The Phoenix, Arizona metro area seems like it’s starting to become an EV production and maintenance hot spot. With Lucid Motors setting up a factory in nearby Casa Grande (a 20-30 minute drive away) and Gruber Motors rebuilding/refurbishing Tesla vehicles in Phoenix proper, ElectraMeccanica’s SOLO production facilities will be in good company.
“I want to thank Governor Ducey, his team, the state of Arizona and everyone who’s been involved in this process for helping to bring ElectraMeccanica’s U.S. operations to life,” said Company CEO Paul Rivera. “This decision is monumental for our business and will be transformative for our host city and state. When fully operational, we anticipate creating hundreds of new jobs for the local economy. We believe Mesa’s population size and density provides a great talent pool as we look forward to contributing to the growing high-tech environment.”
The company has been looking for the right city to build its headquarters and production facilities for about a year. To do this, it hired BDO, a company that specializes in helping companies select places to build. The company worked with officials to see what kind of incentives they could get to set up shop, and Arizona offered a good mix of flexibility and workforce availability.
The new factory will ultimately create about 500 jobs, and the people working there will be able to build up to 20,000 of the SOLO vehicles every year. In addition to a light vehicle production facility, it will also be building multiple labs to support comprehensive research facilities and vehicle chassis, battery pack, and power electronics testing workshops. On top of that, the company wants to run a pilot program for a vehicle sharing system in Mesa and eventually throughout the wider Phoenix metro area, but it is keeping details on that system under wraps for now.
“Arizona is thrilled to be selected as the home of ElectraMeccanica’s first U.S.-based assembly facility and engineering technical center,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “Arizona has fast become the electric vehicle center of America thanks to our robust and growing workforce, vibrant innovation ecosystem, and ideal business environment. My thanks to ElectraMeccanica, the Arizona Commerce Authority, the City of Mesa and all involved in bringing this exciting project to Arizona.”
The SOLO is going to be a 3-wheeled EV built for urban environments. It’s only built for one occupant, and can go up to 100 miles. Top speed is 80 MPH, so it’s highway capable. Features include front and rear crumple zones, side impact protection, roll bar, torque-limiting control, as well as power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, and a Bluetooth entertainment system. The vehicle will sell for $18,500, so it’s going to be pretty affordable.
The 3-Wheeled EV Scene Has Been Challenging
While the idea of an efficient 3-wheeled vehicle is exciting from an environmental perspective, it hasn’t been easy for new companies to get their footing. Aptera is a great example of this, as the company failed almost a decade ago before coming back to life in the last two years. Elio Motors is another example of a company that stumbled in this space. Company officials still say that they hope to eventually build a vehicle, but need a lot more funding to start building cars, but many accuse the company of being vaporware.
The trouble with 3-wheeled vehicles goes back decades further, with one notable example being the Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation’s Dale. In the throes of high gas prices, Americans were desperate for more efficient vehicles, and Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael took advantage of this. She worked with Dale Clift to build a few prototypes for a lightweight 3-wheeled vehicle that could achieve 80 MPG using a motorcycle engine.
On the run for past crimes, including counterfeiting, Geraldine was also struggling to live as a transgender woman in a time when the US public was outright hostile to the LGBT community (but she did have the support of her wife and children). After getting investor money, building three prototypes, and then getting more investor money, she disappeared for years, hiding in Dale, Texas and assuming another name. In a high-profile case, she was extradited to California and sentenced to 18 months in a men’s prison.
With all of this history around 3-wheeled vehicles, many are skeptical of them, and the skepticism is probably not that fair.
Another thing that probably makes this challenging is just how different 3-wheeled vehicles look and function. I’m not going to lie — the first time I saw a photo of the SOLO, my first thought was that it was ugly. Most people want a more traditional vehicle with at least 4 or 5 seats because they’d be able to use it for more things than they could use a 1-2 seater vehicle for. Even if someone almost always drives alone, they want to get the most bang for their buck, and be able to use it on occasion to pick up a TV from the electronics store or to take some friends out on a double-date.
The Sunny Side Of This
On the other hand, the SOLO is a very environmentally friendly vehicle. It only goes 100 miles, but it does that on only about 16 kWh of battery. That’s 6.25 miles per kWh, or 160 Wh per mile. No matter how you measure the efficiency, that’s pretty amazing. Word among publications is that it only takes a few hours to charge it on Level 1, so many people will find it a convenient commuting option.
Aptera’s latest designs have also been a great example of how efficient 3-wheeled EVs can be. Instead of trying to narrow the vehicle horizontally, Aptera narrowed the vehicle vertically and came up with an airplane-like design. Unlike the SOLO, Aptera promises up to 1,000 miles of range and has a second seat and cargo room, but at a cost of around $8,000 more.
At the same time, vehicles like the Polaris Slingshot have proven that 3-wheeled vehicles aren’t all vaporware. While not an EV, that vehicle has changed perceptions quite a bit and led to legal changes in most states that help potential buyers.
Either way, it seems like were are finally seeing some success for 3-wheeled vehicles. It’s about time!
Featured image provided by ElectraMeccanica.
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