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– By Andrew Weaver
Next time you are driving to work, check out the cars around you. I’ll bet you’ll find that the overwhelming majority are single-occupant, gas-powered vehicles weighing more than 1000-1500 kilograms. In fact, you and your automobile probably fall into this category as well. Imagine all the energy that is wasted in transporting all that extra weight. And wasted energy is wasted money!
Very few of us travel more than 100 kilometres a day in our car, yet many of us drive large vehicles as single occupants to and from work five days a week. For example, the commute from the new housing developments along Happy Valley Road to downtown Victoria is about 40 kilometres return. The commute from Tsawwassen to downtown Vancouver is around 70 kilometres return. So a fully electric single occupancy vehicle with 130 kilometre range on a single charge can certainly target a niche market. And that’s what Vancouver-based ElectraMeccanica is planning to do.
ElectraMeccanica has partnered up with InterMeccanica, a family-owned New Westminster-based high-end automobile manufacturer that has been custom building cars for their niche market since 1959. InterMeccanica knows how to make cars. Their precision and attention to detail is legendary; their rich history of innovation was recently the subject of a feature story in the Canadian edition of Hagerty. Now owned and operated by Henry Reisner, the oldest son of the founder Frank Reisner, InterMeccanica continues to produce custom order Porsche 356 Roadster and Speedster replicas.
The partnership with ElectraMeccanica is a new venture for InterMeccanica and their imminent move back to their old location in the new Meccanica building in southeast False Creek represents an exciting step forward. The move was made possible through the vision of Scott Cressey of Cressey Development Group and Jerry Kroll CEO of ElectraMeccanica. The new Meccanica building is a unique mixed use light industrial / residential development.
ElectraMeccanica, the brainchild of entrepreneur automobile expert Jerry Kroll, recently bought up the rights for the Sparrow, a car designed and showcased by Mike Corbin at the 1996 San Francisco auto show. Corbin Motors went on to produce several hundred Sparrows before becoming a victim of sour economic times in 2003. In 2004, Ohio-based Myers Motors stepped in to give the Sparrow a second chance. Unfortunately, despite rebranding it the Myers Motors NmG (No more Gas), improving its battery performance and redesigning the exterior, the Sparrow once more fell the way of troubling economic times. But this time should be different.
Kroll and Resiner have brought their collective talents together to introduce their new, second generation Electra Meccanica EMV-17. Professionally designed, and with a range of 130 km on a single charge, the lightweight carbon fibre composite EMV-17 is capable of reaching a top speed of 140 km/hr and cruising at 110 km/hr. But here’s what makes the EMV-17 so attractive. It will retail for less than $20,000 Canadian.
This past spring I had the opportunity to test-drive one of the original Sparrows (see image above). It was incredibly zippy and easy to handle, and I confess that more than a few heads turned as I drove by. Last Friday I was in Vancouver to tour the InterMeccanica facility and their new southeast False Creek location. There were a number of Porsche 356 Roadster and Speedster replicas in various stages of construction in the facility. In addition, two of the first refurbished Sparrows were being constructed.
ElectraMeccanica have already sold their first ten 2015 pre-production Sparrow’s. They plan to roll out 120 EMV-17 cars in 2016, a further 1,200 in 2017 and an additional 1,800 in 2018. All of these EMV-17s will be constructed in the Metro Vancouver region.
While the single occupancy electric vehicle may have struggled in the past, it seems pretty clear to me that times have changed. Obviously the price of gas has increased. But more importantly, there is a much greater awareness of the effects that increasing greenhouse gases are having on our climate. 2014 was a record warm year globally; 2015 is on track to break the record set just last year. In BC we have suffered from an extended drought and wildfires burned out of control this past summer. And things will only get worse.
In the average British Columbia household, the automobile is the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. It therefore represents the single greatest opportunity to reduce these emissions. Vancouver, bounded by the U.S. border to the south, mountains to the north and east, and water to the west, is one of the most ideal markets for the widespread introduction of electric vehicles. Victoria surrounded by water on three sides and the Malahat to the north, represents another. We typically don’t drive great distances daily in Vancouver and Victoria.
So it’s incredibly exciting to see homegrown innovation start to take off in this new, emerging sector of our economy – the clean tech sector. Who knows, pretty soon the 100% electric vehicle won’t be the head-turner. Instead, it will be the inefficient, 8-cyclinder gas guzzler of yesteryear.