A neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) is a four-wheeled vehicle that has a top speed of 20-25 miles per hour (mph). It is larger than a golf cart but smaller than most light-duty passenger vehicles. An NEV is usually configured to carry two or four passengers, or two passengers with a pickup bed or other utility box that allows it to function as single-purpose vehicles such as fire trucks or ambulances
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines NEVs as subject to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 500 (49 CFR 571.500). According to FMVSS 500, NEVs have top speeds of 20-25 mph, weigh less than 2,500 pounds, and are defined as “low-speed vehicles.” While “low-speed vehicle” is the technically correct term, “NEV” has become the term used by industry and fleets to refer to passenger vehicles subject to FMVSS 500.
FMVSS 500 requires that NEVs be equipped with headlamps, stop lamps, turn signal lamps, tail lamps, reflex reflectors, parking brakes, rear view mirrors, windshields, seat belts, and vehicle identification numbers. About 40 states have passed legislation or regulations allowing NEVs to be licensed and driven on roads that generally are posted at 35 mph or less.
While NEVs were initially used in gated communities, they have been increasingly used by the general public for transporting children to school, shopping, and general neighborhood trips. NEVs are very efficient in terms of initial capital costs, fuel costs, and overall operating expenses.
In addition, many federal, private, and public fleets are using NEVs at military bases, national parks, and commercial airports and for local government activities. NEVs are reducing petroleum use and simplifying fueling requirements by decreasing or eliminating the need for a gasoline infrastructure. For federal fleets, NEVs can help the fleets comply with Executive Order 13149 (Greening the Government Through Federal Fleet and Transportation Efficiency); which requires a 20% decrease in annual petroleum use.
A California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandate provides credits for NEVs used. Many large automobile companies in the United States have made investments to build NEVs. NEVs help decrease petroleum use and air emissions.
The Advanced Vehicle Testing Activity has initiated NEV testing. The first step was to develop baseline performance test procedures based on the EVAmerica test procedures. These were adapted with input from NEV manufacturers and fleet operators. The EVAmerica baseline performance test procedures require vehicle performance capabilities that are not part of the NEV specification, FMVSS 500. For instance, NEVs are not capable of coastdown testing from 65 mph as preferred for calibration of the drive-cycle dynamometer testing. The final NEV EVAmerica procedures include drive range, acceleration, and maximum speed tests on closed tracks.