Washington State law clarification of mopeds, motorcycles and three wheelers

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reikiman
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Washington State law clarification of mopeds, motorcycles and three wheelers

This came up on the Xebra mailing list, that in Washington State some legal change meant that three wheelers like the Xebra were being considered to be cars. But as a car that would clamp down their availability because they haven't been through DOT crash testing etc.

But it seems that a recently passed law clarified the status.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Xebra_EV/message/19628
http://www.washingtonvotes.org/2009-SB-5482

2009 Senate Bill 5482 (Modifying provisions for two- and three-wheeled vehicles)

Introduced by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, (D-Camano Island) (D) on January 23, 2009, clarifies definitions and regulations for two- and three-wheeled motor vehicles such as mopeds, motor scooters, and motorcycles.

Passed in the House (59 to 38) on April 9, 2009.

retrodog
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Re: Washington State law clarification of mopeds, ...

This is a very sticky subject. Many of the electric cars have been designed with three wheels so as to maintain that "motorcycle" status as a trike, thereby avoiding the safety standards set up for automobiles (cars and trucks). In the desire to make them as light and efficient as possible, they've given up a lot of safety.

I don't really have a problem with that, as a motorcycle rider, but I think it is a little misleading to sell them as an "electric car" and just happen to be classified as a motorcycle. Many people (ok, most people) will assume that any new car will meet crash standards set forth by the DOT. And these will not.

This is one of those subjects like gun control or abortion.

garygid
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Re: Washington State law clarification of mopeds, ...

Who is selling a 3-wheel EV as an "electric car"?

Aren't most manufacturers very careful to use the term "electric vehicle"?

But, yes, the "press" wrongly applies the term "electric car" quite often.

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Old_Scoot
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Re: Washington State law clarification of mopeds, ...

Question:
"Who is selling a 3-wheel EV as an "electric car"?"
Answer:
http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars

And I agree with Retrodog. Zap and others need to be really clear with their customers that these are motorcycles not cars. Despite how they look, they carry many of the same inherent risks as motorcycles. If Zap isn't careful in this regard they run the risk of having themselves regulated out of existence by our nanny-state government.

reikiman
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Re: Washington State law clarification of mopeds, ...

Who is selling a 3-wheel EV as an "electric car"?

Aren't most manufacturers very careful to use the term "electric vehicle"?

But, yes, the "press" wrongly applies the term "electric car" quite often.

I think that when it has many of the look-and-feel attributes of a "car" (doors, enclosed cabin, air conditioning, stereo system, bucket seats, etc) it ceases being a motorcycle even if the legally technically correct term is motorcycle.

I think these manufacturers are clearly and purposely building them with three wheels to avoid the hurdles (roadblocks?) to getting a four wheeler on the market. Crash testing and other DOT compliance testing is virtually nonexistent if it's a motorcycle.

At the other end of the scale - the big auto makers have been selling SUV's which aren't truly "utility vehicles" but are cars built on truck bodies and the game there has been to purposely avoid fuel efficiency standards by pretending it's a utility truck. The "SUV" classification was intended for utility trucks, not beefed up consumer cars.

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jdh2550_1
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Re: Washington State law clarification of mopeds, ...

As a manufacturer considering producing a 3 wheeler I can confirm that it's an attractive proposition because it is classified as a motorcycle. However, it's not simply about "avoiding crash testing" or somehow the feeling that we can bring an unsafe product to market. Far from it - it's our name on the product liability insurance - we have very real needs (not to mention personal desire) to build safe vehicles. However, it's true that there's an order of magnitude more "stuff" involved in getting an automobile certified than just crash testing. As an example there's a standard for the speed and effectiveness of the defogger. Yes, one can make a case that the defogger standard helps - however, one can also make the case that it simply sets the bar too high for companies like mine to consider bringing "lightweight, lower cost, covered personal transport" to market.

In Michigan (our home state) one still needs a motorcycle license to ride/drive a trike - however, if the trike has a roof that meets certain motorcycle safety standards then the rider/driver doesn't need to wear a helmet. Thus, I don't think that one misleads the customer - they know they're getting a "motorcycle plus" vehicle not a "car". Now, that's not always true in other states (I think in California you can drive/ride a trike with a normal (car) drivers license?).

I think one of the biggest helps would be standardizing state law - but good luck making that happen! There's also a lobbying effort (although I think it's quite small scale still) to classify lightweight four wheelers as if they were motorcycles for FMVSS standards. Again, as long as the consumer realizes what they're buying I think that's a reasonable idea.

This is an interesting debate - but like most things there's far more nuance to it than simply saying it's about crash testing...

John H. Founder of Current Motor Company - opinions on this site belong to me; not to my employer
Remember: " 'lectric for local. diesel for distance" - JTH, Amp Bros || "No Gas.

Old_Scoot
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Re: Washington State law clarification of mopeds, ...

All very good points. Government regulation can keep people safer in some cases, but it does so at the cost of creating barriers to market-entry for start-ups, stifling innovation, and thus entrenching big and inefficient dinosaur-like companies. I'm all for less regulation and more daylight and disclosure. Educate people to understand the risks and then let them decide whether or not to assume them.

richardb
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Re: Washington State law clarification of mopeds, ...

jdh2550_1 (john) has a very good point here, and I would like to elaborate a bit.

The regulations governing cars entail not only crash testing, but also publishing fuel efficiency statistics, testing to comply with minimum accelleration standards. ability to attain at least a minimum speed, emissions, seat belt testing, and a myriad of other non-safety items which not only increase the cost of the vehicle, but drive the weight up to a level that makes it difficult to attain a reasonable level of efficiency. Meanwhile, the public also has been led to believe that "heavier is safer", hence the popularity of 6000 pound SUVs for the purpose of delivering a 50 pound child to kindergarden.

Another thing that the legislators don't seem to take into account when passing vehicle laws is the safety of those OUTSIDE the vehicle. When have you ever heard a debate about taxing drivers for the hazard their vehicle poses to others. Isn't an SUV more dangerous to a pedestrian than a bicycle? Even a tiny sports car going at top speed is significantly more dangerous than a 2 wheel scooter that tops out at 40MPH.

Finally, there is a definite need for a new breed of vehicle that is meant to carry one or two passengers to and from work without carrying the living room along as extra baggage. Again, why drive 6000 pounds of steel down the road to get a 130 pound secretary to work. We've grown to live with what the automobile industry wants us to buy, not what is practical.

Dickey_b
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