A low-speed vehicle (LSV) is a legal class of 4-wheel vehicles that have a maximum capable speed typically around 25 mph (40 km/h), and have a minimum capable speed (typically 20 mph (32 km/h)) that allows them to travel on public roads not accessible to all golf carts or neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV). The vehicles operate under very similar restrictions to but without the specification of battery electric power.
A Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) is a U.S. denomination for battery electric vehicles that are legally limited to roads with posted speed limits as high as 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) depending on the particular laws of the state, usually are built to have a top speed of 30 miles per hour (48 km/h), and have a maximum loaded weight of 3,000 lb (1,400 kg).NEVs fall under the United States Department of Transportation classification for low-speed vehicles.
A NEV battery pack recharges by plugging into a standard outlet and because it is an all-electric vehicle it does not produce tailpipe emissions. If recharged from clean energy sources such as solar or wind power, NEVs do not produce greenhouse gas emissions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published safety guidelines in the United States which apply to vehicles operating in the 20–25 mile-per-hour speed range. Low-speed vehicles are defined as a four-wheeled motor vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) and a top speed of between 20 to 25 mph (32 to 40 km/h).
Nearly all 50 states allow LSVs, also called NEVs, to drive on their roads where the speed limit is 35 mph or less.[ Either they follow FMVSS500 (25 mph top speed on 35 mph limit roads), or make their own more aggressive law. Because of federal law, car dealers cannot legally sell the vehicles to go faster than 25 mph (40 km/h), but the buyer can easily modify the car to go 35 mph (56 km/h). However, if modified to exceed 25 mph (40 km/h), the vehicle then becomes subject to additional safety requirements.
These speed restrictions, combined with a typical driving range of 30 miles (48 km) per charge and a typical three-year battery durability, are required because of a lack of federally mandated safety equipment and features which NEVs can not accommodate because of their design. To satisfy federal safety requirements for manufacturers, NEVs must be equipped with three-point seat belts or a lap belt, windshield wipers are not required, running lights, headlights, brake lights, reflectors, rear view mirrors, and turn signals. In many cases, doors may be optional, crash protection from other vehicles is partially met compared to other non motorized transport such as bicycles because of the use of seat belts.