Electric golf carts were invented in the 1930’s and became popular in the 1950’s onwards. A relatively simple design, they gradually became more sophisticated over the years and towards the late seventies they began to be taken off the golf course and used as a slow but reassuringly safe way for the elderly to get from one point to another in their retirement communities. As these vehicles began to make their way onto the roads used by normal gas-powered cars, the safety of the electric golf cart became an issue. Designated Low-Speed Vehicles (LSV), also called Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles (NEV), the Department of Transportation employed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an organization instigated to reduce traffic deaths, to develop standards of safety called Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). In 1998 they defined safety standards for low-speed vehicles/ neighborhood electric vehicles. If these standards are met, then that is only a starting point for street legal status. Street legal status can only be granted by state law authorities. Of course, ordering your electric golf cart from a state local dealership, and specify street legal then you are guaranteed to have a cart you can drive on the road in your state.
Street legal electric golf carts are used in a multitude of ways. They are the most common way for the elderly to get around their retirement communities. Florida’s “The Villages” is a retirement community consisting of 100,000 people, all aged 55 or above. Its immaculately manicured streets are 100 miles of intricate roadways full of street legal electric golf carts. There are 40,000 low-speed vehicles in The Villages, and they are used for all the transportation needs, within the community. Shopping, entertainment, exercise classes, education and, yes, golf, are the destinations their carriages convey them to. The leisurely pace of life in the retirement community led to a lack of interest in internal combustion engine vehicles. It was overkill, expensive and dangerous in comparison. LSVs are inexpensive to buy, cheap to maintain and safe because speed is just not required by these people. They are unable by law to go above 25 mph in traffic zones where the speed limit is 35 mph. Where the speed limit is above 35 mph, low speed vehicles are not allowed. These are safe speeds that result in very few accidents provided seat belts are worn.
Farmers are using them as utility vehicles, and they can take on lots of jobs such as touring crops and livestock, transporting feed and tools, moving from road to off-road. Four wheel drive, as well as camo paint jobs, are all available at a price. They are taking on the role of a Jeep of Land Rover at a fraction of the cost. Utility vehicle engines run from 8 horsepower to 18 horsepower and can come with Manual or hydraulic dump beds, for cleaning stalls, hauling dirt, bedding and mulch, and a variety of landscape and small construction projects.
Some golf carts are fifteen seater shuttles and can go up to 50 miles on a single charge and are, unlike internal combustion engine busses, very quiet and have optional air conditioning. Many of these shuttles have doors to the seats for inclement weather. Could this be the future of public transportation?
Another option for buying a street legal electric golf cart is that of a self-assembly kit to convert nonstreet legal to street legal. It is quite a cool way to see how defined your state laws are because each kit will have components specific to your state. For example, a Florida kit will come with a weight slip and a license plate bracket with light. This is not required by the other states. You can make all of these modifications yourself, but you’d better be right if you don’t want a ticket from the police.
You know that a trend is emerging with a class of product when a luxury end of the spectrum begins to emerge. The Garia is the luxury range of LSV, designed Danish designer Anders Lynge and manufactured at the Valmet Automotive factory in Finland, is the European version of luxury low-speed vehicle which concentrates on looks together with practical design specifications. It even has an on board refrigerator, for cocktails presumably, together with GPS navigation. For a brash American fifties style golf cart, check out the four-seater California Roadster from Bad Ass Golf Carts. Options include stereo, satellite radio, TV, custom wheels and seats and custom paint. And custom carts are an increasingly popular way to stand out in the crowd. Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, 1934 Street Rod, Humvee, and T-Bird are slick tributes in perfectly packaged street legal golf cart form are all on the market for a price.
Insuring your LSV is as essential as it is for a normal road going vehicle. Full coverage insurance, in addition to property damage coverages for the golf cart, means Bodily Injury Liability Coverage and Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist coverage, as well as PIP/No-Fault insurance and Medical Payments insurance coverage. You must then register your vehicle with the Department Of Motor Vehicles. You probably will not be able to buy insurance before buying the Street Legal Golf Cart, but you can still discuss options with your insurance broker before buying. In a study by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, it was found that golf cart-related injuries occur at a rate of 15,000 cases every year. Insurance is not a trivial thing.
We are bound to see more and more street legal golf carts as the pressure for greener options increases and the authorities promote ever more enticing incentives for greener transport. The electric golf cart is a nice alternative to the car, being autonomous but safe, relatively stress-free to drive and giving the driver the same independence (within certain distance considerations) that a car has. In the cities, motor vehicle speeds are ever slowing because there are more and more cars and no space to build more roads. Many city dwellers have been taking to the bicycle as a way to commute to and from the city. In London, there has been an explosion of cycling due primarily to the fact that the London authorities made cycling safer through various traffic handling schemes, mostly the introduction of cycle lanes and cycle superhighways. Encouraging the use of street legal golf carts in cities could be effected in a similar way.