British Columbia

Move from golf carts to street-legal EVs starting to pay off for B.C. company

They will never be confused with a top-of-the-line Tesla. But the low-speed electric vehicles being manufactured by a company in Vernon, B.C., are starting to find their market — from private buyers to community organizations to a major national company. 

'There was a need for it': SC Carts production manager Lee Waters

Jeff Holomis, CEO and owner of Vernon-based SC Carts, left, and production manager Lee Waters flank a City-W model currently being completed for a customer. The company's low-speed EVs are street-legal and have a top speed of 40 km/h. (SC Carts)

They will never be confused with a top-of-the-line Tesla.

But the low-speed electric vehicles being manufactured by a company in Vernon, B.C., are starting to find their market — from private buyers to community organizations to a major national company. 

And, like a Tesla sports car, they're turning heads.

From its origins in 2010 as a golf cart rebuilder, SC Carts now designs and builds its own line of low-speed electric vehicles that are approved by Transport Canada for use on city streets. For SC Carts, the evolution from golf carts to green-powered street machines was part of its own growth as it looked to serve a market it had identified.

"There was a need for it," production manager Lee Waters told CBC.

"It's kind of the way things are going as far as people wanting electric vehicles."

SC Carts released its first low-speed city vehicle in 2021, and one of them just hit the road in Nelson, B.C., with Kootenay Carshare Cooperative. Another has been on the move for Canadian-owned courier company Purolator in downtown Vancouver since mid-November.

Vehicles have top speed of 40 km/h

The SC Carts vehicles look like four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles but run on lithium battery packs and come equipped with features that make them street-legal, including seatbelts and headlights. On a five-hour charge — which can be done on a standard 110-volt outlet — the vehicles have a 60-kilometre range and a top speed of 40 km/h.

Prices for the company's low-speed electric vehicles start at about $25,000. There are two- and four-passenger models and a variety of options, including winter tires.

Kootenay Carshare has added this City4 low-speed electric vehicle to its fleet. (SC Carts)

As per Transport Canada regulations, Waters said the vehicles can be used on any road with a speed limit of 50 km/h or less.

Waters said vehicle sales are "just getting rolling," from one sale in 2021 to eight so far in 2022. In the private market, SC Carts is finding buyers in resort and retirement communities and is starting to make those inroads commercially in Nelson and Vancouver.

Waters said the conservative goal for 2023 is to put 30 low-speed electric vehicles in the hands of customers.

Currently, he said SC Carts is targeting the Canadian market, with plans to eventually expand into the United States.

'People have actually been taking pictures of it'

In Nelson, non-profit association Kootenay Carshare Cooperative used grant money to purchase an SC-City4 model to add to its fleet. Colleen Doyle, the organization's executive director, said on CBC's Daybreak South it's proving to be a perfect addition because most people who use Kootenay Carshare make short trips within the city. 

Watch | A video created by Kootenay Carshare demonstrates how the EV works:

Doyle said the SC-City4 can be used for such routine tasks as dropping kids off at school and getting groceries. It could be an ideal form of transportation for seniors and tourists, she said. 

So far, the bright-green SC-City4 is drawing plenty of attention in Nelson, a West Kootenay community of about 11,000 people near B.C.'s southern border. 

"People have actually been taking pictures of it when we park it somewhere," Doyle said. 

"I think people are pretty excited that we're providing a sustainable transportation solution for the community."

Meanwhile, in the busy urban setting of downtown Vancouver, Purolator is using an SC-CityW to carry packages the final distance to customers. Paul Merrick, the company's general manager for Western Canada, said the purchase of the vehicle is part of an overall initiative to move to environmentally-friendly modes of transportation. 

"If this is one that we can add to our fleet and it becomes sort of a long-term sustainable solution, it's going to be of great interest to us."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Peters is a journalist based in Prince George, B.C., on the territory of the Lheidli T'enneh. He can be reached at jason.peters@cbc.ca.

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