One Small Electric Car and Its Big Fight for Buyers Fast Company …

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One Small Electric Car and Its Big Fight for

In the race to build the first electric car, one company is an unusual approach: they’re not it as a race at all. We don’t to be the first, or the biggest. We just to be the best, says Mike CEO of Wheego electric vehicles .

The startup will begin its first electric vehicle, a functional buggy called the this August in a handful of around the country. It’ll around $19,000, minus a $7,500 tax credit just by the IRS. Despite its price, the is up against a bevy of capable fellow startups like Coda and Zap, to say nothing of the big Nissan, GM, Toyota and Honda.

has been here before; as the of MindSpring, the early Internet provider, he faced — and — crushing opposition ISPs like ATT, IBM and It was back in his MindSpring days McQuary first came electric cars, though he he doesn’t have any particular for vehicles. His cofounder at MindSpring, Brewer, had one of the early electric that Toyota was test-leasing to around the country.

Then California’s new emissions were repealed, and Toyota back Brewer’s car. It be years before electric crossed McQuary’s mind (Below, the RAV4 EV, pilot in the 1990s.)

In 2000, MindSpring with Earthlink; three later, McQuary left his as CEO to found a private equity bank with a college They shopped around for buying a TV station and taking from entrepreneurs. Then a guy along who wanted to start a that would build golf carts, McQuary

We all sort of shuddered, but I went and about the industry.

This is the point in the story is supposed to birth a breakthrough instead, it was a dead end. The cart market, McQuary is a wonderfully managed oligopoly, three major companies 95% of the market. I knew there an opportunity in the golf cart he says, but I kept veering research on using modified golf carts on the open Memories of Brewer’s RAV4 to mind. I remembered that cars had a start out of the gate, and people were emotional and about them, he says.

I first started up MindSpring, I saw kind of emotional expression. I that consumer voice, and I I know how to reach and appeal to passionate base of early

The lightbulb flickered until he saw the Who Killed the Electric Car. The the political climate, and what calls the macroawareness over on foreign oil all convinced him that now was the to garner what he had learned and something. I knew I could a great electric car, and consumers would buy it.

The result of his inspiration was RTEV, an vehicle company that got its making electric recreational and vehicles. The original plan, he was to begin a streetcar division under the same umbrella Then we realized about a ago that the recreational division had little technology overlap the street division, and the dealer is all powersports guys — have any overlap with car he says.


As of late May, was spun off to become its own entity, McQuary at its helm.

The pair of that are the product of his vision one low-speed vehicle or LSV certified for a 25MPH, and one full-speed vehicle of highway speeds — are attractive and well-priced. The Whip, the is a two-door Smart-car doppelganger holds two people and goes 40 or 50 miles on a charge. It gets its from a normal three-prong plug, mated to a normal household outlet, but it can also be up to a 220V outlet for faster

A full charge takes six to hours.

The Whip is the product of an deal with Chinese car ShuangHuan automotive, which (and largely failed) to a small, mid-priced gasoline car in markets last year, to find that the burgeoning middle class wanted cars. When they approached by McQuary and his team, had a body and chassis ready to and no one to sell it to. We asked them to about 85 modifications, McQuary of the ShuangHuan car.

The first shells of the Whip will be from China to Ontario, CA by the week in July; there, be outfitted with sealed, lead acid batteries, and motors. After just two of surgeries, they’ll go out to dealers, of which are traditional car vendors for a new product to liven up sales, of which are specialized EV-only car The first production run will be 500 and 1,000 cars. (Below, the next to fellow EV the Tesla

The full-speed car, which is by a more advanced (and lithium ion phosphate battery, go on sale in 2010. Wheego provide a trade-in program for who bought a Whip, and later to upgrade to the yet-unnamed full vehicle. We have the best car in the world that we’re McQuary says, touting in the car’s fit and finish, city-chic powerful stereo and the optional

I want those early customers to be Wheego drivers, he Whether or not there are enough of MindSpring early adopters to over Wheego and its competitors to be seen, but McQuary believes a toe-hold in the industry is all Wheego to build its momentum. If I can sell or ten thousand cars, we’re off and and profitable, he says.

And all environmental aside, it is profitability, of course, will decide which EVs and die.

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