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NEVs are Neighborhood Electronic Vehicles, and they are now street legal in San Antonio.

Renault Twizy NEV (source: Wikipedia)

The City Council voted Thursday to approve the use of supercompact neighborhood electronic vehicles, or NEVs, on city streets with posted speed limits of 35 mph or less. The ordinance takes effect immediately.

The small four-wheeled electric vehicles must conform to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for low-speed vehicles and include seat belts, rearview mirrors, head and tail lights, a windshield made of safety glass, a parking brake and a conventional vehicle identification number.

Owners will still have to have liability insurance, vehicle registration and display license plates.

“They look pretty cool,” said District 5 City Councilman David Medina, the chairman of the city’s Public Safety Committee. “We wanted to make sure we prioritize the safety of San Antonians, but at the same time we have a lot of residents who are looking for alternative forms of transportation.”

As a gasoline-free option with no tailpipe emissions, NEVs are being touted as a green alternative.

“These were actually developed in response to people trying to use golf carts on public streets, and they weren’t really equipped for that,” said Bill Barker with the city’s Office of Sustainability. “They’re just little, slow motor vehicles, but that’s perfectly all right downtown or in a neighborhood where you don’t want to drive that fast anyway.”


The city estimates it will cost about a penny and a half a mile to drive an NEV compared to an estimated 10 cents a mile to drive a typical gasoline-powered car. But, Barker added, “this isn’t the vehicle for a long commute. Typically, these will go for 30 miles before they need to be recharged; they just use regular electrical outlets.”

This makes a lot of sense. For basic short-trip driving in your neighborhood, you shouldn’t have to hop in your Chevy Subdivision if a little Renault Twizy or the equivalent would do. If you’re a typical two-car family but you do most if not all of your highway and heavy-duty driving in one of the cars, wouldn’t it be nice to have the option of a second vehicle that’s a lot cheaper to buy and operate than a regular car? By the same token, it makes sense for the city to restrict where these things are allowed to operate – state law says on streets where the top speed is 45 MPH, the San Antonio ordinance says 35 MPH, I might have gone down to 30 MPH since I’d be a bit leery about driving a NEV on a main thoroughfare like San Pedro in San Antonio or Westheimer here in Houston. You used to see vehicles like these in downtown Houston, but I’m sad to learn that REV Eco Shuttle had ceased operations in December. Anyway, I don’t know what the demand for NEVs are in Texas, but surely it makes sense to accommodate them in some fashion for those who do or would want to use them.

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