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Bombardier Debuts Under-$7,000 Neighborhood Electric Vehicle
In the mid-1990s, electric vehicles were starting to come to the fore, but most were being aimed at fleets and all were much more expensive than expected. The problem then was the same as now: battery cost. It seemed there just wasn't an easy entry for electric vehicle fans. Then there emerged word of the Bombardier NV. While it wasn't a full-function electric car, it was aiming at a cheap enough price point to make it affordable for many. The catch: This small car was intended only for around-town use at lower speeds. Today, there are many neighborhood electric vehicles that fit this description, although the Bombardier NV sadly faded away. At the time, though, the Bombardier design was a real trailblazer that gave hope to fans of the electric vehicle. This report is reprinted just as it ran in 1996 to lend a sense of unfolding activities at the time.
ELECTRIC BOMBARDIER NV
The neighborhood electric vehicle, or NEV, is a concept that's come and gone, and come again. These lightweight, inexpensive, and limited use EVs were envisioned for local use, supplanting conventional cars for short trips around town to the market, to work, or to pick up the kids at school.
As the electric vehicle field heated up in recent years, the neighborhood electric vehicle seemed relegated to obscurity, overshadowed by more glamorous - and expensive - electric hybrid electric concepts. We've seen GM's EVI come to market for $34,000, with other EVs like the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-Series EVs targeting similar price ranges.
But guess what? The NEV is back, and it's on sale for under $7,000. Bombardier, the Canadian aerospace and transportation firm, is now marketing the composite two-passenger Bombardier NEV in Arizona, with an imminent debut in California and Florida.
Bombardier, manufacturer of the popular Sea-Doo personal watercraft, has designed this vehicle well for its target market. It's simple without being too utilitarian, no-frills without being too cart-like and straying from its mission as a dependable, comfortable mode of transportation.
The rigid composite unibody NEV features automotive lighting, hydraulic brakes, four-wheel independent suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, and three-point retractable seat belts. Detachable doors are a $700 option. Also optional is an AM/FM/cassette stereo system, side and rear curtains, and a windshield wiper-washer system.
The vehicle is well-designed and engineered to be sturdy and safe. Because of the specific state legislation that allows the NEV's use in Arizona, California, and Florida (and pending legislation in other states), it has not had to undergo federal crash testing. The NEV's governed 25 mph top speed is integral to the vehicle meeting the criteria of this legislation.
Since the NEV is designed for a multitude of short range uses, it seemed natural for Bombardier to take into account the needs of buyers most likely to initially embrace the vehicle - those in large sunbelt retirement communities, many of whom happen to be recreationally-oriented. To this end, there's plenty of room and even a lockable trunk to stow rackets and an assortment of other gear.
Since the demographics of these communities often include golf, the Bombardier NEV can be ordered with a Golf Course Option that enables the vehicle to meet most national course standards and be driven on the links.
Choosing this option only adds an additional $300 to the $6,699 price but increases functionality substantially. The package replaces the NEV's lockable trunk with golf bag holders and adds a service brake pedal with foot brake, smaller golf tires, a seeder bottle and rack, and a switch for selecting a low-speed mode. When activated, this function reduces drivetrain amperage and voltage, limits top speed to 15 mph, and serves to eliminate wheel spin on wet grass.
According to Bombardier CEO Laurent Beaudoin, orders for the NEV currently exceed production, which is presently 10 units per day. While company sources indicate they'll take a wait-and-see attitude and proceed at this build quota for a year, Green Car editors note it's more likely that the pace of assembly will ramp up if demand continues to build as expected.
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