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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

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NEVs Have Arrived at Sendero

Over a year ago, we wrote extensively about the NEV paths and lanes planned for the Ranch Plan.  That article is here.  First, if you don’t know what an NEV is, NEV stands for a “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle.”

Neighborhood Electric Vehicles are categorized by the Department of Transportation as a “low speed vehicle,” meaning a four-wheeled motor vehicle with a maximum speed of 25 MPH.  NEVs are typically electric and can be charged at home through a standard electric outlet.  States typically permit NEVs to travel on roads with speed limits up to 35 MPH.  Ranges are limited to 30-40 miles per charge, and NEVs lack the safety equipment of typical passenger cars.  In essence, they are high-performance golf carts.  Autoblog answered the question “What is an NEV?” here.  The DMV offers a FAQ about NEVs.

Below is a GEM e4 Neighborhood Electric Vehicle:

GEM e4 Neighborhood Electric Vehicle

At the same, we weren’t sure exactly how NEVs would be incorporated into the village designs.  We pondered that question:

There is, however, evidence that the NEV component of the Ranch Plan remains viable.  We have been told that an NEV lane is being added to the Antonio Parkway bridge across San Juan Creek and another NEV lane will run underneath the bridge, connecting the Village of Sendero to the retail center on the opposite side of Antonio.  That’s encouraging, because we have to admit that in a world of clogged freeways and controversial toll roads, the image of NEV/bike paths winding through the beautiful open space connecting residential villages and quaint local retail centers has a definite rural, small-town community appeal to it.

Today, the roads and paths of Sendero are complete.  We even noticed the EV charging stations in Sendero.  And now, Rancho Mission Viejo now has an NEV on display at the Guest House.  In a recent newsletter, Rancho Mission Viejo writes:

We’ve got Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) routes throughout Sendero, and if you’re curious to see what kind of cars can travel on these routes, we’ve got a new GEM car on display now at the Guest House. … GEM cars are electric-powered vehicles designed for low-speed neighborhood use. Topping out at 25 mph, they can be driven on our neighborhood streets and on the paths that connect the villages to off-site amenities and to each other. It’s not just a fun way to travel—it’s a clean way to travel. GEM cars are easy to charge with a standard 110-volt outlet, and under typical conditions, they can go 30 to 45 miles on a single charge, which takes just 6 to 8 hours.

Stop by the Guest House and check it out.  If only there was a way to connect Sendero to Ladera Ranch by NEV.  I wouldn’t want to be putting up hill on Antonio Parkway in an electric golf cart while cars and trucks blew past me at 70 mph.  Maybe there will east-west connections between Ladera Ranch and Planning Area 2?

4 comments to NEVs Have Arrived at Sendero

  • Jim Reardon

    What I like about this idea is that when we figure out how limited these vehicles actually are, we can convert the dedicated paths to equestrian and bike trails.

    Just wait until one of these interferes with a horse and rider. Who will have more political clout, the equestrian or the senior citizen who loaned his electric rig to his grandson for a joyride?

    Seriously, this is a utopian response to a world that is anything but. For a place like Sendero, actual golf carts (unlicensed, not legal on roads) make sense — on dedicated paths. The NEV is designed for short-range travel on public streets. That would include Antonio, Ortega and Cow Camp. Just imagine someone trying to drive one the NEV to the high school! Or up to Pavilions in Ladera Ranch. The elevation changes are bad enough, but the speed differential and relative weight of these things make them dangerous.

    The NEV is no match for a trash truck. There is no protection for the NEV rider except seat belts.

  • Don Juan Ortega

    I’m not as worried about the NEVs, Jim, and I think they will prove useful in and around Sendero. A number of Ladera families have NEVs, and with the exception of an occasional teenage joyride, there haven’t been any major problems. You never see them on Antonio because they are illegal there. NEVs aren’t allowed on any public street with a posted speed limit above 35 mph. See here: My understanding is that the NEVs will have a dedicated path under Antonio by which they will be able to access the shopping center at the corner of Ortega and Antonio.

    That being said, I’d love to see the Ranch Plan trails open to cyclists and equestrians. We’ve actually suggested that the Rancho Mission Viejo trail system be opened to horses before. San Juan has a robust equestrian infrastructure, Caspers is a horse-friendly park and the history of Rancho Mission Viejo is linked to the vaqueros and their horses. It makes good sense, and would help establish South County as one of the preeminent equestrian areas in California.

    And finally, I’m not sure I’d put my money on the equestrian community in a political battle against the retirees living in Sendero. Ask the new Orange County International Airport what happens when you cross political swords with the Leisure World crowd.

  • Jim Reardon

    Part of the Purchase-Sale Agreement connected with San Juan’s acquisition of the Riding Park explicitly requires the city to financially assist in extension of the San Juan trails all the way through to Caspers Wilderness Park. In the minds of those who supported the purchase of that property, I am certain that there is an expectation that those trails be open to horses.

    Horses, bicycles, runners and now NEVs. In addition to seniors and equestrians, we can add the hyper-political bicycle crowd to the mix, and the Sierra Club. A virtual honeypot for the progressive-minded. While they’re busy arguing over the creation of utopia, maybe we can fix the freeways.

  • Don Juan Ortega

    “While they’re busy arguing over the creation of utopia, maybe we can fix the freeways.”