Has it come to this? Manufacturers promote street-legal golf carts as alternative to cars

Below is reprinted from E&E News’ Climatewire. Link — subscription required)

Manufacturers promote street-legal golf carts as alternative to cars (05/09/2011)

As gas prices continue to soar, electric and hybrid vehicles are often cited as eco-alternatives to gas-fueled cars. Missing from the discussion: the street-legal golf cart.

Electric, low-speed vehicles, or LSVs, have been available on the market since 1998 but haven’t caught on in urban areas. They are practically golf carts with seat belts, but driving them requires registration, insurance and a valid license, just like a car. They travel up to 25 miles per hour.

A 10 percent federal tax credit on new-vehicle purchase price prompted many golf cart manufacturers to alter their products from vehicles designed for the golf course to vehicles designed for the city. Club Car and E-Z-Go, both based in Georgia, are two examples.

Adding to the mix is Garia, a Danish manufacturer of luxury golf carts. Its Garia LSV starts at $14,500 and is sold at golf cart and electric car dealerships. Garia says its LSVs are made in the same Finnish factory where, until last month, the Porsche Boxster and Cayman had been manufactured since 1997. The same company that supplies aluminum frame pieces to luxury automakers Aston Martin, Jaguar and Volvo also supplies them to Garia.

But driving LSVs in a downtown metropolis might not be the safest decision. They’re best in light traffic, but even then they require tons of awareness in a driver. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has raised questions about the safety of such vehicles during accidents (Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times, May 5). — JJP