Unintended consequences

Edward Lapham is editor of Automotive News

Dec. 14 -- The drive by California regulators to reduce air pollution has had some unintended effects, such as the proliferation of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles.

They're about the same size as a golf cart, have a roof but no doors and run on electric batteries, so they don't pollute.

One of the three largest producers is owned by Lee Iacocca. The other two are subsidiaries of DaimlerChrysler and Ford. That's because by 2003, two percent of an automaker's sales in California must be zero-emission vehicles, and they get credit for these small ones.

But safety advocates warn that these neighborhood vehicles are not safe in traffic, where some owners undoubtedly will use them.

The result could be new regulations to fix the old ones.

You can reach Edward Lapham at elapham@crain.com

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