Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

B.C. should allow low speed vehicles on all streets

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Craig McInnes in the Vancouver Sun

This opinion piece is worth attention – certainly more than the associated news item. And in general he gets most of right and I agree with him. But he also gets one thing wrong

They [low speed vehciles] are, however, the only kind of electric car you can buy here now.

No – you can get hold of vehicles which have been converted to be all electric. Or you could buy an older vehicle, take out the engine and replace it with an electric motor and a bunch of lead acid batteries. People have been doing this for many years, and the vehicles are legal on all roads and are capable of highway speeds. However, range is limited, and the weight of (and often space taken up by) the batteries also reduces carrying capacity. The reason they are not more widely used is that the cost of the batteries – which need to be replaced every two to three years – means that they cost as much to run as a gasoline vehicle. Lithium Ion batteries will better than lead acid – better energy density and more power, but also greater cost.

There is also nothing new about low speed electric vehicles – they have been around for over a hundred years. Battery cars outsold petroleum in the early years of the twentieth century – until the starter motor was invented. In England they were used for delivering milk – for as long as door step delivery persisted. When I was growing up in East Ham the Borough Council also used them for collecting salvage – both paper/cardboard and waste food (which was fed to pigs).

What is hard to understand is why Transport Canada has been so obsessed with the “safety” of LSVs. Yes these vehicles have not been crash tested or fitted with the latest safety features, but at low speed they do not need to be. What we should be concerned about are the number of vehicles on the road that are capable of operating at speeds far in excess of the legal maximum. And that is not just the boy racers with the often illegal modification kits but cars straight off the production line. Why does TC obsess about vehicles which pose very little threat – if any – yet turn a blind eye to lethal weapons? Why is there no mandatory speed limiter required on high performance cars? (I know the answer, I am being rhetorical).

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2008 at 9:20 am

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