Happy Little Cars

Neighborhood Electric Vehicles

In the last couple of years, a new class of vehicle was introduced and began slowly emerging on American streets. Called the NEV, or Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, this little car isn’t much bigger than a golf cart. The NEV can seat anywhere from one to four people, and offers many of the same features that cars do, like seat belts, air conditioning, heat, remote keyless entry, defrost, sunroof, rear-view mirrors, headlights, turn signals, windshield wipers, and more. The NEV can only travel at speeds up to 25 miles per hour, so you won’t see one on the highway; but in Canada and many U.S. states, wherever the posted speed limit is 35mph, like found in most active adult communities, college campuses, and urban areas, you just might spot one of these happy little cars.

NEVs Benefits to Seniors

The NEV, of course, is not for seniors only. Many people find owning a NEV as a second or third vehicle to be sensible. Still there has been lots of interest for the NEV among seniors, and here are five reasons why that might be:

  1. Inexpensive fuel source, because it’s electric. The Canadian ZENN, for example, costs around 25 cents to recharge. Let’s do some math: Since the car can go 40 miles on a charge at 25 cents and the cost of gas is, say, $3.00 a gallon, comparatively that would make the ZENN’s fuel economy to be around 480 miles to that one $3.00 gallon. If you live in a retirement community where the bulk of your daily commute is to the clubhouse or a neighbors for coffee and a morning chat, you may go an entire month without charging up and never have to pull a credit card out to do it.
  2. Easy to park, because it’s tiny. Few people dare parallel park these days; but with one of these, you might even give that a try. As far as drive-in parking, piece of cake. Remember Joni Mitchell’s, “They Paved Paradise?” Well, if enough of us drive NEVs, maybe they’ll leave more of paradise alone.
  3. Lowered maintenance costs, because there are fewer parts to wear out. No need to change the oil, muffler, or replace a filter. You’ll still need to give it a good washing, but as Forest says, “One less thing.”
  4. Quieter ride, because it’s electric – less moving parts. And wouldn’t you rather hear other things besides the car, like the birds chirping or tunes on your iPod. You may also hear a few horns honking when pedal to the metal top speed is still 25mph; but looking on the bright side, you won’t be hearing any police sirens.
  5. Environmentally friendly, because you want to leave a cleaner world for your children and grandchildren. As a zero-emission vehicle, NEVs produce no tailpipe or evaporative emissions. The grandkids would think you’re cooler in a convertible sports car, sure, but they’ll thank you later.

Newest NEVs

There are several styles of NEVs available and more to be released in ’09 and ’10.

Chrysler recently announced the peapod.jpgPeapod, a new NEV to be released in ’10. The Peapod will come in a variety of colors as a one-seater, two-seater, or utility van at a starting price of around $20,000. A little steep possibly for a car that will reach a maximum speed of 25mph and has a 30-mile range per charge. Guess the market will decide if owning a car that looks like it’s smiling all the time is worth sticker price.

There is a Japanese-made version called the Flybo, which measures 102.3 inches long on a 71-inch wheelbase with a 45mph top speed and 70-mile range per charge. MSRP should be in the neighborhood of $12,950.

There is an Indian-made version as well called the Reva. The 2008 model (REVAi) has a top speed of 50mph with a 50-mile range per charge. Lithium-ion batteries are expected to be available for the ’09 models, which is said to be an efficient battery in terms of acceleration, cost, speed potential, and is less affected by temperature variation.

There are a couple perhaps lesser known NEVs, but another already available and being put to use at some universities and military bases is the Canadian-made ZENN. An acronym for “Zero Emission, No Noise,” the ZENN has a top speed of 25mph with a 50-mile range per charge. Current vehicles sell for between $12,700 and $17,000.

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