Dear Wheego Enthusiast:
Wheego is now a General Electric Wattstation distributor. The GE Wattstation is a
Level 2 EV Charging Station that can be installed in your garage on a 240V power
line and used to charge your Wheego LiFe.
Available in pedestal or wall mount styles, the GE Wattstation will charge the
Wheego LiFe from 50% full to 100% full in about five hours. Wheego also supports
the Clipper Creek, Ecotality and Aerovironment charging stations for Level 2
charging. Or – if you’re driving fewer than 20 or 30 miles a day - you can use the
120V charge cord that comes with your car, and plug into a standard outlet in your garage.
Selling Electrics, One Car at a Time
The following is excerpted from an article by Jim Motavalli that appeared on Mother Nature Network.
For the start-ups, selling unfamiliar electric cars to
Americans means a lot of guerrilla marketing. That's
why Coda and Tesla are opening stores in malls, and
Wheego is co-sponsoring contests and selling into
The Wall Street Journal headline earlier this week was pretty stark:
“Car Battery Start-Ups Fizzle.” The basic point is that battery plants built with federal
grants got ahead of the still-emerging electric vehicle market. In other words, there’s
a lot of battery capacity and, so far, few cars. It doesn’t look like President Obama is going to get his 1 million EVs by 2015.
The feds were overly optimistic about the electric timetable. It’s going to take a while
before there’s an electric in every driveway, though I definitely think that will happen.
Most of us don’t know much about the cars, and we’ve never heard of the many,
often-minuscule start-ups that are starting to put their vehicles on the road.
Both the start-up Coda and the more established Tesla Motors have opened stores
in malls, aimed not just at selling cars but also educating the public about what electric
cars are and how they work. Tesla has gotten more than 600,000 people through its
seven existing "new design" stores, and that's a lot of education going on.
This week, General Electric — a big supporter of EVs because of its WattStation EV
chargers (some of them solar powered) — opened a 6,000-square-foot Vehicle
Innovation Center designed to teach people about electrics, as well as natural gas,
hydrogen and propane cars. The primary target is fleets, and indeed they are likely
to be the EV's biggest customers in the early days. We probably need more of these,
all over the country. The first one is in Eden Prairie, Minn.
Ever heard of Wheego? Missed the Super Bowl commercial? That’s because they
didn’t have one. Atlanta-based Wheego is tiny, with less than 10 employees. It
builds both the Whip, a low-speed vehicle (LSV) that can cruise around gated
communities and serve meter maids, and the LiFe, a full-scale, highway-capable
electric car. The Smart-look-a-like car is sourced from China, with electric components
added in California.
So far, Wheego has sold “a few dozen” LiFes, says Susan Nicholson, a vice president
and spokesperson. For any other company, that would be fatal, but Wheego didn’t
gamble big on government funding, and it isn’t accruing unsold inventory.
Meet Asma Henry (left), the very first Wheego
LiFe owner. In the small world department, I
discovered she's also a good friend of my
brother, and an avid reader of my MNN
, which helped spark her interest in
electric cars and the Wheego. "I used to
drive a Volvo, and told my mechanic back
in 2010 that I wanted my next car to be
electric," she said. "He told me about a local
dealership in Atlanta that was selling the
Wheego. When I bought the car, we had a little ceremony because I was
the first buyer, and I said that I work as a tuberculosis researcher and clean air is important."
Henry says the LiFe "has been very good, but a bit rattly. You can't drive it really
long distances, but I took it to the airport a few times and it was fine. My husband
and I just really believe in electric cars. We just wish there were more charging
stations in Fort Collins, Colorado, where we've recently moved. The car is on a
transporter on its way out here."
As CEO Mike McQuary explained to me, Wheego is building cars as it gets orders.
And it’s engaging in some interesting guerrilla marketing. “People are realizing that
there are a lot of creative ways to use the Wheego LiFe — both as a specialty-use
vehicle, and a marketing attention getter,” he told me from China, where he’s
drumming up new business. Right now, car sales are on hold until Wheego can get
a federal waiver exempting it from needing electronic stability control. But the cars are trickling out.
The Oklahoma City police department has taken delivery of four Whip LSVs for use
in parking enforcement
. They don’t have to hit the highway, and with 40-mph on the
top end, they’re not going to be chasing speeders. The air-conditioned LSVs replace
open-air electrics. “They’ve got some weather in Oklahoma,” Nicholson told me.
Wheego is on Oklahoma’s radar because of a now-rescinded state law there allowed
a 50 percent income tax credit on electrics. People there were buying LSVs for an
incredible $3,000, and several hundred have been sold.
The Whip is indeed great for giving out parking tickets and meter reading, and now
Wheego is marketing them that way. There’s more. A highway-ready Wheego
is being offered as a prize in a contest
offered by the GTE Federal Credit Union.
The lucky winner will be announced in October.
There are a few catches. You have to be 18 and
live in Florida. And you have to take out a GTE
home loan. Details, details.
The contest was the brainchild of energetic
Florida-based dealership Suncoast Electric Vehicles
which sells everything from golf carts to Vantage
battery trucks and vans. Richard Nimphie, who
owns Suncoast, told me, "EV buyers today are a
relatively small niche, and the cost of entry into
the market is relatively high. Still, a fairly significant
amount of people in surveys we've done have shown interest in eventually
buying an electric car. So what we've been doing is taking the car where those people are."
And how. Suncoast has shown up at Saturday morning farmers markets, at kids'
events at the University of South Florida, at screenings of "Revenge of the Electric
Car," at the downtown Tampa clean air fair, and the AAA green vehicles initiative.
It even has a mutually satisfying alliance with the Salvador Dali Museum, which wrapped a Wheego LiFe in Dali images.
"We can't compete with the General Motors of
this world for Super Bowl ads," Nimphie said, "but
we can answer questions and explain how EVs
work. There are a lot of misconceptions out there,
including range anxiety. We get people to look
at how much they actually drive each day, and
usually it's 15 to 25 miles— well within an EV's range."
Wheego now has 22 dealers, not all of them as energetic as Suncoast, and a half
dozen more pending once it starts selling cars again. Suncoast is the most successful
Wheego dealer, and has orders for a dozen LiFes to be delivered soon.
This isn’t the way General Motors or Ford sell cars. It isn’t going to get us to a million
EVs by 2015, but it’s a start. And, as the Journal points out, the starting gate is where we are.
Tax Incentives for EVs
The Wheego LiFe qualifies for a $7500 Federal tax credit. LiFe buyers, when you’re
doing your taxes, you can subtract that amount from what you owe the IRS. Your
state may offer benefits, too – like deductions from your state tax liability or being
able to drive in the HOV lane solo. Check out our web page
for a list of benefits.
Wheego welcomes two new employees to the team!
Ken Wambold joins us as National Sales Manager. Ken has been in the auto industry
since 1976, when he worked in a Buick dealership. In 1995, Ken was one of the
original members involved in the start up and roll out of AutoNation USA, which is
now the world’s largest retailer of automobiles and trucks. In recent years Ken has
been a consultant for auto dealers, helping them grow their business in a tough
economy. Gabriel Miranda joins us from Georgia Tech, where he recently completed
his Master’s degree in EE. Gabriel worked as an intern at Tesla Motors last summer,
and will join the Wheego Product Development team to work on our next model, a 5-seater.
Ken Wambold Gabriel Miranda
Have a Happy 4th of July!
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As always, we thank you for your support. Please email your questions
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The Wheego Team