Say YES to neighborhood Electric vehicles

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-116187940314804.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesty of‘, ‘The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has defined a new category “low-speed vehicles” or “Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.” These are small, four-wheeled motor vehicles with top speeds of 20 to 25 miles per hour. NEVs must comply with safety standards that require them to have automotive grade headlights, seatbelts, windshields, brakes and other safety equipment. These vehicles can only be used on streets with a posted speed limit of 35 mph or lower. (Information courtesy of’);

Many people in this area, including Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D) long for the return of rail passenger service. Studies indicate it fills a transportation void and is less environmentally damaging than either auto or air transportation. A recent report in England sounds the alarm that projected growth in low-cost air travel would result in carbon dioxide releases exceeding combined household, auto and industrial releases by 2050.

Meanwhile, another transportation alternative exists that helps cut local emissions and does not require outside funding or state or federal action. Last year, Illinois passed permissive legislation allowing communities to enact ordinances making Neighborhood Electric Vehicles street legal. We informed some local political leaders of the legislation and suggested they consider such ordinances in their communities. After receiving no responses, the issue slipped from our minds.

The Rock River Times Publisher Frank Schier was particularly excited by the legislation as he envisioned the Rockford area becoming a manufacturing center of these vehicles.

This week, a state official phoned to inquire on behalf of a community leader whether any town in Illinois had actually passed an ordinance making NEVs street legal. We remembered that the national legislative representative for GEM motors of North Dakota keeps up with the issue and gave him a call. We were then directed to the firm’s sales representative for Illinois who had talked with the Mayor of the Village of Mantino which had recently passed an ordinance. It permits the use of NEVs on municipal streets with speed limits lower than 35.

We called the Mantino Mayor’s office and received word that the Village had an ordinance, and several citizens were already zipping around town in such vehicles. We requested a faxed copy of the ordinance. It could easily serve as a template for any other Illinois community interested in making NEVs street legal.

Illinois communities now have another local transportation option to help break our oil addiction, cut dependence on imported oil, clean up the local air and cut carbon emissions. Permissive legislation would provide citizens the possibility of NEV transportation.

With drivers already zipping around golf courses and gated communities in electric vehicles and along our streets and highways with hybrid vehicles, the myth that electric vehicles are not ready for expanded use is rapidly disappearing. NEVs should be a welcome addition to a community’s transportation options.

A few years ago in Munich, we heard a presentation by an enthusiastic young German engineer who was building solar electric vehicles similar to those built by university students for solar marathons. His models were designed to provide transportation to and from work. Solar electric rooftop recharging stations would provide electricity, eliminating the need for liquid fuel for personal transportation.

With the existing national and international energy situation, many people are implementing personal, local and state actions to break our addiction to oil. While NEVs will not answer all local transportation needs, they will provide another option. With no need for additional funds from grants, taxes or outside sources, all local political leaders need to do is adopt the model ordinance in their communities.

From the Oct. 25-31, 2006, issue

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