CHINESE MOPED NOT ON LIST
LONG BRANCH — Jack Grazi figured it was a no-brainer.
With gasoline prices in the stratosphere and the whole country talking about alternative energy sources, Grazi figured the electric moped's moment had come. So far, he's figured wrong.
The moped, a Jinglong Moto, is a Chinese import. Runs like a champ, Grazi said. Trouble is, there aren't a whole lot of places he can run it. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, it seems, has no room for the Moto.
Grazi got the idea for his moped on a trip to China last year.
Moped might be a bit misleading of a term, since it's not pedal powered at all. It's more like the old motor scooters, only electric, Grazi said.
"I try to be open to new ideas," the 80-year-old Elberon man said. "In China, everybody was using these mopeds, and that's what they call them. It just seemed like such a good idea. I figured why not use one at home? It just made sense."
But Grazi soon learned that what he thought made sense wasn't consistent with government policy.
The first cracks in Grazi's idea began to show last year when he arrived at the state Motor Vehicle Commission office in Long Branch.
"Nobody knew how to create a license for an electric moped," he said. "They shifted me from place to place like I was a little boy, and no one knew what to do. They finally said call Trenton."
Then Grazi said he got an answer from someone in the East State Street headquarters of the state's Motor Vehicle Commission: We can't license electric mopeds.
Cathleen Lewis, a spokeswoman for MVC, said that answer was probably correct at the time but no longer is.
Mopeds had a precise definition at the beginning of 2007. Pared of its legal wording, it came down to this: They had to be pedal-operated with a gas-operated helper motor that had a maximum piston displacement of 50 cc, Lewis said. The Moto just didn't measure up to the law. It also fell short of the original motorcycle definition.
Electrics are now allowed, Lewis said, but that doesn't mean Grazi's home free.
The state has a list of approved motorcycle manufacturers, the category these mopeds or motor scooters now fall under. Jinglong Moto isn't among those listed, a check of the MVC list shows.
Insurance was another headache.
Grazi said he wanted to insure his electric vehicle, but his insurance agent said he couldn't do it.
The agent, Eric Antolick of Eatontown, has been handling Grazi's auto insurance needs for years, he said.
"But the underwriters told me if it isn't allowed to be registered for use on public roadways, it can't be insured in New Jersey," Antolick said.
It's nothing against electric motor scooters, Antolick said, noting he wrote a policy for one about three weeks ago. That one met state standards, he added.
It's still possible for the Moto to get legal recognition here in New Jersey, officials said.
But that would require the Chinese manufacturer to comply with a lengthy list of documentation to ensure the vehicle meets the state's safety specifications, according to the MVC paperwork. Those requests can only be submitted by the manufacturer, distributor or dealer, the state says.
Grazi figures he'll just follow the advice a police officer acquaintance gave him.
"He said just drive it places where you can use a bicycle and stay on bike paths," Grazi said. "So I'm enjoying it, but I'm not getting to go too far with it."
For longer trips, Grazi said he'll continue to use one of the family's cars.
"It's a shame," he said. "This could have been a real energy saver and a money saver too."