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Posts Tagged ‘Wheego’

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Photo: Todd Woody

In my Green State column for Grist on Thursday, I write about Wheego, an Atlanta startup that will soon begin selling an electric microcar called the Whip.

I took the Whip for a spin around San Francisco with Wheego chief executive Mike McQuary riding shotgun but what really grabbed my attention was the fact that the chassis and body are made in China. While U.S. automakers take halting steps toward weaning themselves from the internal combustion engine, the Chinese are positioning themselves to make the great leap forward into the electric age. As I write on Grist:

A traffic jam is developing on the electric highway.

A decade after General Motors killed the electric car, big automakers and startups are revving up to put battery-powered vehicles on the road over the next couple of years. One of the latest entrants is Wheego, an Atlanta company that is about to launch the Whip—a tiny low-speed “neighborhood electric vehicle” that will be upgraded in 2010 to a full-speed, highway-ready car.

Wheego chief executive Mike McQuary brought a Whip to San Francisco last week, and I took the car for a spin around the city. (More on that in a bit.)

You see quite a few neighborhood electrics across the Bay in Berkeley where I live. Their top speed is around 25 miles per hour and many look like glorified golf carts or cast-offs from an East Bloc auto factory, circa 1984. And at the risk of stereotyping, most seem to be driven by the proverbial little old leftist lady in tennis shoes who glides down the hill for the weekly nuclear disarmament rally outside the Cal campus (circa 1984).

The Wheego Whip, on the other hand, looks like a “real” car (PDF brochure). Somewhat similar in appearance to the Smart fortwo or Think City EV, it’s a two-seater microcar sporting all the mod cons—power windows, Bluetooth stereo, iPod/iPhone jack, air conditioning.

Like Coda Automotive’s forthcoming electric sedan, the Whip’s body and chassis are Chinese made—another sign that China is emerging as a player in the nascent electric car industry—while the battery comes from Canada and the motor from Wisconsin (U-S-A! U-S-A!). The Whip will be assembled in California in the Los Angeles exurb of Ontario. Other electric startups are following a similar business plan, making the old Detroit automotive model increasingly look as viable as a Hummer.

You can read the rest of the column here.

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