Neighborhood Electric Vehicles Gaining In Popularity

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Originally published on EV Obsession.

When most people think of electric cars, they think of offerings like the Tesla Model S, or the Nissan LEAF — or, for that matter, of plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt. But what about those looking for something simpler? Those who don’t really need something as capable (and expensive) as a Model S or even a Nissan LEAF? There are of course “smart cars,” but even those can run a bit more expensive than what one may be looking for.

On that note, there’s something of a new movement (apparently) involving the use of “Neighborhood Electric Vehicles” (NEVs). This involves the use of golf carts as a means of normal transportation for people (seniors, in particular).


Given the convenience of such vehicles (and their relatively affordable nature), who can really blame someone for choosing one over something like a Model S (or Model X)?

Planetizen provides more:

They’re already used widely in parks, college campuses, enclosed communities, and, of course, golf courses. Now small towns are jumping on board in a push to make NEVs and other low-speed electrics the “cars” of choice for those who don’t need to travel far. They’re also much cheaper than full-size EVs.

In an odd twist, seniors are the demographic most suited to pioneer this transportation innovation. “Dozens of communities have outlined schemes to integrate carts and similarly sized vehicles into their transportation networks,” particularly places where older folks tend to live, and not limited to retirement communities.

Sun Belt suburbs, so long the domain of soccer-mom SUVs and vanity pickup trucks, are poised to embrace the humble electric golf cart. “Why drive a cart? Certainly, disposable income, warm weather, and relatively dense settlements are prerequisites. But drivers also say that NEVs allow for old-fashioned urban social interaction.”

So, in many ways, a substitute for a city car that doesn’t possess excessive size (or costs), and doesn’t use fossil fuels. Interesting. Any thoughts?

Image Credit: Miheco via Flickr CC

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

52 thoughts on “Neighborhood Electric Vehicles Gaining In Popularity

  • James, it missing the gulf wings.

  • That would be something new, car sharing. 😉

    • They might have 8-12 seater model, so that whole neighbourhood can jump right on the grandpa’s tram.

      Again I really like that vehicle, if we slap a nice 22% conversion SolarCity PV on top of it, grandpa will always give us free rides.

  • Cleantechnica spends far too much space on Tesla and Musk and not nearly enough on affordable cars like these or other low-end cars like the Spark EV. If the EV revolution happens, it is not going to happen because of $100K supercars.

    Cleantechnica should take a month-long break from covering Tesla and every word coming out of Musk and devote as much space to EV cars for the average buyer.

    This article is an example of CT’s bias. For a Tesla we’d get costs, range, specs, performance, etc., etc. For these, there’s no mention of any brand or range or costs or anything else. Are you actually *trying* to be elitist snobs?

    • Today’s commentary regarding T%%%% and it’s CEO E%%% M%%%%, graciously provided by – the man who says we shouldn’t comment on them, LOL!

      By the way, Smart cars, Volts Leafs even golf carts got plugs in this article – not just the vehicle which shall remain nameless – by the guy who spent three paragraphs talking about not talking about it.

      • He’s not wrong though. Almost every article on EV’s starts with a few words of blind devotion for Tesla.

        If I didn’t know any better, I’d start to believe that the site’s editor has Tesla stock (oh wait, he has) or that Tesla was leading the EV revolution. Then I remember that it is still a small player and that carmakers like Renault-Nissan are leading the pack.

        • Musk’s SpaceX launches probably burned enough fuel to compensate for all co2 his EVs sold up to date have been able to offset. Thats the beauty of it you can burn all the fuel you like as long as you collect subsidies for not burning the fuel.

          • That’s some pretty weak tea.

          • A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket launch uses about 119 tonnes of kerosense which is fairly close to gasoline in CO2 emissions when burned. A typical American car roughly burns about one and a half tonnes of gasoline a year. Very roughly a Tesla EV might avoid emissions equal to two-thirds of that or one tonne a year. There have been 19 Falcon 9 SpaceX launches since 2010 for an average of about 3 a year. So there would have to be an average of about 360 Tesla EVs on the road to offset the CO2 emissions from all their actual launches. There are somewhere around 100,000 Tesla vehicles in use in the world today. So what you wrote Passer-by is clearly very rong.

            Of course the real problem is that the Uniteds States, Australia, and a number of other countries allow companies and individuals to burn fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere without penalty or charging them for the externality. And until this changes CO2 will continue to be released from burning fossil fuels without remediation. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for this to change.

          • That’s right. A rocket launch every few months has a greater effect than working to clean up the fleet of 1 billion freeway capable passenger cars, hundreds of millions of gas and diesel generators, countless delivery trucks, heavy trucks, long haul trucks and service vehicles. That’s the beauty of your post – we believe you.

        • Nissan is doing OK, but they haven’t created much of a stir in the US. Tesla is passing Nissan in sales.

          Tesla has the Superchargers, Destination chargers, the Gigafactory, Powerwall, auto-driving. Tesla has demonstrated very rapid acceleration to 60 MPH, beating many much higher priced cars. Tesla is outselling many very highly regarded luxury cars.

          Tesla is also tied into SolarCity (which is moving into panel manufacturing), Space X and the Hyperloop.

          Nissan continues to make a lower range EV that doesn’t seem to excite many. They opened a battery plant but it kind of fizzled. Nissan did increase their range this year but hasn’t seem to made much of an effort to make people aware.

          Renault doesn’t sell in the US. Hardly anyone in the US knows anything about their EV.

          • – Tesla has superchargers: nice. But most charging still happens at home, and the supercharger has no clear technical advantage over the international Level 4 standard (if anything, it’s slower).

            – The Gigafactory is fundamentally a Panasonic project: it makes their batteries using their process technology.

            – Auto driving is relatively common on high end cars. AutoSteer is comparable in every respect to the auto-drive on higher end BMW and Mercedes models, for example.

            – Rapid acceleration to 60 MPH: that’s a nice number to brag about, but does it matter? The number of times you can safely accelerate faster than the cheapest second hand wreck can be counted on one hand for most people.

            – SpaceX and Tesla have few if any synergies. The Hyperloop is still a paper dream with no detailled cost or business case presented. SolarCity is a great company, that’s true.

            – Of course lower end EV’s aren’t exciting. And yet they will determine if the EV succeeds. A Model S like luxury sedan can never be more than a nice niche plaything, a boring compact family car will change transportation forever.

            Tesla receives far more attention than its finances or environmental impact warrant. Then again, so does Ferrari or Donald Trump.

          • So, Tesla has done less for clean energy than Ferrari and Donald Trump. Combined? OK, thank you!

          • No. That is not what I said. Rather, my suggestion was that both Ferrari and Donald Trump receive more attention than they deserve based on purely objective parameters like economic or social performance, simply because they are different to the bland, solid mainstream.

            Tesla is the same. It does good things (I hope nobody will argue its cars aren’t among the best on the market), but they get more media attention than rivals like Nissan – not to mention suppliers like Panasonic or Bosch – that have done much more than Tesla to make the EV revolution happen.

          • You can measure that? Sources?

          • You can measure that indirectly using indicators. To suggest a few: sales, profitabilty, number of all-electric miles driven, offset energy use, offset air pollution, number of relevant patents filed etc.

            Tesla, which sells few vehicles (for now) and depends mostly on off-the-shelf components like Panasonic batteries, lags Nissan and even Toyota on all of those.

            Perhaps that’ll change if (when?) Tesla releases mainstream vehicles. Futurology is not my game though.

          • After you measure it, you can show why it’s a bad thing?

          • Tesla sales have passed Nissan’s in the US. This, being a US site, likely pays more to what is happening in the US.

            Nissan sold fewer than 50,000 EVs globally in 2013. Tesla is on track to sell over 50,000 EVs this year.

            Profitability. Tesla has a much higher gross profit margin than does Nissan. Unfortunately Leaf sales are folded in with all other Nissan models so we can’t tell how much Nissan makes from each Lear.

            Number of all-electric miles driven. One would expect longer range EVs would acquire more miles over time. But that’s only a guess. Offset energy and offset air pollution are also unknowns without the mileage data.

            Do you have some information about how many components are internally produced and how many outsourced for each manufacturer? Nissan may make more of its parts because it has a much larger manufacturing system backing it up. It probably uses parts designed and manufactured for other Nissan models.

          • Panasonic has done much more than Tesla to make the EV revolution happen? Do you really think so?

            Tesla had the desire to change the world. Tesla looked around for the company where they could get the most affordable usable battery for the car they were designing. They sourced batteries that Panasonic was already making. The built the Tesla S around those ‘off the shelf’ batteries.

            Not “especially designed for future EV batteries” but generic cells.

            Then Tesla set out to build an enormous battery factory to provide cells in the volume they needed. Panasonic partnered up. Panasonic isn’t out in the lead on the Gigafactory, Tesla is running the show.

            Now. Please explain your thinking. I’ve shown you mine.

          • Three little things:

            1) Designing a high end luxury vehicle is in many respects easier than designing a mid market car like the LEAF. A high end car maker simply shops around and picks the best of everything, whereas designing a budget car requires hard choices (less range or less plushy seats? A lightweight or an attractive body?).

            Carmakers who offer a compelling lower end vehicle had to think much, much harder than those who peddle premium goods, since they had to make do with second tier components.

            2) Tesla’s marketing job is easy, as it preaches to the choir: it sells high end, high tech cars to people who have a strong technical background and a high income – i.e. those who already are likely to make the environmentally sound choice if it doesn’t require too much effort.

            Compare to those who have to work hard to convince heavily indebted Joe Sixpack that he should pay more for a compact EV to solve a problem he barely understands (climate change) and because there are some long term savings to be had.

            3) Assembling a car, fundamentally, is easy (if capital intensive). The cutting edge R&D tends to go in individual parts, from the incredibly complex chemistry of batteries to the mind boggling process engineering of a carbon fibre plant.

            (1) and (2) are my reasons for arguing that carmakers like Nissan that have brought the EV to the masses had a harder job than Tesla. (3) is my reason to say that suppliers like Panasonic are the unsung heroes of the car (and tech) world.

            Of course, some people might think Tesla deserves high praises simply because of its intentions and motivation. I just happen to be someone who prefers results over motivation or ethics.

            Just to clarify: Tesla is a wonderful company, and I wish them all the best. I just fail to see how it can be said to be more than a primus inter pares at best.

            If the Model 3 comes and proves succesful at (a) making Tesla profitable and (b) capturing a significant share of the total car market, I’ll change my opinion. Not before.

          • “Tesla’s marketing job is easy”

            Yes, and that’s because Tesla makes a more interesting car. Makes updates far more frequently. And engages in many more activities.

            The general complaint from some is that Tesla gets too much attention on this site. Tesla does stuff that gets attention. Not throwing big parties or playing in celebrity golf matches sorts of stuff, but by introducing new tech. Stuff that moves us closer to abandoning oil.

          • Well said.

          • Both are have their entertainment value.
            How does 3 10th of second reduce GHG?

          • And “3 10th of second” is…

          • How about 0.3 of a second? Happy now? I think you understood his point but you’re pigeonholing over semantics.

            The point being made, basically, is that Tesla seems to have spent more time the past couple of years making incremental refinements to increase acceleration times and not bringing down the retail price of their product.

          • If anything Tesla should raise their prices.

            Demand is exceeding supply.

            Profits are being used to expand the company to the point where they can manufacture cars for those who can afford a car around $35k.

          • So, you want to see even fewer people be able to afford EVs? This is a sort of Marie Antionette “Let them eat cake” way of looking at things. Maybe we should insist that solar PV double in price, where it was a few years ago, since it’s now way too cheap and too many people are able to afford it.

          • I want to see Tesla make a lot of money off deep pocket purchasers so that they have a lot of money to expand production of lower cost EVs.

            Why are you having trouble understanding Tesla’s game plan?

          • Perhaps we should lobby green tech companies to take on unsustainable business models so that a few more folks can enjoy their technologies prior to their bankruptcies.

          • Hi I’m Jeff, you don’t know me or anything about me, but I’d like to take the time to thank you for explaining that, “How does 3 10th of second reduce GHG?” means that “Tesla seems to have spent more time the past couple of years making incremental refinements to increase acceleration times and not bringing down the retail price of their product.”

          • You are normally so objective.

          • He still is. He doesn’t “feel” the same as you do.

          • Tesla is a leader and and influences broadly. Funny you should feel the need to denigrate that.

          • I think that the Supercharger network is very important for one big reason. It allows fairly convenient long distance travel. I have personally inspected a Supercharger station and a Destination Charger and have come away impressed. That means that a Tesla can be the only car a family needs. There will be no need for an EV to commute with and an ICE car for long distance travel as we personally have now. I don’t own a Tesla, but I’d like to and I enjoy seeing what they’re up to because they are the ones that, in time, may create a whole new paradigm in personal transportation especially with the Model 3.

          • Donald Trump has entertainment value.

          • “he Hyperloop is still a paper dream with no detailled cost or business case presented.”
            Besides the British, French, and Germans have something
            far better and working already. They call it the Train.

          • Hyperloop works and trains go away. Except for bulk freight.

            Hyperloop would be 3x to 4x faster and significantly cheaper.

          • – There are not enough L4 out there to call any route supported by them “international”. But good development non the less. Years after Tesla. Its also debatable how fast L4 will roll out in places where L3 already is provided. On high ways that make difference.

            – How else it wold be? Tesla is car company. One need large existing battery manufacturer to innovate in this space. But still nobody before Tesla thought BIG in this industry. Doubling capacity of what was possible 2y ago is major boast, even if done in tandem.

            – Rapid acceleration. ?? Like every day, every time You merge higher speed street. Better acceleration mean better driving comfort.

            – Actually SpaceX & Tesla share a lot.. of manufacturing techniques. How do You think Tesla outdone 100y industry when it come to producing safest car in category? Space grade wielding and screws are answers among other things!

            I agree that Autonomous tech was and would be pursued regardles of Tesla.Also notion that Tesla will give S experience for 30k or 15k $ is ridiculous. Cheaper versions will be more “blant”. Business is business. 😉

            So no. Tesla is not some fringe company without any influence on the market.

            Tesla will be written beside Ford in history books!

            However game is still on. We have barley reached 1% of possible sales. Everybody can still make a difference. However said difference would mostly come down to emulating lots of Telsa moves. Investing in battery production capacity, L4 rollout, treating software as software on car are must.

          • Nissan is a leader, and will continue to be as long as Carlos Ghosn is able to lead the company.

          • I agree. But other than the Leaf what has Nissan done? And how much have they improved their product over the years?

            I’ve got me some Nissan love, but not much Nissa excitement. I’m actually excited more by GM. The Volt is a pretty good car and it really looks like GM is going to release the Bolt.

            GM made some news and got attention by announcing $145/kWh batteries. Have you seen Nissan do anything to make news for itself?

          • Well, I’m biased. What I call news may be seen as inconsequential be mainstream auto media. Which is itself narrow. In that context – yes.

          • Yeah, you’re right. Nissan has done some fine stuff, but not that much that often. Nissan introduced a good limited range EV and built a battery factory (which didn’t work out too well).

            Nissan has updated their range twice(?). They’ve partnered up to create some level 3- (?) chargers. They have only one model.

            I’m not knocking Nissan. I’m a Nissan fan, just a bigger Tesla fan because Tesla is doing more and having a bigger impact.

            (Have you seen any car company announce that they’re developing a Leaf killer?)

        • That’s right. Since right and wrong measure values – not accuracy.

        • I agree Nissan has been pushing BEV forward for the majority of us non-1%. I’m sure there are many reasons this site covers Tesla. Zach influencing Tesla stock prices for personal gain is NOT one of them.

        • Because batteries.

          Only Tesla pushed for increases in battery production capacity.

          So its completely true that Tesla enabled/jump started all this.

  • There was a time, not too many years ago, in the immediate post-EV1 era, when some where holding NEVs out as the future of transportation. Since real, road-worthy electric cars had been proven a failure, the logic went, we’d all have to settle for something far less ambitious — these glorified golf carts!

    Then Tesla arrived, and the Leaf and Volt arrived, and NEVs dropped off the radar like Flight MH370. It wasn’t hard to assume they’d crashed and burned.

    I think these vehicles have their niche, and it’s a good that they’re continuing to find it. I’m also very glad that they’re no longer the only electric cars you can buy!

    • I Agree – The main problem with these “golf Carts” is that they are slow compared to normal driving. Take them on any normal road and you’ll cause a real traffic jam. So, they’re good for enclosed areas (college campus, private land etc), but useless for going across town.

    • Exactly. Used EVs are the thing that’s finally going to bury NEVs. Used i-MiEVs are going for anywhere between $6K and $9K now. The medium and high end car buyer isn’t interested, but someone who is contemplating a new NEV in the $4K range should be paying attention.

  • Please someone get PV Panel to convert 99.1% light falling into Electricity. Alongwith that please convert Infra Red and Ultra Violet as well.

    • God won’t let us. Getting 99.1% efficiency is, as far as we know, impossible. Maybe we’ll get up to 80% or even higher some day, somehow, but not with silicon PV which is the most commonly used sort.

      A single layer of silicon PV can’t do better than 33% eficiency and we’re not much more than two-thirds of the way there in practice.

      Stacking layers on top of each other to make a multijunction cell does better, but are too expensive for normal use.

      Multijunction cells also make better use of infrared and ultraviolet light, but since most of the sun’s energy comes to use in the form of visible light, this doesn’t result in a huge improvement.

  • I wonder what will happen when the first soccer-mom SUV run over an elder in a cart.

  • One of our favorite getaway destinations is a small town with a lot of tourist traffic. Our first trip we rented a car and it was awful. No place to park and constant gridlock. We quickly realized the people whizzing past us on bicycles, scooters and golf carts had it figured out. Our most recent trip there was about a year ago. ‘NEVs’ and golf carts were everywhere. It was much more quiet. There was much less traffic congestion and it was common to see 2 or 3 parked together in a standard auto parking space. Most were rentals by tourists and everyone, tourists & locals alike, seemed in a happier mood. My wife & I still prefer a scooter to get across town quickly (even golf carts can’t navigate the narrow alleys as well). We’ve wondered if the situation could be replicated in other, less tourist centric cities.

    The major problem we see is safety interacting with full size autos. In our vacation spot avoiding the occasional city vehicle or delivery truck is pretty easy. Real cars on the narrow city streets are rare unless they are just passing through, or don’t know any better like us the first time. I don’t think NEVs or golf carts are built to survive collisions with heavier ICE vehicles. The only way I can imagine neighborhood electric cars operating safely around where I live would be to create ICE FREE zones in and around the city.

    Given that just driving my Leaf around middle Tennessee makes me one of the most hated individuals there could be, I don’t hold out much hope for NEVs in my part of the world. Politically it’s a dead issue with ICE drivers most places I think.

Comments are closed.