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What are the Safety Standards for Electric Cars?

Written by Bryan Johannsen

Electric Car SafetySafety standards for electric cars are really anything but standard. Different vehicle classes and different interpretations of the regulations have an impact on what safety equipment the manufacturers are required to include. There are three basic classes of electric car: Highway Capable Vehicles, "Motorcycles" and Low Speed Vehicles or NEVs.

Highway capable electric cars with 4 wheels are subject to the same safety standards as regular gas and diesel cars. They must have seatbelts,airbags, 2.5 mph bumpers and a GVWR under 8500 pounds.

Electric Car Safety

Some electric cars, like the three wheeled ZAP cars, get around these standards by having three wheels so they are classes as a motorcycle. Being in the motorcycle class allows these vehicles to travel at highway speeds without having to have airbags, seatbelts or other standard safety equipment. That doesn't mean manufacturers won't put any of this equipment into their vehicles, all it means is that they don't have to. In some states you may be forced to to get a motorcycle license and wear a helmet while driving one of these vehicles. In other states you may not be able to register them at all since the tricycle layout, car seat and enclosed cockpit prevent it from being classed as a motorcycle. This problem surfaced when a ZAP truck owner attempted to register his vehicle in Ohio.

The third class of electric cars are the NEV or Neighborhood Electric Vehicle. These are electric cars that fall under the Low Speed Vehicle regulations. To be a LSV a vehicle must have a top speed greater than 20mph but no higher than 25mph. Most states allow these on public roads with speed limits of 35mph or less and these vehicles also don't have to follow any of the highway capable vehicle regulations. Again, this only means the manufacturer isn't required to put any safety equipment in these vehicles they may put it in in their own discretion.

When purchasing an electric vehicle, even one for low speed use be sure to research the safety equipment on the vehicle if you will be operating it on public roads.

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