Yesterday, we heard the tragic story that a U.K. owner of a Reva G-Wiz, the tiny neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) sold in Europe as a quadricycle, was killed when her all-electric runabout hit a garden wall. 

The 47-year-old woman was thrown clear of the diminutive G-Wiz as it split in two just beneath the front seats where the heavy under-seat battery tray meets the floor. While official reports into the accident have yet to be released, the vehicle appears to have split on impact with the wall.

Capable of up to 50 miles per hour and seating two adults and two children in a frame barely bigger than a 2011 Smart ForTwo, nearly a thousand of these vehicles exist on the roads of London alone. 

While very few REVAs exist in the U.S., plenty of other low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles are more common. What’s more, the sales literature for such vehicles often blurs the line between electric car and neighborhood electric vehicle.

In Kansas, NEVs can travel on roads speed limited to 40 mph, and many other states allow NEVs to use roads where the speed limit is 35 mph, making them popular among residents in gated communities, small towns and even larger cities.  



But while most NEVs are only legally allowed to drive at 25 mph, this can present a serious safety risk to drivers and passengers of such vehicles.

In short, such vehicles do not require the same stringent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash testing as highway-capable cars.  They also do not require as many safety features such as airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and side-impact bars. 

Often made by independent electric vehicle firms rather than mainstream automakers these vehicles are often a lot cheaper to buy, offering budget electric vehicle pleasures at costs much lower than highway-capable vehicles. 

But while it may be enticing to your pocketbook, such vehicles could provide more than just a massive saving. 

As our Marty Paget found out early in August, Nissan has taken the safety reputation that electric cars are given by such low-speed NEVs very seriously. Just like Chevrolet, Coda and Mitsubishi, Nissan have put its 2011 Leaf through some seriously intensive safety tests to ensure that both car, battery pack and electronics meet the very highest of the standards set by the NHTSA.

ZAP Xebra Sedan

ZAP Xebra Sedan

Our advice? 

While NEVs may provide a more fiscally attractive way to get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle they lack the safety offered by freeway-capable electric cars. Even the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive has an NHTSA approved safety cage, meaning peace of mind when it comes to sitting behind the wheel. 

When choosing your electric car, make sure it really is a freeway-capable model with full NHTSA ratings. 

If finances are tight and you really can’t afford a brand new, highway-capable EV we think you have two choices. Wait a while, or look into DIY conversions of gasoline cars.