Lawrence J. Oswald
CEO, Global Electric Motorcars LLC
Director, GEM and EV Product Team
800 Chrysler Drive
Auburn Hill, MI 48326
Dear Mr. Oswald:
This responds to your letter concerning new State laws on medium speed electric vehicles (MSEVs). You noted that Montana and Washington have enacted legislation that purports to allow motor vehicles called MSEVs to operate on certain public roads. The statutes define MSEVs as electric-powered vehicles with a maximum speed of 35 mph that meet certain limited safety requirements similar to those established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for low speed vehicles (LSVs). You requested that NHTSA advise State officials on inconsistencies between these new State laws and Federal law, and potential significant safety problems that such State laws may create.
As discussed below, the responsibilities of manufacturers and dealers to comply with Federal law, including not manufacturing or selling vehicles unless they comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs), are not limited by State laws on MSEVs.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment (49 U.S.C. Chapter 301). Chapter 301 provides that a person may not "manufacture for sale, sell, offer for sale, introduce or deliver for introduction in interstate commerce, or import into the United States" any new motor vehicle or new item of motor vehicle equipment unless the vehicles or equipment comply with applicable safety standards. Manufacturers are required to self-certify that their products conform to all applicable safety standards that are in effect on the date of manufacture.
NHTSA has used its authority to, among other things, establish special category of motor vehicles called low speed vehicles (LSVs). This was done in part to accommodate the use of small golf cars as personal transportation vehicles in controlled, low-speed environments, such as retirement communities. In order to qualify as an LSV under the agencys definition, a vehicle must, among other things, have a speed capability no higher than 25 mph and a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 3,000 pounds. As defined, LSVs are subject to the limited set of safety measures in Standard No. 500, including requirements regarding the installation of lamps, mirrors, seat belts, and a windshield. However, LSVs are not subject to the rigorous crashworthiness standards to which other vehicles are required to comply. We note that vehicles with a speed capability above 25 mph are more likely to be driven outside controlled, low speed environments, and the limited LSV safety requirements are not appropriate for such vehicles.
A motor vehicle that has a speed capability above 25 mph, such as an MSEV with a top speed of 35 mph, would not be classified as an LSV under Federal law. Instead, the vehicles with a speed capability above 25 mph that would be considered MSEVs under the State laws at issue are classified as passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, or trucks under Federal law. These vehicles are subject to the full range of FMVSSs that apply to those classes of vehicles, including, as you noted in your letter, crashworthiness requirements in frontal, side, and rear crashes, braking requirements, lighting requirements, etc. As noted above, under Federal law, no person may manufacture for sale, sell, offer for sale, introduce or deliver for introduction in interstate commerce, or import into the United States any new motor vehicle unless the vehicle complies with all applicable FMVSSs and is certified as such.
In conclusion, regardless of State laws, the classification of a vehicle under Federal law remains unchanged. Therefore, the manufacturer of an MSEV with a speed capability above 25 mph (or which otherwise does not meet the Federal definition of LSV) must certify it as complying with all applicable FMVSSs specified for passenger cars, multipurpose passengers, or trucks, as applicable.
I hope this information is helpful. A copy of this letter will be placed in the docket. We will consider whether specific steps are needed to advise State officials about relevant requirements of Federal law.
Anthony M. Cooke
 See 49 CFR Part 571.3.