Electric cars have been marketed without much success since before the turn of the
century. In recent years, concern over air pollution caused by the internal combustion
engine and the rising cost of gasoline have revived interest in electric cars. CU
therefore decided to test the only two electric cars being sold in any volume in this
country: the CitiCar SV-48 and the Elcar 2000. We found major safety and operating
The CitiCar, made by Sebring-Vanguard, Inc., of Sebring, Fla., cost $2946 delivered to
our Auto Test Center in Connecticut. The Elcar, an Italian import distributed in the U.S.
by Elcar Corp., Elkart, md., cost $3475 delivered.
Conventional passenger cars must conform to certain Federal safety standards. But to
spur the development of low-emission vehicles, the Government has granted temporary
exemptions from some of those standards to manufacturers of electric cars-with
Conventional cars must provide life-saving protection to occupants in a 30-mph barrier
crash, a 30-mph rollover, and a 20-mph side impact from another car. We believe any
such crash would imperil the lives of persons inside these tiny, fragile, plastic-bodied
vehicles. A rollover or a severe crash holds the further threat of suffuric acid pouring
from ruptured batteries. (The batteries are under the padded-plywood seat cushion in
the CitiCar and under the plywood floor in the Elcar-both within the passenger
There are other obvious hazards no longer tolerated in conventional automobiles.
Adjusting the safety belts is discouragingly complicated. Yet the windshield frame in
the CitiCar is just a few inches in front of the forehead of tall occupants, making the use
of shoulder belts especially important. The Elcar's safety belts are not much better.
The CitiCar has no steering-wheel lock, and the doors cannot be locked. The hinges
and latches looked so flimsy that we tied the doors shut before performing any
emergency-handling tests. (The Elcar's door hardware also looked flimsy, but at le