Move over golfers. Instead of simply scooting around the greens, those nifty little carts have a higher calling – making small-town living greener.
As people increasingly turn to electric golf carts for short-distance travel in smaller towns, the province has launched a study to explore wider use of these types of vehicles as part of its strategy for combatting climate change.
A new working group involving the province and municipal leaders is looking at how these vehicles can safely share the road with their bigger greenhouse gas-belching cousins and become more widely adopted as an alternative form of transport.
The province wants to incorporate these vehicles in a safe, controlled and sensible manner, said Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton in a news release.
The working group will be looking at both electric or alternatively fuelled vehicles that are part of a growing range of environmentally friendly vehicles hitting the roads and pathways.
“We hope to learn more about how we can use these vehicles to ensure that transportation becomes more sustainable in Manitoba,” Ashton said.
GOOD SMALL-TOWN FIT
Small electric vehicles or EVs are potentially a good fit for small towns, where distances are shorter.
The problem is that anyone using them today is breaking the law. Manitoba does not have laws, as some other provinces and states already have, that permit the use of low-speed EVs.
Licensing these vehicles is an issue the working group will need to examine, said Doug Dobrowolski, president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.
The closest thing to these cars under federal transport laws are the electric “scooters” now being driven by seniors and those who are physically disabled. However, these vehicles are classified by Transport Canada as power-assisted bicycles, and as such, operators require neither a licence nor insurance.
All eyes have turned to Carman, which has launched a joint pilot project with the province to allow use of EVs in town.
A number of issues beyond their jurisdiction, such as licensing and traffic regulations, need addressing before the little cars can be used, said Deputy Mayor Jane Swanton.
The town council has recently struck a special committee to work with provincial officials specifically on this project, she said.
“We’re really excited about this and we’re looking forward to making some headway in the near future to introduce these vehicles onto the streets in Carman.”
Lower-speed vehicles are a good fit for small centres, where distances are shorter and traffic less frenetic.
“In a town this size we have a lot of folk who just generally use their vehicle to pop downtown to go get the mail or a few groceries,” she said. “It would make a lot more sense to use a small electric vehicle rather than starting your car.”
ALREADY IN USE
This is a green-thinking approach for smaller communities; other places such as gated communities in the U.S. already use them, she added.
Carman-based Northland Machinery will serve as distributor of the specialized low-speed fully electric vehicles for the pilot project. The little cars can reach top speeds of about 40 km and have about a 40-mile range before needing a recharge, said company co-owner John Barrett.
“They’re very quiet in addition to being emissions free,” he said. “And they’re economical to operate too. You’re looking at 50 cents to charge them up to get that 40-mile range.”
So far, the design of these vehicles limits their use to warm weather. The working group will also look at how these kinds of battery-powered vehicles handle colder climates.
The initiative comes as communities across Manitoba, including the cities of Winkler, Thompson and Brandon, engage in a province-led project aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Participants in the Community Led Emissions Reductions (CLER) program have completed complicated inventories to figure out where their GHG problem sources are. In most cases the transportation sector is the largest emissions source.
Municipal leaders say custom approaches will be required for smaller centres to tackle GHG emissions.
“Wehopetolearnmore abouthowwecanuse thesevehiclestoensurethat transportationbecomesmore sustainableinManitoba.”
– INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORTATION MINISTER STEVE ASHTON