A Conversation on Island Transport

On an island with limited distance, mostly 50 kph and too narrow roads, doesn't it make more sense to use smaller cars than widen the roads? Why do we use cars and busses made for motorway speeds? Why do we have to pay $60 for a WOF that is for vehicles that must travel safely at 100 kph? Why do the insurance companies charge the same as they do on the mainland when our slower speeds mean inherently safer driving conditions?

Why can't Waiheke make a move to island cars? Why can't we have cars that have a 50kph limiter on them, that are allowed to drive on the island, but not on the ferry to town?

This vehicle in the photograph is a mobility device. No rego, no WOF, 1500W electric motor, solar panel roof that has run for two years without plugging in. The LTSA web site describes its use as:

You don't need a driver licence to operate a mobility device and they’re not required to have a warrant of fitness or registration. But there are requirements for where and how you can use them:

  • on the road, you must keep as close as possible to the edge of the roadway
  • on the footpath:
    • you must ride carefully and be considerate of others 
    • you must not ride at speeds that put other footpath users at risk.

Four passenger, seat belts, safety cage, drop down windscreens for inclement weather, this is not your grandfather's mobility scooter. Its owner did suffer a disability, so he is qualified to drive it. But he also is a solar guru and he set this mobility device up to be a showcase of what is possible. He spoke with the police and asked them to confirm that he would be legal using it as a mobility device. Is it a loophole or a vision for the future?

In California, such vehicles are called NEVs - neighbourhood electric vehicles, made legal in 1998 by the US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 500.  The standard requires low-speed vehicles to be equipped with headlamps, stop lamps, turn signal lamps, taillamps, reflex reflectors, parking brakes, rearview mirrors, windshields, seat belts, and vehicle identification numbers.

  • It is recommended that LTSA consider designating Waiheke Island (and then possibly other islands and clearly identifiable areas as Local Transport Areas (LTA).
  • In LTA's NEVs are permitted that:
    • Have a controller that limits the maximum speed to 50 kph
    • Meet the equipment standards set by the US FMV 500
    • Must have a front and rear number plate, but not pay an an annual rego fee
    • Do not have to have a current WOF, but must be in road-worthy condition (enforceable by police)
    • May be driven on a learners permit without the same restrictions as driving a car or motorbike
    • May not be transported on the car ferry except by a tow-truck taking the NEV for repair
    • May not be driven on the road except in the LTA (all of Waiheke Island)
    • Designed with a solar panel roof so that the NEVs place less of an energy burden on the nation
  • It is recommended that at the ferry terminal, NEV parking is free and closest to the ferry
  • It is recommended that LTSA engage the high-technology companies to look at Waiheke to be a self-drive test site with NEVs

In Europe the NEVs are also mini-trucks, minibuses and other utility vehicles.

It is recommended that similar rules be applied to commercial vehicles.

Below: Electric Rubbish Truck

electrictruckrear 1422


Below: Electric Bus in Pedestrian Zone



Italian e-car



When speed limits were slower, busses were lower and more connected to the outdoors. This bus had direct egress to the road, allowing faster boarding and disembarkment. Payment with swipe cards allows this door system once again. Worth considering a modern version of this, with an electric motor.