Ever since the federal government began heavily subsidizing the purchase of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) via the stimulus in 2009, they became the trendy transport of choice in many Florida communities. It seemed like a sweet deal at the time—saving up to $5,400 on what amounted to a luxury electric golf cart that could legally travel on roads with a speed limit lower than 35 mph.
NEVs, which are still eligible for a 10 percent tax credit, must have all the things that make a vehicle street legal: lights, signals, reflectors, mirrors, seat belts, a windshield, etc. And, most critically: a VIN number, license plates, and insurance—which can cost up to $1,000 a year.
Florida residents are understandably upset at this classic case of government misclassification. Golf carts, which many communities allow on local roads, can be driven without any of the requisite safety equipment listed above and without registration or insurance. So why are NEVs subject to such strict regulation? Because they are capable of traveling 5 mph faster than their golf cart counterparts.
Perhaps Florida officials would prefer that all these retirees purchased mopeds instead. According to the DMV, any moped or motor-scooter with an engine smaller than 50 cc requires neither registration nor insurance. Ironically, these two-wheeled mini-motorcycles are capable of going 5 mph faster than an NEV—and are markedly more dangerous.
A victim of a golf cart accident has a 7.8 percent chance of requiring hospitalization, compared to a 29 percent chance for a moped accident victim. The most common injury in a golf cart accident is soft-tissue damage (twisted ankles and bruises), while many moped accidents result in neurological damage.
In short: the current law creates an incentive for granny to ditch the comfort and safety of four wheels and a seat belt for the relatively dangerous moped.