This cart evokes the look of Euro coupes.

Near Palm Springs, EVs are close to kings

Why are automakers and consumers so concerned with the acceptance of Electric Vehicles, when much of America has been driving EVs in the form of golf carts for decades? In the town of Palm Desert, 11 miles east of Palm Springs, it’s legal to drive them on many city streets with just a $550 street legal upgrade and a $10 city license.

The Coachella Valley is nothing if not golf conscious. There are no less than 30 courses within 10 miles of the city. The urban jungle refugees and Eastern snowbirds that populate the valley have adopted the lightweight vehicles for short jaunts about town – escaping the price of gasoline for everything save long distance driving.

However since in the image conscious desert, many of these folks want their street legal EV to look more like their real car. Notable residents include folks like Rita Rudner, pro golfer Michelle Wie and sometimes Bill Gates. Film producers Jerry Weintraub and Robert Velo have second homes in Palm Desert.

Consequently, a company with a 50-year history in Rancho Mirage is pulling in the big bucks doing conversions of golf carts to reflect the owner’s taste and personality.

“They’ll use it for heading up and down El Paseo, and more and more people are doing it for going around town, especially with gas between $3.50 and $4 per gallon now,” J.R. Thomas told Eddie Trent of the Desert Palm Patch.

Golf cars are legal in the city with the upgrade and on certain streets during particular parts of the day.

"You are legally allowed to drive it on any street that is posted for 25 mph, any street that is designated as a golf cart or bike route and any bike or golf cart lanes,'' Mark Diercks, transportation engineer for the city told the Patch.

To be legal on the street the vehicles are required to have brake lights, turn signals front and rear, headlights, tail lights, reflectors, parking brake, windshield, seat belts, a locking device, backup alert, covered passenger compartment, side or rear view mirrors and only up to six people can be onboard, including the driver, at any particular time.

They have done conversions to make the carts look like hot rods, semi-trailer trucks, pickups and premium sedans and coupes.

“We did a big a customization for a guy that owned a trucking company with 250 Kenworths, tanker trucks,” Thomas said. “He wanted a Kenworth look-alike with a chrome tank on the back. So we did it and now it’s very popular in the parades. They expect to see something really cool when they walk in, so we always want some major eye candy on display. They come in looking for a basic cart, but come out with all the bells and whistles.”
The local municipal licenses vary from town to town but the relatively low fee is quickly made up from fuel savings.

This particular company is full service, handling bodywork and other repairs right on site. “Its our service department that stands out,” Thomas told Patch. “We have a paint and body shop on property,”

Obviously you wouldn’t want to take a golf cart out on the interstate and there’s a lot involved in getting an EV up to the range, speeds and safety of traditional combustion vehicles. Still, it seems puzzling that it is taking so long to get the vehicles in the showrooms as well as American hearts and driveways when this kind of vehicle has been with us for so very long.

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