Zippy new electric car looks like a three wheeled shoehorn

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Tallmadge, Ohio (AFP) Oct 18, 2007

Tired of waiting for big auto to come up with a truly clean car, Dana Myers has developed a tiny solution to the carbon crisis.

Tucked into a corner of his family’s factory, behind an industrial crane and giant transformers, sits a fleet of what look like three-wheeled technicolor shoehorns.

Unlike the hybrids currently on offer, his No More Gas runs entirely on electricity. And its engine is powerful enough to zip down the highway.

There is one rather large catch. It has a maximum battery range of just 30 miles (50 kilometres) and room for just the driver and some groceries in the trunk.

Which could be why he’s only sold 35 of them.

Dozens of companies have tried, and failed, to switch consumers over to electric cars.

The most spectacular failure was GM’s EV1, the subject of award-winning documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?

Failures among smaller companies are also legendary, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research.

The sheer complexity is just overwhelming, Cole said, explaining that while safety regulations are a huge hurdle, the biggest problem is finding drivers willing to compromise on comfort and convenience just to go green.

It’s really tough to do.

Myers, who ended a 15-year run as head of his family’s international transformer repair company to lead the new electric enterprise, is undeterred.

He knows his NmG will never replace the family sedan.

But plenty of Americans have secondary vehicles like motorcycles and sports cars. And quite a few of them care about the environment.

It’s a big enough niche to make a go of it, he told AFP, as opposed to waiting for some advanced technology that may never come.

Myers had been dreaming for years of building electric cars, which he sees as the wave of the future.

He finally got his chance three years ago, when he bought up the inventory of the defunct Corbin Motors and their problematic all-electric model, the Sparrow.

It’s a very striking vehicle, Myers said, which adds to its appeal. If I’m going to spend all this money and going to be green, I want somebody to know about it.

Many customers plaster their NmGs with their company logos, and use them as mobile advertising.

It’s a conversation starter. It’s a smile generator. When you drive it down the street, people stop, said Richard Rettammel, who owns a Batteries Plus franchise in Huntersville, North Carolina.

Mitsubishi Electric Cars

If I had a brand new Ferrari I don’t think I’d get that much attention, Rettammel said in a telephone interview.

The 55-year-old battery salesman said he lives only two miles from his shop, and that the tiny electric machine fits his daily driving habits perfectly.

Apart from the attention, the NmG packs a lot of punch in its tiny frame and is a joy to drive.

Unlike the sluggish golf-cart type electric cars developed by big automakers and other hobby electric enthusiasts, the handmade No More Gas cars can zip along the highway at 75 miles per hour and offers the comforts of a sedan: a closed cockpit, CD player with iPod hook-up and ample trunk space.

The base NmG retails for about 28,000 dollars (20,000 euros) and plugs into a standard wall outlet. The company is testing an extended-range battery upgrade that would allow drivers to go as far as 100 miles between plug-ins.

But price or power haven’t deterred early buyers of the NmGs.

Paul Havasi, an electrical engineer for NASA, has driven his for almost a year, and said he had always wanted an electric car.

I could power my vehicle using the sun or wind or water, said Havasi, 46, who lives less than four miles from his office near Cleveland, Ohio.

It’s perfect for me.

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