Saturday, November 29, 2008

Transport Canada Trots Out Crash Test Video of LSVs

Well Transport Canada really seems to have it out for Low Speed Electric Vehicles. Last December 2007 they spooked the provinces by adding a comment in their regulations saying LSVs "Are designed for use primarily on streets and roads where access and the use of other classes of vehicles are controlled by law or agreement." According to the law it is not Transport Canada's role to decide where vehicles are allowed to be used. Provinces and territories regulate vehicle licensing and where they can be driven. So sticking this comment into the straight forward description of the vehicles characteristics and safety features is just simply inappropriate interference with provincial and territorial decision making. Also by phrasing it the way they do they make it sound like it is not their opinion they are expressing but that they are explaining the intentions of the designers and manufacturers of these vehicles which is completely untrue.

In their latest jab at LSVs this week they posted a video of a series of crash tests of Low Speed Electric Vehicles on their website followed by very patronizing comments about how unsafe these vehicles are to drive on roads in mixed traffic. [This link was updated on Feb 10, 2009 because Transport Canada has moved and revised the page. Their revised page addresses some of the concerns I raised in my letter - see below - but still maintains an unprofessionally biased tone against the industry and a patronizing attitude towards consumers. Also I have found out that these are old crash test videos and in many cases do not depict current models.]

By comparison here is a story of an actual real world accident in a ZENN.

Here is an excerpt of the letter I sent to the Honourable John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities via his website:

"I was quite angered by Transport Canada's portrayal of LSVs as unsafe compared to regular cars for urban driving through the posting of the dramatic crash test video on your website and the accompanying comments. They are not providing balanced and complete information on the health and safety evaluation of this vehicle type compared to other vehicles.

All cars are unsafe to a degree and everyone takes risks in driving. I would like to see you post the results of all vehicle crash tests on your website and for proper comparison they should be crash tests of those vehicles at their maximum speeds. And if those speeds aren't regulated then they should be the legal speed limit as well as the actual attainable speed of the vehicle. And then people can start to get a look at what is allowed in our society as an acceptable risk for people to take with themselves and their children for sake of individual travel.

The big picture, which is not discussed on this new page, is that even though these vehicles do not offer as much protection in a crash as a regular high speed car, real world experience shows that they get into fewer and less serious accidents and are therefore safer to drive. Also there is no comparison of how they rate, in the real world, with other vehicles that are allowed on our roads such as motorcycles or motor scooters.

I hope you will look into this extraordinary attack on LSVs that continues from Transport Canada and investigate to see if there may be some person(s) in the department who for some personal reason/bias is trying to undermine the growth of this increasingly popular industry. Because otherwise, given all the available information, I truly cannot understand why this special attention is being given to discourage the use of LSVs as opposed to other considerably more dangerous vehicle types.

Can they honestly think that parents would rather have their teenager driving around on a motorcycle than in a LSV? Our society is changing it's attitudes towards what we want in our vehicles. People want healthy cities and safer vehicles and LSVs are one vehicle type that can provide both of these.

As a Canadian I am proud that Canada is a leader in the electric car industry and I am embarrassed by Transport Canada's behaviour toward them.

I hope you will request that Transport Canada work with this industry to help it grow and improve its products over time and be respectful of the great achievements they have produced as a new industry. "

They are after all the only affordable choice for a plug-in electric vehicle now in production. All Canadians should have the choice to buy and drive them on community roads.

For more details on the safety debate around LSVs see the post: "ZENN Running the Bureaucratic Gauntlet in Ontario"