Ecocruise Cruser Sport is the golf cart, accelerated

Neighborhood Electric Vehicles – those sub-Tesla toasters used by maintenance crews on corporate campuses and people who live in “active adult communities” – are not intended to be sexy beasts.

Depending on the region in which they are registered, NEVs are limited by law (and usually, by engine output) to speeds below 25mph or 35mph. The best resemble earnest attempts at space capsules, the worst evoke street-legal golf carts (and often because they are, quite simply, street-legal golf carts).

But not the Cruser Sport. This forthcoming model from Ecocruise, a startup based in the Pacific northwest US state of Washington, sooner evokes a dune buggy than a municipal-course beverage cart. When you consider its pedigree, that makes a lot of sense.

Ecocruise is the brainchild of Steve Leighty, a veteran of the off-road motorsports industry, having founded Kasea Motorsports in the 1990s. Beginning by importing Chinese scooters, Leighty realised he could design and build sportier vehicles – ATVs, dirt bikes and motorcycles – himself, and ship the prototypes to China, Korea and Taiwan to be mass produced; the production versions were then sold back to customers in the US. Business prospered, but by 2004 Leighty was ready for a new challenge, and turned his attention to electric mobility.

The two-seater Cruser Sport is the first Ecocruise model to hit the streets, and it is anything but boxy, with a swooping carbon fibre body over exposed tubular steel, plus a covered rear hatch and T-tops. Exposed suspension and 14in aluminium wheels impart a beefy stance, and the bucket seats reinforce the off-road lineage. Safety – hardly an afterthought, even for low-speed neighbourhood electrics –  comes in the form of US Department of Transportation-approved safety glass and seatbelts, antilock brakes and a two year bumper-to-bumper warranty and three-year warranty on the lithium-ion batteries. Leighty claims that the topmost battery package will take the Cruser Sport up to 60 miles on a charge.

The car will retail for $8,500 to $11,900 in the US, depending on motor and battery options, when deliveries commence in January 2015. Shortly thereafter the company plans to release the more conventional one-seater EZIP-4 for around $3,800. A line of service and utility vehicles, including electric scooters, will follow. Distribution in the US is managed through a group of roughly 50 independent retailers, while in Europe, an expected partnership with UK’s Urban Mover will provide a readymade dealer network.

And lest the putter-perfecting neighbourhood-electric user be denied, Cruser Sports will soon  be available in golf-cart form, too.

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