Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LITTLE WHEELS; BIG PLANS; Smile Latest Entry in Low-Speed Vehicles

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LITTLE WHEELS; BIG PLANS; Smile Latest Entry in Low-Speed Vehicles

Article excerpt


It looks a little like a Smart Car, but is even smaller, which didn't really seem possible.

It's called a Smile, a battery-powered golf cart with an automobile-looking body. But what used to be just carts for golf are being turned into a lot more uses.

The cart, assembled in South Carolina from parts made in China, is what's called a low-speed vehicle (LSV), approved for streets in most states, including Florida.

Right now, the single Smile at Golf & Electric Vehicles on Philips Highway is the prototype, the only one of its kind. But its manufacturer, South Carolina-based Star EV, plans to have them rolling out of the factory in April.

The vehicle will sell for about $10,000, has a top speed of 25 mph and gets about 35 miles on one charge.

It's the first model by Star EV, which claims to be the country's largest producer of LSVs, to be fully enclosed with doors.

The entire world of street-legal LSVs is growing, and it's going more electric. Tony Ruby, manager of Golf & Electric Vehicles, said that about 40 percent of the golf cart-type vehicles he sells never set tire on a fairway. Most of them, he said, are going to the coastal communities of St. Augustine, Jacksonville Beach and Amelia Island.

Nine years ago, a little more than a dozen states permitted LSVs on streets. Now, there are only a few that don't.

The thing is, although they're allowed on streets, they're restricted to streets that have a speed limit of no more than 35 mph. That means neighborhood streets are OK, even Third Street at the beach.

The vehicles themselves must meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards for equipment like seat belts, headlights, taillights and turn signals. In Florida, they must be able to go at least 20 mph but not more than 25. They must be registered with the state, have a license plate just like non-electric vehicles, and the driver must have a valid driver's license. …

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