Motorcycles and cars have different standards to be met.  For one, cars are subject to the rigors of extensive safety testing and require mandated safety equipment.  This drives the cost of cars up.  Motorcycles on the other hand do not have crash safety standards and are not required to implement items such as airbags and seat-belts.  But what is a car and what is a motorcycle?

Until recently, the guidelines were clear cut.  Federal law defined any road going vehicle with less than four wheels as a motorcycle.  Therefore, a trike such as the Aptera 2e and the Zap Alias are considered motorcycles. 

No problem with that definition, but Aptera has applied for funding under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program which gives federal money to support advanced "cars".  Problem is, the Aptera 2e is not considered a car and was therefore denied funding.

Now California congressional members are looking to change the law to include vehicles like those mentioned above in the car category.  Aptera may be happy with the decision as it means they may have a chance to receive funding, but other upstart three wheel EV producer are not.  The new legislation aims to change the law to "include any enclosed vehicle that seats at least 2 adults and gets at least 75 mpg" into the car category.  The guidelines seem very specific, but what if a vehicle gets 74 mpg, then it's a motorcycle.  Seems to be a significant loophole. 

Surprisingly, the legislation has already passed through the House and is now waiting for Senate approval and the President's endorsement to become a law.

If the new legislation passes, the Aptera 2e as well as other similar vehicles, will have to undergo crash testing, will require airbags, as well as meeting all other safety requirements of cars.  This become increasingly difficult to achieve as many of these vehicles are diminutive in size, low in mass, and their eye catching designs are not aptly suited for crashing.  Most importantly, this well significantly increase the costs of such vehicles.

Aptera believes their 2e will easily meet the safety standards and has even stated that the vehicle will undergo crash testing even if it is certified as a motorcycle.  They are confident of the vehicles safety, but other producers in this category are likely certain that their vehicles will not pass crash safety standards as they were not designed to from the beginning.

The issue is a hot topic of debate with many makers and politicians involved.  So what is a motorcycle and what is a car?

Source:  Wall Street Journal