Dear Wheego Enthusiast:
Final assembly has begun on the first Wheego LiFe’s in Ontario, California!
We expect to ship to reservation holders starting in early November. We
plan to be the first to market – Automotive News just printed an article this
week about our quest to provide the first 100 Electric Cars to
And Auto Evolution followed with an article of interest:
We’ll keep you posted!
Q: The delivery date seems to have slipped. What’s the hold up?
McQ: It’s a combination of two things. We are awaiting the final approvals
from the EPA and DOT on all of the tests that are required, which we expect
should be done in a matter of days. Also our punch list on the first three
production cars that we have built is bit longer (27 little items) than we
expected. There are no major issues, but we want the car to be as
perfect as possible for our first owner-drivers, and we know that the
Wheego LiFe is going to get very intense early scrutiny from the press.
We want everyone to be as thrilled about the car as we are. It is the old
adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression.
OSU Fan’s Wheego
Last month we invited you to tell us about your mileage – Gene Benson
reports he has driven his car 2917 miles, including many trips to
Oklahoma State University football and basketball games:
What’s the Buzz?
Jim Ellis Wheego in Atlanta has loaned a Wheego Whip LSV to Georgia
Tech’s athletic department. The car is used on campus by the athletic
department staff during the week and is on display for Yellow Jacket fans
to preview before the home football games. Go Jackets!
More news from Georgia – Georgia Public Radio ran a story about Wheego
(“Electric Car Ready for the Road”) that has been picked up by NPR. You
can listen here:
The Environmental Magazine
The following is excerpted from Jim Motavalli’s article in The Environmental
Magazine. The full article can be read at emagazine.com.
The Electric Car Revolution Is Coming—But Not Fast Enough
By Jim Motavalli
The narrow and sometimes cobbled streets of Brooklyn made a good
testing ground for the electric version of the Smart car. It wasn’t long
ago that auto engineers were so nervous about their temperamental
electric vehicles (EVs) that they went along for the ride, but now they
mostly just toss you the keys.
The conventional Smart car has been on the market since 2008, and
it’s won raves for the way it looks and the fact that it takes up only
half a parking space. Not everyone loves the performance from the
one-liter, three-cylinder engine, however. That’s why the battery
Smart made quite a contrast: It’s quiet where the gas car is noisy,
and accelerates smoothly where the latter was balky. And most
importantly, it doesn’t have a tailpipe.
Of course, there are trade-offs: The battery Smart, on the road in the U.S.
in a pilot program of 250 cars—but headed for mass production in 2012—has
a range of just 83 miles. And then there’s the plug-in thing: A charge from
20% to 80% capacity, which some people will experience in real-world
conditions, takes 3.5 hours, and a full 100% charge from zero is less than
eight hours. Derek Kaufman, Smart USA’s vice president of business
development, says, “It was natural for us to move to electric drive. Some
people assume that because of the car’s looks it was already electric. We
intend to come in with low volume, and grow from there.”
Batterycars will be complemented by so-called plug-in hybrids, which are
like today’s Prius on steroids—they add a much bigger battery pack and
the ability to go up to 50 miles on batteries alone. The packs charge from
the wall, and if you have a fairly short commute you may never need to
use the onboard gas engine. Plug-in hybrids will be here by 2012.
There are very few battery or plug-in hybrid cars on the road right now—
Tesla Motors has sold around 1,300 of its sexy and very fast $109,000
Roadsters, but that’s about it. But the hybrid storm is coming. By early
2011 there will be a flood of new models on the market, including the
Chevrolet Volt (a unique hybrid whose gas engine acts as a generator
for powerful electric motors), the Fisker Karma (a similar high-performance
hybrid), the Coda (a small battery sedan), the Nissan Leaf (perhaps the
first global EV on the market), the Wheego Whip LiFe (another small
electric, with a Chinese chassis but an American soul), the electric Ford
Focus and the Think City (a plug-in import from Norway, but with Ford roots).
The EV revolution is global. The Japanese, assisted by co-ownership of
Asian battery makers, are true leaders in the market. Toyota is fielding a
small electric car with 100-mile range, and also a hydrogen-powered
fuel-cell car by 2015. Honda is committed to electrifying most of its fleet
with batteries and hybrid drivetrains. Nissan, in addition to bringing out
the Leaf battery car at the end of the year, is pioneering EV charging by
signing up cities around the world as partners. The company is creating
the infrastructure for its cars to succeed in the marketplace. And China is
emerging as an EV contender.
Not all these cars will be great, and not all will be successes, but they’re
sure to change the way we drive. The electrification of the automobile is
underway, and there’s no stopping it now. When Nissan broke ground on
its new 1.2-million-square-foot battery plant in Tennessee, chairman
Carlos Ghosn proclaimed, “Our vision is to lead by marketing affordable
electric vehicles on a global scale. We have a big-picture view of our
Turning the Corner
The auto industry is at the most important turning point in its more than
100-year history. The internal-combustion engine might be with us for
another 30 years, but 2010 marks the start of its inevitable decline. If the
industry reverses course—as it appears certain to do—then each year will
see further inroads from electric vehicles, and charging your car will seem
as natural as stopping for gas does now.
The last time we had choices to make was 1900, when an equal number
of electric, gasoline and steam cars were on the road and no clear
technology winner was apparent. In 1907, inventor Charles Franklin
Kettering—the head of research for General Motors—invented the
self-starter for gas-powered cars, eliminating the dangerous crank,
and the die was cast. By 1911, EV sales were down to 6,000 annually,
just 1% of the market.
In the years since, electric drive has mostly been in hibernation. In the
late ’60s and again in the wake of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, some
brave souls tried to jump-start electric revolutions, but two factors—weak
technology and the return of cheap oil—defeated them. The EVs of that
period had nearly the same lead-acid batteries as the cars on the road
in 1913, and that wasn’t good enough. And without good, competitive
cars, the network of charging stations needed to support the EVs, and
serve as an alternative to the nation’s 160,000 gas stations, would
never be built.
For decades, effective EVs were stalled by a simple conundrum: Without
charging stations, there was no market for electric cars; and without
cars on the market, nobody was going to build that network of stations.
Now, as start-up companies vie to set up those networks—aided by
high-tech “smart grid” connectivity—a new industry is underway.
“The new DNA of the automobile is electric,” says Larry Burns, for years
General Motors’ fuel-cell and electric car guru, and now a Columbia
University professor. “And when the EV marries up with the mobility
Internet, we will really have a way to transform the road. Among other
things, we’ll see vehicles that don’t crash, that drive themselves.”
The Sluggish Revolution
Many Americans are salivating at the prospect of switching to 100%
zero-emission transportation. A March survey from Accenture shows that
65% of those queried would buy a hybrid or electric car for their next
vehicle. But the revolution is not in a hurry. Few automakers are planning
to blanket the U.S. with battery cars before 2012 at the earliest.
Carmakers have moved beyond tiny pilot programs, but are still only
offering limited availability in the first few years.
The Electrification Coalition, which counts Nissan and FedEx as members,
believes that by 2040, 75% of the miles traveled by so-called “light-duty”
vehicles (cars, SUVs and small trucks) could be electric. Other projections
are more pessimistic. The Boston Consulting Group, for instance, sees only
“limited” penetration by 2020 unless there is “a major breakthrough in
The pessimists have a point. People, at least in the short term, are
unlikely to pay extra for cars with limited range and an unfamiliar refueling
procedure. That’s why governments, with one eye on the Gulf oil spill and
another on global warming, have to get together and a) buy a lot of EVs
themselves, and b) ramp up subsidies to consumers. The Obama
administration has provided billions in funding for battery and EV factories,
but hasn’t yet introduced any direct subsidies to match those offered by
California ($5,000) and China (up to $8,800).
“The government has to help,” says Charles Gassenheimer, CEO of
Indiana-based battery supplier Ener1 (and chairperson of the Think
board). “The Japanese government has invested $100 billion over the
last 20 years to build not just batteries but also the supply chain.
That’s why they’re the leader. It’s absolutely crucial that we start putting
money into this now.”
Several books—including Bill McKibben’s Eaarth (Macmillan), Hans
Tammemagi’s Air (Oxford University Press) and James Hansen’s Storms
of my Grandchildren (Bloomsbury USA)—make the case that we’re
already on a global warming precipice, looking down at an abyss of huge
planetary change. All three authors conclude that we have to stop burning
fossil fuels. That means no more coal for power plants and no more gas in
the fuel tanks. And we need to do it now if we’re going to avoid the very
worst effects of climate change. We’re well past the point where we can
forestall it completely. McKibben thinks we’re already well on our way
to creating “a tough new planet,” which is why he spells it “Eaarth.”
The last UN Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen in December
2009, known as COP 15, was anticipated with much fanfare but ended in
dismal failure. And nobody expects much progress to come out of the
succeeding get-together in Mexico City this November. The utility
smokestacks are still pumping, the lights are still on and the shiny new
cars are driving onto the lots. By 2020, world oil demand could go from
85 million barrels a day to an incredible 100 million. The Chinese, who
once rode mostly bicycles, could have 500 million cars on the road by
2030, the Department of Energy predicts. Clearly, this center can’t hold.
It’s heartening that there are so many green cars in the pipeline. But the
pace remains maddeningly slow—far slower than we need to stop global
warming in its tracks (if that were even possible). Frankly, there are no
solutions on the horizon that get us out of fossil fuels without making
some lifestyle changes. And EVs are part of that change—we won’t be able
to take 300-mile range for granted anymore.
The great thing about EVs is that they (and the batteries they depend on)
will continuously improve, and so will the electricity grid. Naysayers like
to argue that EVs will simply transfer the pollution “from the tailpipe to
the smokestack.” Not so. The truth is that even today, charging an EV
from a 100% coal-fired grid is up to 30% cleaner in terms of global
warming emissions than running an average gasoline car. But the grid
is almost never 100% coal, even in the Midwest, and new rules will
continually reduce the emissions from that stack, says the Electric
Power Research Institute (EPRI). If plants are fired by natural gas
(and an increasingly large number are) then the result is 40-50%
better. A nuclear grid is 90-95% better. And if the electricity is from
wind or solar, it’s 100% better. “We really project the grid to get less
carbon-intense over time,” says Mark Duvall, director of electric
transportation at EPRI.
EVs may be a long time coming, and the first one you own may not be
everything you want it to be. But these battery vehicles are the
inevitable next step in our more than 100 years of cohabiting with
JIM MOTAVALLI,E’s senior writer, is the author of Forward Drive:
The Race to Build Clean Cars for the Future and the forthcoming
High Voltage (also about green cars).
Wheego Participates in Carbon Day at BU
Hundreds of people turned out for Carbon Day at Boston University to
learn more about alternative-fuel cars, reducing their carbon footprint
and green living. Wheego dealer E-CARS of New England showcased a
Wheego Whip. Read more about the successful event on BU’s website.
Jackie Morando from E-CARS of New England
If you live in the Seattle area, you may have been surprised last month
to find a Wheego Whip on display at the Whole Foods Market. With
Whole Foods’ commitment to healthy living, Wheego was a natural fit:
With progressive state tax credits ($4,500 for a Wheego LiFe!),
additional incentives (free parking, solo HOV driving) and a desire to
keep Hawaii green, Hawaii has welcomed the Wheego Whip and
eagerly awaits the LiFe. At a recent green event, Miss Hawaii,
Jalee Fuselier, checked out the Wheego:
Become a Wheego fan on facebook – stay in touch!
As always, we thank you for your support. Please email your questions
and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Wheego Team