Driv­ing Change

A Van­cou­ver au­tomaker says elec­tric cars are the only way to go

BC Business Magazine - - Celebrating 45 Years - —F.S.

An elec­tric car is to a fos­sil-fuel car what the In­ter­net is to a fax ma­chine, says Jerry Kroll, CEO of Van­cou­ver's Elec­tra Mec­ca­nica Ve­hi­cles Corp., which de­buted its Solo one-per­son elec­tric ve­hi­cle in Septem­ber. “It's less ex­pen­sive, faster, cleaner, more fun,” Kroll ex­plains. “The only dif­fer­ence be­tween a fax ma­chine and a fos­sil-fuel com­bus­tion ve­hi­cle is fax pa­per wasn't killing the planet.”

Elec­tra Mec­ca­nica is an off­shoot of In­ter­mec­ca­nica In­ter­na­tional Inc., founded in Italy in 1959 by Frank Reis­ner, whose son, Henry, is now pres­i­dent. Re­lo­cat­ing to Cal­i­for­nia in the 1970s and to Van­cou­ver in 1982, In­ter­mec­ca­nica has cus­tom-built 2,500 replica Porsche 356–style road­sters like the one Kelly Mcgil­lis drove in the film Top Gun. In March, the com­pany un­veiled an elec­tric ver­sion of the road­ster, which will be masspro­duced and more af­ford­able than the $80,000 to $115,000 for hand­built gaso­line mod­els.

“Our plan is to erad­i­cate fos­sil fu­els and do it cost­ef­fec­tively,” says Kroll, a New West­min­ster na­tive who pre­vi­ously founded Kleen­speed Tech­nolo­gies in 2007 to de­velop elec­tric race cars at the NASA Re­search

Park in Cal­i­for­nia. The three-wheel Solo costs $19,888 and qual­i­fies for pro­vin­cial re­bates of up to $11,000. Recharg­ing the lithium ion bat­tery is free at many pub­lic charg­ing sta­tions. It takes three (us­ing 220 volts) to six hours (120 volts), but as with cell­phones, most users will top up the bat­tery be­fore it's drained. And un­like fill­ing a gas tank, notes Kroll, “prac­ti­cally, it takes half a sec­ond be­cause you plug it in and you walk away—you're not stand­ing there.”

The Solo is de­signed for com­muters. In 2011, 74 per cent of Cana­dian com­muters used a pri­vate ve­hi­cle, and 83 per cent of them drove alone, ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada. With a range of 160 kilo­me­tres, the Solo ac­cel­er­ates from 0 to 100 km/h in eight sec­onds and reaches a top speed of 130 km/h. Thanks to its alu­minum-com­pos­ite body and light weight (450 kilo­grams), it would bounce away from an­other car in­stead of be­ing crushed in an ac­ci­dent, re­sult­ing in a sur­viv­able in­ci­dent, ac­cord­ing to Kroll. As for what it's like to drive, “this thing re­ally has pickup, and it's quiet and it's smooth,” he says.

“This is Van­cou­ver Cana­dian tech­nol­ogy that is be­ing built here in New West­min­ster, and we've ex­ported the tech­nol­ogy to be built in China for the Chi­nese mar­ket, in In­dia for the In­dian mar­ket and go­ing over to Europe for the Euro­pean mar­ket,” Kroll em­pha­sizes. “Let me re­peat: we are ex­port­ing Cana­dian cars.” The fam­ily- owned com­pany has taken or­ders for 500 So­los.

Kroll, the Green Party can­di­date for Van­cou­ver– Mount Pleas­ant, would like to have a self-driv­ing Solo on the road within two to five years. “This is as ex­cit­ing a time for cars as the mid-'70s were for the per­sonal com­puter,” he says. “There's so many won­der­ful things com­ing, and we're go­ing to be at the fore­front of it.”

ONE FOR THE ROAD Jerry Kroll shows off Elec­tra Mec­ca­nica's sin­gle-seat com­muter car

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.