Steve's Moped & Bicycle World
40 Park Avenue
Dumont, NJ 07628
Dear Mr. Grubb:
This responds to your letter asking whether this agency's requirements apply to several products you are selling. One is called the "California Go-Ped," a small push scooter with non-pneumatic tires, a 2-cycle motor mounted above the rear wheel, and a top speed of 20 mph. Another is called the "Tsi Power Scooter," and resembles a scooter in frame style, but has larger pneumatic tires and can be outfitted with a seat. The Power Scooter has a top speed of 15 mph. You cited a previous interpretation stating that a scooter (similar to the Go-Ped) is not a motor vehicle, and thus not subject to our requirements, so I assume that you are asking whether the products you sell are motor vehicles. You also asked about motorized "skateboards" and motors for mounting on a conventional bicycle.
The short answer to your question is that the Go-Ped is not a motor vehicle but the Power Scooter may be, depending on whether it is sold with a seat. Motorized "skateboards" are not motor vehicles, but motors for mounting on bicycles are "motor vehicle equipment."
You indicated that you have a copy of a letter dated April 1, 1991, in which we discussed whether a small push scooter called a "Walk Machine" is considered a motor vehicle for purposes of our standards. In that letter, we discussed the general principles for determining whether a product is a motor vehicle.
As discussed in that letter, vehicles that are equipped with tracks or are otherwise incapable of highway travel are plainly not motor vehicles. Further, vehicles designed and sold solely for off-road use (e.g., airport runway vehicles and underground mining devices) are not considered motor vehicles, even though they may be operationally capable of highway travel.
On the other hand, vehicles that are or can be operated off-road, but are also used on the public highways on a necessary and recurring basis are motor vehicles. For instance, utility vehicles like the Jeep are plainly motor vehicles, even though they are equipped with special features to permit off-road operation. If a vehicle will spend a substantial amount of time on- road, even though its greatest use will be off-road, NHTSA has found the vehicle to be a "motor vehicle." Further, if a vehicle is readily usable on the public roads and is in fact used on the public roads by a substantial number of owners, NHTSA has found the vehicle to be a motor vehicle. This finding was made with respect to dune buggies and regardless of the manufacturer's stated intent regarding the terrain on which the vehicles were to be operated.
In discussing whether the Walk Machine is considered a motor vehicle, we noted that NHTSA has stated in previous interpretations that vehicles that regularly use the public roads will not be considered "motor vehicles" if such vehicles have a maximum attainable speed of 20 miles per hour (mph) or less and an abnormal configuration which readily distinguishes them from other vehicles. We concluded that the Walk Machine is not a motor vehicle since it has a top speed of 16 mph and a configuration that readily distinguishes it from motorcycles and other two-wheeled vehicles.
I will now apply these principles to the products you ask about in your letter. First, the California Go-Ped has an almost identical configuration to that of the Walk Machine and a maximum speed of 20 mph. Therefore, we do not consider it to be a motor vehicle, for the same reasons that apply to the Walk Machine.
Second, the Power Scooter has a maximum speed of 15 mph and, when sold without a seat, has a configuration similar to that of the Walk Machine. In that configuration, we do not consider it to be a motor vehicle.
When equipped with a seat, however, the Power Scooter is considered to be a motor vehicle. Although the advertising literature states that the Power Scooter is "not for in-street use," NHTSA believes that it is indistinguishable from a moped, which is an on-street vehicle that we have long interpreted as a motor vehicle. Although most mopeds have chain drives, pedal starters, and lower-mounted engines, we do not think that these distinctions are important. The seated rider on the power scooter appears to other traffic to be riding a moped. We also note that the low ground clearance of the central platform appears poorly suited to off-road use.
Further, we consider the Power Scooter, when equipped with a seat, to be a type of motorcycle. A motorcycle is defined as "a motor vehicle with motive power having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground" (Title 49, section 571.3 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)). Motorcycles are subject to our regulations in 49 CFR Part 571, including Standards for lights (No. 108), rear view mirrors (111), brakes (122), and controls and displays (123). The materials you sent do not disclose the horsepower of the 21 cc engine, but we assume that it is less than 5 brake horsepower. If that assumption is correct, the vehicle would be a "motor-driven cycle," a type of motorcycle that is subject to less stringent requirements under our regulations. However, the Power Scooter does not appear to meet even the less stringent requirements. For example, the Scooter lacks lights, dual braking systems, and rear view mirrors.
The motors for mounting on a conventional bicycle are designed specifically to convert the bicycle into a motorcycle. Therefore, they are motor vehicle equipment. Despite the notation "not for in-street use" in the advertising brochure, bicycles are predominantly used in the streets. Merely adding a motor does not change this fact.
The motorized "skateboard" is not a motor vehicle because it was not manufactured for in-street use and is also not used on the public roads.
You stated in your letter that you want to clarify the application of our motor vehicle requirements to your products so that you can advise your customers exactly where they can and cannot operate them. We strongly encourage you to read the enclosed information sheet on your responsibilities under Federal law as a retailer of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. In addition, while the location of use of particular vehicles can affect our determination of whether a vehicle is a motor vehicle, the actual regulation of the operation of vehicles and motor vehicles is a matter of State law. For information on State laws, you may contact the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators at: 4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22203.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions about NHTSA's safety standards, please feel free to contact Mr. Paul Atelsek at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel
Enclosure ref:VSA d:6/12/95