Oct 012012

If there were a sudden fuel shortage and we needed to ration gas or if gas was really hard to come by, there is certain equipment that most of us would want to keep going on the island: ferries and working boats, dump trucks, tractors, backhoes, delivery vehicles, shuttles, and working vehicles of all type including contractors pickups. Priority should be given to people making a living or providing services to the rest of the island. I can’t visualize a situation with no fuel but I can imagine conditions where fuel is hard to get. (I still suffer from PTSS caused by the fuel rationing in 1973-1974 when I had a 60 mile round trip to work).

Businessman hitchhiking in Beaverton, OR 1973

One way to avoid having to worry about this potential problem is to use an NEV as an island car. These come in a variety of manifestations from golf carts to passenger type vehicles to trucks. Most people could look in their driveway and replace one of their vehicles with something electric. Even if there were no gas shortage an electric vehicle would be beneficial to one’s life on the island simply because there is no need to put it on the ferry to go get fuel. As long as there is electricity or a generator you can recharge the vehicle.

This island is a perfect crucible for an NEV experiment because of 1) a 25mph speed limit throughout, 2) no on-island source of petroleum fuel, 3) only 18 miles of road and a 30-60 mile range on NEVs, 4) a fairly reliable source of electricity from NW hydro-electric power and a significant number of generators on the island, 5) no difficult terrain or severe elevation gain.

The NEV is a niche product. It has limited range and limited speed and isn’t a fit for a lot of communities. Surveying the internet I can see that the marketing emphasis is toward resorts, college campuses, military bases and other locations where range and speed isn’t a problem. Small islands are obviously a good match for the NEV. Range is adequate as is speed. The only concerns are comfort and carrying capacity. Since the average trip on Lummi is probably no more than a couple of miles I’m guessing that even an open golf cart could work for most of the year.

There is really no question that NEVs can serve the island effectively. The big objection to electric cars has been range. It’s hard to rationalize the cost of having an island only vehicle. To get an electric car like the Nissan Leaf that will take you to Bellingham and back you have to spend full-size car dollars. However, the NEV as an island car will actually extend the range of your gas powered vehicle by allowing you to save gas on the island. An increase in the number of NEVs would make the island a more pleasant place as would increase use of scooters, bicycles and electric assist bikes. And, if we ever reach the point of a passenger ferry and limited car ferry service an NEV would relieve you of a great deal of stress and allow you to continue Happy Motoring all over the island.

For the record, this would be my ideal island car when we get approved as a golf cart zone: a golf cart with a dump bed that I could use for chores around the property as well as drive on island roads.

As a point of interest Tesla has exciting plans for increasing the range of electric autos—a network of free charging stations already under construction announced this past week.


  7 Responses to “Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV)”

  1. It would be a dream come true of mine to have a ferry running from Smuggler’s Cove to Fairhaven and have electric vehicle charging stations at both parking lots. I agree that the island would be a great place to have a fleet of NEV’s and several charging stations because of the reasons Randy illuminates. Maybe things things will evolve that way, maybe not. But it is nice to think about the possibilities.

    In the meantime, what exists now is not quite suitable for NEV’s and a few things would have to change before it would be safe. The speed limit would have to be lowered from 35 to 25. Right now the entire island is 35 mph (not 25 mph), except for a small stretch of Nugent Road near the ferry dock. In a post on Nextdoor.Lummiisland Jason Letchworth posted a link that shows that this is clearly defined by the county. It is here: http://www.codepublishing.com/wa/whatcomcounty/frameless/index.pl?path=../html/Whatco10/Whatco1004.html#10.04.050

    I have had discussions with someone at Public Works confirming that information and stating that whenever they put up the 35 mph signs that should be up on the island, someone steals them or takes them down, so they have stopped putting them up. The 25 mph sign on Legoe Bay was not put up by the county and the speed limit is 35, not 25.

    I am all for a 25 mph speed limit over most of the island, if not all of it. I drive 25 all the time anyway. But right now it is not, and even the 35 mph limit is routinely broken by big dump trucks, fuel trucks and garbage trucks on dangerous roads with blind corners. Until that changes, I don’t think I would want any of my loved ones in a golf cart on the same narrow roads competing with that much fast moving steel.

    Maybe we could start with getting the speed limit lowered to 25 in an area such as all of the north half of the island, as in Legoe Bay Road and everything north of it.

  2. Ill be posting a map of Lummi next week showing all the roads, color coded to current legal speed limits and caution speeds..

  3. “Washington motor vehicle laws provide for Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) and Medium-Speed Electric Vehicles (MEVs). Both NEVs and MEVs must conform to federal regulations under 49 CFR Sec. 571.500, and both may be driven on city streets and county roads that are not state routes if the road has a speed limit of 35 mph or less.”

    There seems to be some disagreement or, at least, misunderstanding on the Lummi Island speed limit. If it is, in fact, 35mph that is not an obstacle to NEVs or golf cart zones.

    What the speed limit on Lummi should be is another, but important, discussion. The prevailing rate of travel seems to be 25mph although some people obviously go faster. These roads without shoulders, many blind spots, used frequently by bikers, joggers and walkers should not be 35mph roads. I’ve always assumed the speed limit on Lummi Island was 25mph.

  4. We’re back from Jellystone National Park. No Fred Flintstone cars, so here’s the promised map of speed limits on Lummi Island. http://www.flickr.com/photos/73130458@N04/
    To do a Golf Cart Zone, one of two things must happen, in addition to the basic enabling ordinance.
    1. Make all speed limits on the island 25 mph by one code entry in WCC 10.04.030 and post the limit along with the Golf Cart Zone signage when you get off the ferry (my preference because it’s simple to understand)
    2. Sign the Golf Cart Zone as you depart the ferry, and everything north of the intersection of Legoe Bay Rd and South Nugent, then another Zone entering Scenic Estates. That would effectively leave everything ‘As-Is’ and restrict all Golf Carts from traveling along Seacrest where it’s 35 mph by default on all county roads, unless posted otherwise. (2nd choice and probably easier to get passed through the Whatcom County Council). It would require more signage entering and leaving all Golf Cart Zones.

  5. Mike,

    The way I read the code 35mph speed limit is not an obstacle for golf cart zone. See the comment above your most recent one.

  6. A couple of things.
    The map is not intended as a legal defense for going 35 where you can, but only a guide of what’s out there now from a practical perspective. Yes, there are stretches of 35 where you would fly off the roadway were it not for caution sign, and I’m sure residents along Seacrest, north of Sunrise appreciate the 25 cautionary signage. From a practical standpoint, there are not that many areas where you can can let old Betsy fly like the wind – up to 35!.
    The whole discussion on speed limits and vehicle type seem to center on the differences between equipment required to be strictly legal. The federal regs require national standards for the NEV’s so that manufacturers are able to provide common equipment (lights, turn signals, crash standards) whereas the state Golf Cart Zone could be just regular carts made for golf courses. Some counties have adopted stronger requirements.
    Finally, if our roads can support tandem bicycles traveling at 5 mph, and we don’t seem to have too many traffic jams behind them, or lots of dog walkers on the roadways, I think we can somehow accommodate some carts going 15 or 25, without infringing on the rights of others.
    Maybe we need a section on amphibious vehicles for those that wish to go to Fairhaven.

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