California Roadster Test Drive

 

 


California Roadster Test Drive

By Noel Adams

 

On December 9, 2006 I attended The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Expo in Santa Monica, California where I got the opportunity to take a short test drive in a California Roadster. 

 

The California Roadster is a tiny car that is sold as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle or as a golf cart.  The car is really quite small when you sit in it the windshield barely comes up to your waist, even on a small guy like myself.

 

The car comes with lap seatbelts only as there is nowhere to anchor three point belts.  The NEV that I drove seats four  with two in front and two more can sit in rear jump seat.  California Roadster also makes a six seat version that is stretched to add a second row of seat behind the drivers seat.  I found the seating quite comfortable and the although the front seat isn't adjustable I had no problem reaching the pedals.

 

With my wife Aggie safely strapped in beside me I turned the key to the on position, turned on the indicator, and found myself going nowhere.  Malcolm Gochinco from American Custom Golfcars Inc. showed me the forward reverse selector which sits below the drivers seat between your legs.  I reached down, turned the key to the right to put it into reverse, and with a press on the accelerator I eased out of the parking space trying not to hit anyone.

 

The car is quite silent at low speed so you have to be careful in crowds since people just don't hear you coming.

 

I reached down again, moved the switch to the leftmost position and hit the accelerator again.  The car moved of smoothly for a couple of laps of the parking lot.  At the top end of the parking lot we hit quite a bit of wind blowing directly into our faces.  My wife, who hates windy conditions, wasn't very impressed with the lack of protection from a windshield.  For me, being used to riding motorbikes, it wasn't a concern.

 

Once I got around the top of the car park, the crowds thinned out and I was able to pick up speed.  The car accelerated nicely and I got the car up close to its top speed of 25 mph.  Coming up to the bottom end of the parking lot I braked and although the car slowed down OK I found that I had to put a lot of pressure on the pedal to get the car to shed speed.

 

On the second Lap I came up behind one of the Honda Civic GX CNG vehicles that was stopped to pick up a driver.  Once again I didn't have any problems with braking but got the impression that the brakes on this car are barely adequate for an on road vehicle in heavy city traffic.

 

I didn't get to drive this car enough to evaluate its range but I had seen it driven almost constantly, albeit at a slow speed often not much faster than walking, for the two hours that I was at the show, and it showed no signs of being anywhere near needing a recharge.

 

What I liked about the California Roadster

 

Comfortable seating

Smooth ride

Funky retro look

 

What I didnít like about the ION

 

The brakes which I found barely adequate

My wife didn't appreciate the lack of an adequate windshield.

 

Conclusion

 

The California Roadster is fun to drive.  The ride was smoother than almost any other NEV that I have driven, including the GEM.  This car would make a great vehicle for those companies that rent electric carts to get around vacation destinations like Santa Barbara or Key West.  I noticed that the California Roadster was a particular favorite for pre-school children. In warm climates the open to design can be quite fun for those used to riding motorcycles but I would like to see better brakes.