Despite the recent trade talks in Oshawa, Ontario, don’t count Canada out of the car-business-of-the-future yet. If Jerry Kroll and Henry Reisner, the founders and chief officers of Electra Meccanica Vehicles Corporation [EMVC] headquartered here in Vancouver, BC realize their vision, we may soon be fully ‘back in the game’.
For the nearly 90 percent of North American commuters driving alone in their cars – a statistic that generates a 115 million ‘unit’ segment of the car market – EMVC has developed the appropriately named ‘Solo’. Variously described as a “quirky reimagination of an automobile,” “odd,” “an unlikely contestant,” and “far off the beaten path.”
What is Solo?
Solo is a single-seat, three-wheeled electric vehicle with heated seats, Bluetooth stereo, and a rear-view camera. Powered by a 17.3 kWh lithium ion battery, and compatible with universal charging stations everywhere, it charges in three hours, has a 100-mile range, and a top speed of over 82 mph. It’s peppy – zero to 60 miles per hour in eight seconds, and surprisingly capacious, advertising, between its front and back trunks, that it can hold the contents of a loaded Costco shopping cart.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Solo vehicle is its price tag: US $15,500, CAD$19,888 which, in part, explains its promising uptake with 5,000 vehicles on order for delivery to Los Angeles by December 2019, and 70,000 more across the West Coast over the next two-year period. So, while Electra Meccanica’s current market value is $142 million, its pre-order tally is said to be $2.4 billion.
Mr. Kroll, whose background includes working on electric drive systems for NASA in California, and befriending the co-founders of Tesla, Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard, has been quoted as saying “[Our] company is producing the car that Elon Musk wishes he were building … It is great to produce a $45,000, a $100,000 car or a $250,000 car. But for the masses? A $15,000 car that can get them to stop using gas. That’s creative.” Mr. Kroll likens Solo’s potential effect on transport to what smartphones have done for computing – smaller, better, and absolutely indispensable.
Solo Car in Practice
Solo’s first customers, deli-owners Leona Green, 64, and her son Matthew, 41, have been driving an initial model for two years in Vancouver. They say they park it on their front sidewalk for catering runs, and have ordered a second because they keep fighting over it. Indeed, if you happen to see one zipping around town – Solo owns the verb ‘zipping’ – you cannot help but think it looks fun to drive. DHL Worldwide Express and 7-Eleven are testing the Solo for deliveries. Hilton Worldwide Holdings’ DoubleTree in Victoria has Solos for guests to try out. BC car-share companies are an obvious target market; 25 Solos can fit in every 10 parking spots. There are doubters, of course, but Mr. Kroll is reportedly undaunted, quoted as saying “Electra Meccanica is fully funded and expects to be profitable by year end. … A listing on the Nasdaq was what made Tesla a big company. If you could imagine being involved with Tesla before they delivered their first 5,000 vehicles, that’s where we’re at right now.”
Road Rules by Cedric Hughes