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Are Zap! Xebras really legal?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

For the past several months there have been battles over the legality of the Xebras and other 3-wheeled electric vehicles.  For example, the state of Maine has made them illegal on the basis that they do not have handlebars and therefore could not be considered motorcycles, but they don't have 4 wheels, so they can't be cars either.  Therefore they must not exist. (Okay so I added some humor in there, but honestly, no handlebars?)  Here is an article about the most recent developments in Maine, and here is the copy of the proposed bill.  Now interestingly, they still will require you to have a motorcycle endorsement, but will not allow you to take the test in the Xebra.  Also, anyone under the age of 15 is still required to wear a helmet.


There have also been issues in Massachusetts.  I believe the issue there was that enclosed 3-wheeled vehicles are not allowed to carry more than one person.  Their recent legislature has opened up a new section known as "Medium Speed Vehicles" which includes 3 wheeled electric cars.  However, they are not allowed to exceed 40 mph and are not allowed on roads with limits exceeding 40 mph.  So what happens when the Alias comes to town?


My own struggle in Arkansas has had no such issues to date, thank goodness.  We have had several of the Xebra's registered without a fuss.  Of course it is quite scary that we allow people to test for their endorsement in the Xebra, giving them future rights to drive any type of real motorcycle.  Anyways, after seeing the problems other states were having I decided to look at our own law.  Happily we allow 3-wheeled vehicles to be registered as motorcycles but there are a few snags that could cause significant problems if anyone ever notices.

- We require head protection for anyone under 21.

- You have to be wearing glasses or a protective eye shield.

- The vehicle must possess a standard muffler.

- It is illegal for more than two people to be on/in a motorcycle.


This is why I am currently working on a bill that will clear up these issues.  After working with a legislator and now with a legislative attorney, we have decided to propose a new definition for our Motorcycle subchapter:  Autocycles.  With this definition we should be able to clear up any misunderstandings while still allowing them to be registered and insured as motorcycles.


Hopefully this information will be helpful in case anyone else discovers problems with registering Xebras in their state.  (Or worse in the case of Maine where they revoke your registration after deciding that they really didn't fit in the law properly.)

post #2 of 10

In most states it's not a problem.  There are only about 2-3 left in which you can't register a 3-wheeled car like a Xebra.  Massachussetts was the most recent to make them legal, but high-speed 3-wheelers like the Alias and Aptera will need new legislation in a number of states.


I like the autocycle idea.  Good luck with that!

post #3 of 10

I saw this news report from Maine that shows progress towards making the Xebra legal.

Edited by acampbell3 - Thu, 19 Feb 2009 00:06:58 GMT

post #4 of 10

 Different laws and legislation's differ so much from city to city, county to county, country to country; that it is dizzying.  Rather unfair, Zap! and our legally jumping through the hoops is sure appreciated by me here in CA.

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

I've been out of the loop for a while and haven't had the chance to share this information with everyone...


Arkansas passed an amendment on 3/27/09 to our Motor Vehicle laws that adds a new category under the motorcycle section called Autocycles.  This new category includes all three wheeled, electric driven, fully enclosed vehicles produced by a manufacturer that have safety belts and the minimum safety equipment like lights, brakes, safety glass, etc.  With this new law, anyone with a valid driver's license (no need for motorcycle endorsement) can register the vehicle and operate it on any street with a speed limit of 55 mph or below.  It also exempts these vehicles from the helmet law and makes it legal to have underage passengers.


This is a huge step for our state, it is now much easier to own and operate vehicles such as those made by Zap and Meyers.


Now that there is precedence for this legislation, hopefully states will start to wake up to allowing safe and legal operation of electric vehicles! 


View entire ACT 636.

post #6 of 10

That's really interesting.  I bet we'll start seeing specific laws and codes start popping up more and more for 3 wheeled vehicles.  They're certainly not quite "main stream" yet but they're getting to be more so every day.

post #7 of 10
Originally Posted by stins View Post

  They're certainly not quite "main stream" yet but they're getting to be more so every day.

I am sure hoping the Eco Motors Company 3-wheeler becomes available.  Last I heard the first ones will be availablr the first week of June; but tomorrow is June 21- season change. 
post #8 of 10

@counterstrike: Please clarify, I live in CA also. Is it legal here? Do I need do anything special?

post #9 of 10

I thought this thread "died" along with Zebras after the lawsuit in this county.  Yes, they are legal - steering wheel or not in CA.; it is legally a motorcycle.  Size, I guess.  I had a 1993 City-El enclosed 3 wheeler, with a steering wheel, in 2007-9.  It was registered and insured as a motorcycle.  Roll bar and top - no helmet was needed.  Those are made in Germany (and still are most likely) so I sold it running - when it broke down I did not have to chase down 'nearly impossible to find' parts.


The Eco Motors 3-wheeler mentioned above was a flop I think. All advertisements and email stopped abruptly; with famous last words- "they are on the boat from China!  Here soon!!"  2009, I believe.  Steering wheel, power top, air conditioning, cruise control, et-c. - never to be.


In 2009 or 2010 Triac and Green Motors were welcomed and loaned $100,000.00 by the city of Salinas, CA. to build Triac 3-wheel EV.  The city even provided them with a huge former Firestone building to make them in.  To make a long story short: Green Motors owner got into the one and only Triac made there with the $100K and headed for the hills.  But it did have motorcycle registration- and yes: a steering wheel.  That city is still trying to get its money back


Zebra 4 door 3-wheeler EVs and Zebra Pick-Up 3-wheeler EVs are on Craigslist a lot.  I would not test drive one a 3-wheeler in Salinas though  :-D

post #10 of 10

I thought I had found this link here but I do not see it.  Recently a Xebra was for sale; and I thought I could use the cargo shell to move  back- less than a mile. Then I read this 2008 article which was mysteriously in my inbox:

All 103 comments sure tells a tragic toll.  May explain a lot; and better than I!

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