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April 06, 2009— Ottawa, Ontario

To help pave the way for environmentally friendly cars, Ontario's Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is considering recommendations from NRC on the introduction of low-speed vehicles (LSVs) into mainstream traffic. LSVs run on electricity, so they produce no direct emissions — good news for those concerned about greenhouse gases and air quality.

These battery fueled cars reach a maximum of 32 to 40 kilometres per hour and are recommended for use only in controlled environments where they have minimal interaction with other vehicles. LSVs are now being pilot tested in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

electric car

MTO commissioned the NRC Centre for Surface Transportation Technology (NRC-CSTT) to study the risks associated with introducing low-speed vehicles in mixed traffic on Ontario's public roads. The study noted that the low speed of these vehicles could impede traffic and put their drivers at risk. It warned of a substantially higher risk of driver injury and fatality due to the relatively low mass of LSVs compared to other vehicles on public roads. It also analyzed risks related to human factors, road conditions and the equipment in LSVs, such as the adequacy of their braking systems, lights and seat belt assemblies.

The NRC report offered some 30 recommendations touching on equipment safety standards, licence requirements, education about the performance and safety limitations of LSVs, restrictions for their use in mixed traffic, changes in traffic signal phasing to accommodate slower vehicles, and more. NRC-CSTT recommends the use of LSVs as passenger vehicles in mixed traffic only when they meet certain safety requirements.

Located in Ottawa, NRC-CSTT provides research, development, evaluation and testing services for the rail and road transport industries, the military, and vehicle and equipment manufacturers. Its mission is to improve and protect human life through mobility, with a focus on vehicle safety.

The NRC report, Safe Integration of Electric Low-Speed Vehicles on Ontario's Roads in Mixed Traffic, is available on the MTO website.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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