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Low-speed electric vehicle hits the road in Nelson

Kootenay Carshare’s vehicle has top speed of 40 km/h, range of 90 km, and plugs into a wall socket
The Kootenay Carshare Co-op’s new low-speed electric vehicle does well in the snow, says executive director Colleen Doyle, shown here with her daughter Aven and son Oden. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

That tiny bright green vehicle is legal and it’s insured.

And yes, it has licence plates, turn signals and seat belts.

These are the answers to the most common questions Colleen Doyle gets about the Kootenay Carshare Co-op’s new low-speed electric vehicle, soon to be plying the streets of Nelson.

“What makes it legal is they have seat belts, they have lights, and a horn, and are fully enclosed,” she said. “So it’s not like driving your ATV on the road.”

The vehicle is allowed on any street including the highway, but only within Nelson’s city limits on roads posted with a maximum 50 km/h speed limit. Its top speed is 40 km/h, it has a charge range of 90 km, and it can be plugged into a regular wall socket.

The vehicle is suitable only for short trips, and that fits the co-op’s needs well. Doyle says the average trip length of the co-op’s current 16 cars in Nelson is 11 km.

“That’s telling us that most of our usage is people just going around Nelson doing shopping trips,” Doyle says. “That can all be done with these low speed electric vehicles.”

Doyle said the co-op looked into electric bike or scooter sharing, but this would not work for its many members who have disabilities or mobility issues.

“It’s really the low-speed electric vehicle that checks more of the boxes of inclusivity for the carshare,” she said.

Doyle said providing e-bikes would also carry potential liability for the co-op because they don’t have the vehicle’s safety features.

A video about the vehicle, including instructions for co-op members on how to drive it, will be uploaded to the co-op’s YouTube channel at sometime during the week of Nov. 21.

The co-op has 150 members in Nelson and another 350 certified drivers. The latter group consists of non-members vetted for their clean driving record who only use the carshare occasionally, but for a higher user fee than members.

The concept of low-speed electric vehicles for Nelson originated at the Nest Lab, a think tank formed in 2020 to come up with innovative climate solutions for the city.

Transportation is the highest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in Nelson, and the Nest Lab saw low-speed electric vehicles as one way of bringing those emissions down.

The vehicle purchase was funded entirely by grants: $3,500 through the Nest Lab and the rest from the Columbia Basin Trust.

The vehicle, branded as the City-4 by its manufacturer, SC Carts of Vernon, retails for $35,000. The company mostly builds golf carts but has seen a steady increase in demand for low-speed electric vehicles.

Production manager Lee Waters told the Nelson Star that the company, which is the only manufacturer of such vehicles in the country, has seen a 600 per cent increase in sales since it started promoting the vehicles in 2021 and that they are currently working on 15 custom orders.

He said Purolator is currently running a pilot project in which a low-speed electric vehicle, larger than the one purchased by the co-op, is doing commercial deliveries in downtown Vancouver.


Nelson group planning for low-speed electric vehicles on city streets

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Kootenay Carshare Co-op executive director Colleen Doyle with her kids Oden (left) and Aven. “It was the ride of my life,” said Aven after her mother took the children for a ride in the co-op’s new low-speed electric vehicle. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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