into compact, high-density shopping areas, they reduce sprawl.
They also make shopping areas easily accessible by NEVs. It’s a great win for these cities and the environment and has important implications for Australian communities, too.
The Environmental Implications of NEVs
While all vehicles impact the environment on some level, NEVs prove more efficient than standard vehicles. They contribute to a smaller carbon footprint and boast zero emissions.
They cost about 3.5 cents (AU) per 1.6 km to run. And they consume less than one-fifth of the energy that a conventional car requires.
NEVs also come with other less obvious benefits. They contribute to local economies and build a cohesive community by encouraging consumers to shop within an eight-kilometre radius.
They provide safe transportation alternatives for teens, the elderly, and individuals living in densely populated areas.
When incorporated into city planning efforts, NEVs lead to less urban sprawl. They reduce fossil fuel dependency. They contribute to communities defined by inclusiveness rather than the isolation of constant commuting.
The Future of Transportation
Climate change concerns continue to highlight the necessity of coming together as a global community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Remaining mobile and autonomous are highly prized rights in our societies, too.
The future of transportation will be defined by a careful balancing act between our desires and the needs of our planet.
While so much of today’s transportation conversation focuses on autonomous vehicles, autonomous vehicles don’t offer solutions when it comes to urban congestion.
But NEVs can drastically reduce inner-city congestion along with the carbon footprints of major urban areas. They also prove quieter and far more affordable.
NEVs won’t provide the answer for every individual. But they could help those in highly populated areas or planned communities whose trip to the grocery store or commute falls within speed limits that are city-appropriate.
The Future of Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles
Neighbourhood electric vehicles are not designed to replace automobiles. But they make sense for neighbourhood errand-running and other frequent trips.
NEVs offer environmentally-friendly alternatives to standard vehicles. They also appeal to people in need of better transportation options such as teenagers, the elderly, and those in densely populated areas.
Are you interested in learning more about the exciting future of neighbourhood electric vehicles? Contact us today to learn more about the ever-expanding frontier of electric car options.