It looks like golf carts – or low-speed vehicles – will never go away. Across the country, legislators are allowing low-speed vehicles (LSV) to drive down public roads, with some restrictions. In Kentucky, several municipalities have recently passed, or are looking to allow, golf carts on their streets. Or take a look at Peachtree City, GA, where just about all the residents are driving golf carts, and that's just fine with the city government.
LSV rules have been turning in favor of golf carts for several years now. In 1998, the federal government passed safety standards for what it termed "low-speed vehicles." They didn't apply to golf carts, since most of them don't travel in the 20-25 miles per hour range and now, final decisions tend to be made at the local level and many municipalities are allowing LSVs to travel in 35 mph zones. There are only four states in the US that don't allow LSVs to mix with traffic on regular roads (Montana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. See the map here). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has raised concerns about the safety of driving these tiny cars, but state officials don't seem to share it.
So what's their appeal? In his commentary for The Atlantic Cities, Eric Jaffe starts off with the question of why all these people would choose golf carts over electric vehicles. It seems to come down to consumers choosing LSVs as a transportation alternative because it a cost-effective secondary car.
A top-selling LSV – the Polaris GEM – sells for $8,000 for the starter model up to $15,000 for a six-seater. Even with all the incentives and price wars in the EV space, these LSVs are a better deal for consumers with tight budgets. The golf cart is ideal for quick trips to the grocery store while the family car stays parked in the driveway. You can read Jaffe's complete argument here.