The Chinese government has recognized the growing number of golf vehicles causing traffic jams on city streets, and it has recently taken action to regulate them. This has not been viewed favorably by Chinese auto manufacturers because it could legitimize the golf vehicle industry. Low-speed electric vehicles (LEVs), as they are also known, have taken over China in a big way, and environmentalists are heralding the situation as a victory for alternative transportation.
China Drafting LEV Regulations
News has come out of China that the government is drafting rules for LEVs, which have otherwise been unregulated throughout the nation. According to Miao Wei, China’s minister of industry and information technology, LEVs may soon be classified as motorcycles for legal purposes.
Nearly all of the larger cities in China have enacted strict regulations concerning the ownership of motorcycles and their use on public streets. However, LEVs with maximum speeds of 70 kmh or less do not currently have to be registered. In addition, these golf vehicles do not have to be crash tested or meet safety standards.
Some transportation analysts believe the upcoming measures will restrict LEVs to outlying areas that are not as well developed as the larger cities are. However, others say that the new measures legitimize LEVs, and they will become even more popular in both small towns and large cities.
The types of regulations that are expected to be included are as follows:
- Licensing requirements
- Registration requirements
- Minimum safety standards
- Mandatory safety features
A Golf Vehicle for Every Need
China is currently experiencing a boom in the LEV market, and automakers have been left scrambling to draw up survival plans. Taking a random glance at any small city, you will find a wide range of electric vehicles put to an assortment of uses. A few of the roles LEVs are currently playing in China include vehicles for deliveries of all sorts, taxis, family transportation and shuttles.
Sales for LEVs have been going through the roof for several years now. China produced a total of 427,000 LEVs in 2014, which is an increase of 41.4 percent from 2013, and more than 300,000 were sold. By comparison, only 84,000 highway-capable electric cars were sold during that period. There are currently more than 1 million LEVs on China’s roads, and more than 100 manufacturers, ranging from large enterprises to small, private shops, are meeting the demand for these vehicles.
China’s Need for Affordable Transportation
Two of the primary reasons for the rise in popularity of golf vehicles are poverty and affordability. The response began in the 1990s when electric bicycles burst onto the scene. At the same time, the average person wanted to increase his or her mobility. This steadily led to the situation today where China has an estimated 150 million e-bikes in use.
Scientific American is calling China’s e-bike rate “the largest adoption of alternative fuel vehicles in history.” However, the phenomenon has not stopped with e-bikes. Indeed, one study has found that e-bikes are just a pause in the trend of Chinese society to move away from public transportation toward personal automobiles.
If this is true, then the next logical step after e-bikes is LEVs. While some luxury LEVs can cost upwards of $12,000, others can be purchased for as little as $2,000. An entry-level gasoline-powered automobile, on the other hand, costs about $5,000.
LEV Forecasts Report Large Increases
Many Chinese residents who had wanted to take the leap into personal transportation but desired something with a more space or that can carry multiple passengers have found that LEVs fulfill their needs perfectly. Many have even reported that they have no future plans to buy a traditional automobile.
In smaller cities, the benefits of LEVs are beginning to be noticed and appreciated. Most people work well within the maximum range of LEVs, and they are perfect for visiting friends and relatives or stopping by the market. These vehicles are also very maneuverable and can easily get through tight spaces in heavy traffic. In addition, LEVs provide a solution to the lack of parking in many of China’s cities.
As e-commerce becomes increasingly popular, delivery services are becoming busier than ever, and LEVs have been enlisted as an affordable and eco-friendly means for meeting this demand. In fact, at least, one study has found that if all diesel-powered delivery vehicles were replaced with LEVs, carbon emissions and traffic would both be greatly reduced.
The golf vehicle industry in China has already estimated that production will increase by 50 percent in 2015 to 600,000 units, and by 2020, LEV production will top 1 million units and be valued at $16.1 billion.