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In resort, beach, urban and planned communities, neighbourhood electric vehicles (NEVs) and low-speed vehicles (LSVs) are a fun way to get around and are proving to be ideal during this electrified summer. Industry insiders reveal why the vehicles are so popular as part of Auto Futures’ Electrify Summer series.

A New Beach Status Symbol Parking

In the beach cities in Southern California, from Venice Beach down to Corona del Mar, there has been an explosion of NEVs on local roads.

Many of these vehicles for personal transportation to get to the beach and more importantly they are easier to park says Nick De Avilla, CEO of Mars Cars LLC.

One of the main reasons for buying a neighbourhood electric vehicle (NEV) or a low-speed vehicle is parking. In fact, a parallel parking spot can fit up to three. De Avila is trying to work with local municipalities that if one is the spot then two other NEVs will fit in the spot. He adds in parking lots there is usually a small spot where one can fit.

The whole space can be confusing as to what kinds of vehicles are street legal in what areas. De Avila explains it this way – LSVs come with a 50-page book for safety and they are crash-tested while NEVs have basic features but both are registered as the same. It is best to work with a dealership that can register the vehicles for their customers, says De Avila.

“Since Covid, we’ve been seeing more people at home and they like being out in the fresh air. I also see many times a week, couples who both are working at home and a lease is up on a full-size vehicle and they say we’re going to get rid of one of the gas vehicles and just get a NEV,” says De Avila.

Mars Cars LLC sells several brands of small electric vehicles and electric bicycles. De Avila says E-Z-Go vehicles are selling well. E-Z-Go makes golf carts and street legal NEVs.

Classic style E-Z-Go is the original electric vehicle made in Augusta, Georgia since 1953. E-Z-Go vehicles are simple. They learned over the years how to make everything work, says De Avila.

De Avila started off selling both off-road vehicles and personal transportation vehicles. He found that more NEVs and LSVs were being sold.

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What Do NEV And LSV Buyers Need to Know?

There are certain things to consider when buying neighbourhood electric vehicles. One thing is to make sure that it has enough power to go up the hills at an average speed. Some of the lower end motors will not go up a steep hill at 20 miles per hour. The other thing to look for is to make sure that the vehicle is high enough so that other vehicles on the road can see you when you are driving.

Visibility equals safety, says De Avila.

Recently, De Avila saw one of his customers on the beach. The customer was parked near the beach and was carrying a surfboard. He looked at De Avila and said, “I love this car,”

Having an additional NEV is a luxury. It is a new status symbol, making it easier to get around town in beach areas, says De Avila.

“My customers tell me that they are surprised. They thought they would only use their NEV or LSV once a week. Then after a while, they find out they are using it every day. With gas getting close to $5 a gallon for premium gas, customers are surprised at how little electricity the vehicle uses,” says De Avila.

There are even luxury models by Garia. Garia vehicles are made in Denmark in the same factory as the Porsche Boxster. De Avila is delivering Garia vehicles to customers with multiple full-size luxury vehicles. Mars Cars also sells the popular Polaris GEM vehicles.

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“Everybody everywhere is interested in a street-legal right-sized electric vehicle.”

Polaris GEM LSVs can be seen at beaches, resort towns and other communities.

GEM vehicles fit nicely in the space for commercial vehicles for dozens of applications for commercial transportation. They want something safe, sustainable, cost-effective, right-sized and a fun ride experience, says Luke Mulvaney, director, Polaris Commercial.

We are seeing shuttle partners in urban areas. Partners benefited during Covid because the vehicles are open air. GEM also developed dividers that divide passengers and each passenger seat has its own door. The GEM vehicles are easy to clean, says Mulvaney.

“GEMs are a safer way than other forms of transportation,” says Mulvaney.

FRAN (Free Rides Around the Neighborhood) is an on-demand micro-transit in Anaheim by Disneyland. They found that there was a lot of congestion. Using Polaris GEM vehicles, visitors are given free rides to retail stores, restaurants and entertainment that reduces traffic, say Mulvaney.

GEM offers various configurations and different seating. There are also three battery options. GEM dealers can advise which one requires what maintenance and what works best for each area. GEM has a dealer network for service.

“Our fleet customers tend to prefer lithium-ion batteries because the vehicles are used all the time. They want faster charging,” says Mulvaney, “While consumers like that they can just plug a GEM in a typical electrical outlet.”

“GEM vehicles are an easy sustainable solution for different purposes. GEMs are doing well in planned communities, coastal communities especially in Florida and California as part of personal vehicle transportation. There is an influx of GEM in places like Bay Harbor, Michigan,” says Ali Francisco, product and marketing manager, GEM, Polaris.

Do not get confused. A golf cart is not street legal and can only go 15 miles per hour. A Low-Speed-Vehicle (LSV) is a federal designation. LSVs feature seat belts, lights, turn signals and backup cameras. LSVs emit noise to let others know that the vehicle is there, says Francisco.

People like GEM vehicles because they are simple and safe. They can customize them to get what they want. A new feature that was launched recently is the matte titanium metallic paint. Another popular one is the panoramic sky roof, says Francisco. Other customisations are solar panels, sound systems and a trunk lockbox.

“We prefer for our customers to personalise or customise their vehicle when they order them because they can all be made in the factory and then shipped to the dealer near the customer, ” says Francisco. GEM vehicles are made in Anaheim, California.

“We are seeing wider acceptance everywhere. Everybody everywhere is interested in a street-legal right-sized electric vehicle. GEM is gaining popularity as there is an increase in planned communities where people do not need to drive to work and are working at home,” says Francisco.

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How About Self-Driving Autonomous LSVs?

GEM vehicles are also ideal autonomous shuttle services. They were chosen for autonomous rides by the self-driving company Optimus Ride.

“The Polaris GEM has delivered countless miles of safe and efficient rides nationwide. The GEM is the ideal low-speed, electric vehicle platform on which to deliver Optimus Ride’s autonomous, shared shuttle rides to communities, campuses, and cities,” says Sean Harrington, CEO of Optimus Ride.

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