Because of the slowdown in the construction of the Aptera and the closure of Bright Automotive, one niche electric vehicle seems to take up the vacuum created in the market. This is the Wheego, the smallest car and company in the EV market in Europe. The car and company is a model for other start-ups in the automotive industry.
The Wheego is based out of Atlanta GA and uses the chassis of the LiFe, a two passenger vehicle imported from China. The drive train and battery array though is installed in California. Like the Coda, the Wheego has recently hit the California electric vehicle market.
This vehicle uses a thirty-kilowatt hour lithium ion battery array plugged into a sixty horsepower electric motor. The top speed is at 65 mph and is priced at the average of $32,995, with option for air conditioning.
The company that builds the Wheego is headed by Mike McQuary, who dabbled in music and the Internet before focusing his efforts on the Wheego and the electric car market. Under his stewardship, a total of thirty-six cars have been rolled out, with thirty-four of them already sold.
McQuary said, “Our dealers, totaling twenty seven from Tokyo to Arundel, Maine, are clamoring for cars. Three quarters of our dealers have never had a car, but they’re being very patient with our strategy.”
That strategy involves building cars when it gets the funds, either through venture capitalist means or selling out its inventory. Currently though, the market for these kinds of models are very limited, the company is planning to build a crossover vehicle from three Chinese car builders.
The company is also playing it smart in this economy and sluggish market. This company has exactly 7.5 employees and has stopped going after the cash pot being offered by the Department of Energy for Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing. Their initial proposal was initially rebuffed by the Department, saying that it needs to be geared more for job development.
For Wheego, they said, “Our ambition was never to create a full-on assembly plan for building electric cars, but it really doesn’t create a lot of jobs. So the DOE came back to us and asked us if we wanted to rewrite the plan to make it more aggressive in terms of job creation. But we opted instead to keep our integrity – we didn’t want to be disingenuous on our application. And, frankly, we’ve always had just enough funding to get to the next state. Not getting the loan has made us a tougher company and very smart at how we deploy capital.”
He added, “I see us as a company that creeps out instead of leaping out. Companies like Tesla and Fisker, which got the loans, have been better able to raise follow-up capital. But at this point, I’m hoping all the companies succeed, because a rising tide will lift up all our boats. I’m rooting for Coda to get its car on the road and I’m rooting for Tesla’s Model S, too.”