This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

July 6, 1999

Neighborhood Transportation Innovations

178 days until January 1, 2000

In 1954, as suburban sprawl took hold in America, community public transportation was in its infancy. Families had one car, which Dad drove to work. Mom was stranded at home with the kids and errands to run.

Two companies called Nash and Hudson, soon to merge into American Motors, created a new car to meet the short-drive needs of the suburban family. The Metropolitan was popular for almost a decade. The cute little 2-door car had room for two adults, a couple of small kids, and groceries. Economical and fun to drive, the "Met" filled the needs of a changing lifestyle and helped usher in the era of compact cars.

Now another neighborhood transportation innovation is catching attention. Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) are on the threshold of popularity for a wide range of uses. These environmentally-friendly vehicles are like fancy golf carts, but they're moving off the golf courses and onto the streets.

In 1998, the US government established a new class of motor vehicle, the Low Speed Vehicle (LSV), to encourage more aggressive development of electric cars. LSVs have a top speed of no more than 25 mph. They may be licensed and driven on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less. These cars have a range of 25-30 miles, depending on terrain, and recharge in 6-8 hours using 110 Volts AC at a cost of about 40 cents.

Current models, seating 2-4 adults and/or carrying cargo will find increasing localized applications. Research shows that 80% of trips are within 10 miles and 50% take less than 10 minutes. NEVs are well-suited for gated communities, urban and suburban areas, as well as office and college campuses. They'll be great second cars for aging Boomers. NEVs are already working in neighborhood security, perfectly suited for the community policing model of law enforcement. Watch for them in developing countries.

So far only two companies manufacture NEVs. Retail prices (around $8000) will gradually drop. When we test-drove an NEV recently, 3-point seatbelts connected, we were delighted with the pickup, power to take hills, and simplicity. NEVs are in your future.

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