Dear Wheego Enthusiast:
Spring has sprung here in Atlanta! We’ll be at Georgia Tech
on April 20th
to celebrate Earth Day. Check your local
Electric Auto Association
to see what they have planned!
Can The Tiny Wheego
Win The Electric Car Race?
The following is excerpted from an article by Jim Motavalli, which appeared on the
Forbes.com website on March 14, 2012.
Following the demise of Aptera and Bright Automotive, it’s time to give a good
hard look at Wheego Electric Cars
. It’s Wheego, definitely the tiniest and least
well-capitalized of the three, that’s still ticking — and a big reason for that is its
Wheego, based in Atlanta, makes the two-passenger LiFe, a Smart-sized car
sourced from China, with electric drivetrain and batteries installed in California.
That’s the same basic formula as the much higher-profile Coda, the first of which
began rolling off the assembly line in Benicia, Calif., on Monday.
The LiFe, which I’ve driven in California and Atlanta
, isn’t going to blow anybody
away with performance or high-tech add-ons. Its 30-kilowatt-hour lithium battery
pack is coupled to a 60-horsepower electric motor. Top speed is 65 mph, and
you get there eventually. The air-conditioning is optional. It’s a commuter car,
priced at $32,995.
Wheego is on the market, though not in a big way:
The company has built precisely 36 cars
since the first one rolled out for Earth Day 2011
, and has
sold something like 34 of them, says Mike McQuary (left),
the ex-Internet entrepreneur and music business maven
who heads the company. “Our dealers
[I count 27, from Tokyo to Arundel, Maine
] are clamoring
for cars,” he told me. “Three quarters of our dealers
have never had a car, but they’re being very patient
with our strategy.” And that strategy has been to build cars
only when it gets the money — whether through venture
capital or selling out its inventory.
The market for two-seat cars is pretty limited, but Wheego is planning to add a
crossover vehicle chosen from among three contending Chinese manufacturers.
It won’t appear tomorrow — getting the new car through crash testing will
probably take two years.
I gotta say that Wheego is playing it smart, given that the market is moving slowly
The company has precisely 7.5 employees (including McQuary), up from five the
last time I asked. Both Aptera and Bright expended a lot of resources reaching
for the brass ring — Department of Energy Advanced Technology Vehicles
Manufacturing (ATVM) funding. The Department of Energy manages a pot of
$25 billion and has spent only $8 billion of it (Tesla and Fisker were both
recipients, with more than $500 million each).
It’s really tempting to go after that money, but in the wake of Solyndra and in
an election year, the DOE is playing it super-careful. It just turned down long-term
contender Carbon Motors (which wanted $310 million to build green police cars),
and has committed only $50 million in funding since its big commitment to Fisker
Wheego’s problem with the DOE was, again, thinking too small. “We initially
sought DOE funding, but the feedback was that we needed to be more oriented
towards job development,” McQuary said. “But our ambition was never to create
a full-on assembly plan that involved forging meta. We think we have a viable
business 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 stage. Not
getting the loan has made us a tougher company, and very smart at how we
Wheego is a tortoise, but the hares aren’t faring so well. “I see us as a company
that creeps out instead of leaping out,” McQuary said. And 36 cars is definitely
creeping out. Michael Brylawski, a vice president at the lamented Bright (which
made a really useful plug-in hybrid cargo van), told me that the ATVM process
distorted the market for private capital. If you didn’t get a DOE loan, he said,
the markets looked askance at your prospects.
McQuary agrees. “Companies like Tesla and Fisker, which got the loans, have
been better able to raise follow-up capital,” he said. “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.”
More flush times could be ahead for Wheego. McQuary told me he closed a deal
with a major investor last week. “When people learn who it is, it will really increase
market confidence in us,” he said. The company has prospects, and a more diverse
product line in the wings.
Wheego on DC’s Fox News
Wheego participated in the Edison Foundation’s “Powering the People” event on
March 22, 2012 in Washington, DC. Fox News covered the event
GTE Federal Credit Union
to Give Away a Wheego LiFe
Suncoast Electric Vehicles, Florida’s first all-electric car
and truck dealer, has partnered with GTE Federal Credit
Union to introduce even more drivers to the benefits of the
emissions-free zone. GTE will be giving away one Wheego LiFe, an all-electric,
highway-ready car capable of driving 100 miles on a single charge.
Through August 31, 2012, when
customers close on a GTE Federal
Credit Union home loan, they will
automatically be entered to win the
grand prize of a Wheego LiFe.
Four finalists will be selected from
all participants in September, and
one winner will ultimately drive home
their new electric Wheego LiFe at
GTE’s member appreciation
event, Memberfest, in October in
“Both GTE and Suncoast Electric
Vehicles share a commitment to
help consumers live environmentally
responsible lives, and adding a zero-
emission vehicle to the family fleet is certainly a major step in the right direction,”
says Suncoast Electric Vehicles owner Richard Nimphie. “A new car is traditionally
the second most important purchase after a new home, so we’re especially excited that
one GTE Federal Credit Union home buyer will get both!”
For more information on how win the Wheego LiFe and for complete contest rules,
please visit https://www.gtefcu.org/Promotions/ElectricCar.aspx
President Obama Launches EV-Everywhere Challenge as Part of Energy Department’s Clean Energy Grand Challenges
The following is excerpted from an article published
on www.energy.gov on March 12, 2012.
Mt. Holly, N.C. – At an event today at the Daimler Truck
factory in Mt. Holly, N.C., President Obama launched
EV-Everywhere, the second in a series of Energy
Department “Clean Energy Grand Challenges” aimed
at addressing the most pressing energy challenges
of our time. The EV Everywhere Challenge will bring together America’s best and brightest scientists, engineers, and businesses to work collaboratively to make electric vehicles more affordable and convenient to own and drive than today’s gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 10 years. Today’s announcement is part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach energy strategy to protect American consumers from high gas prices over the long-term by offering consumers cost-effective alternatives to gasoline-powered
vehicles and helping to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
The EV-Everywhere Challenge is the second of the Energy Department’s Grand
Challenges, following the model of the $1/watt SunShot Challenge, which
seeks to make solar power directly cost-competitive with electricity from fossil
fuels by the end of the decade. Over the next few months, the Department of
Energy will announce a series of additional Grand Challenges, each focused on
pursuing technical innovations and reductions in cost that will enable clean
energy technologies to compete directly, without subsidies, with the energy
technologies that are currently in wide use today.
The Caymans: Offshore Haven for Your Money & Your Electric Vehicle
By Jerry Garrett for Garrett On The Road
The Cayman Islands enjoy an abundance of sunshine. So, why not put that solar
abundance to work, to help solve one of the islands’ most pressing energy needs?
That’s the thought behind an evolving transportation initiative: Liberalizing laws
allowing electric cars on Cayman highways, and installing a public infrastructure
of solar-powered stations to re-charge them.
In December, the governor, Duncan Taylor, signed into law revisions in the
Cayman Islands Traffic Law, which included legalizing the use of all-electric
vehicles able to travel at highways speeds, that meet crash test standards
and contain proper safety equipment.
Previously, the law had considered EVs to be merely low-speed golf-cart sorts
of machines. Such vehicles already have widespread (and increasing) popularity
in many island and resort locations, but are usually limited to neighborhood,
beach or downtown use.
In late 2011, one of the island’s automobile dealerships, Cayman Automotive
began importing $32,995 Wheego LiFe EVs from the United States. Customers
liked them immediately. Since then, rental car companies began offering them
Wheego’s LiFe has a top speed of 65 m.p.h. and a range of about 100 miles
on a charge. That’s seen as a perfect range for the three islands comprising
the Caymans, which have a total area of 102 square miles; operating an EV
far enough to run it out of juice shouldn’t be much of an issue.
And what happens when the time finally comes to re-charge? The islands are
tackling that problem too, with a plan to install a network of 14 Level 2 publicly
accessible charging stations – powered by solar cells.
So that means the electric car and its infrastructure are intended to be totally
self-supporting – which is a good thing on islands that must ship in, at great
expense, all fuels used for transportation and utility power.
The first station, in Governors Square on Grand Cayman, was recently
inaugurated (above). Upgrades planned include a canopy of solar cells (which
themselves provide welcome shade during the re-charging process).
The solar cells are always “on”; when not being “milked” of energy for vehicle
re-charging, they feed surplus power back into the local power grid. (In the
event of insufficient sunlight – a rare occurrence in the Caymans – any excess
power needed by the re-charging station can be made up by juice sent from
the grid.) Some of the planned re-charging stations will feature Level 3 fast-charging
capability. Some of the charge stations will be free, while some will charge a fee.
When the 14 stations are in place, and EV use becomes easier and more
user-friendly, perhaps the Cayman Islands will become not only an ideal place
to park your money, but also your electric car.
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As always, we thank you for your support. Please email your questions
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The Wheego Team