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New West business building new electric car

Greens and Beans Deli getting a little greener with electric vehicle

A “world car” is being made right here in the Royal City.

ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp is currently building prototypes for its new single-user electric vehicle at its New Westminster plant. The Sparrow, as the prototype has been named, has two front wheels, one rear wheel and can reach a maximum speed of 140 kilometres per hour.

“It’s a Single User Vehicle – SUV,” Jerry Kroll, CEO of ElectraMeccanica, says with a laugh.

Kroll, an experienced race car driver, has joined forces with Henry Reisner, whose family’s business, InterMeccanica has been building custom vehicles and automobile parts since 1959, to produce the Sparrow.

“It is the most fun, enjoyable feeling you can get on the road,” Kroll said about the Sparrow. “After a day, you feel like you are wearing Robert Downey’s Ironman suit. It’s around him, it’s just him. It is the coolest feeling in the world.”

Long before the electric car concept and the partnership with Kroll, InterMeccanica was building custom cars at its New Westminster production facility.

Kroll said there is currently one Sparrow prototype on the road, with three more to be done this year. In November, the company will unveil its new production car, the Solo, which is based on the Sparrow prototype.

“There will be about 120 of them made next year,” he said. “The first 16 are already sold, so we are just starting to take some orders right now.”

Solo will retail for less than $20,000.

“The attraction is that it is a lot lighter weight, a lot less money,” Kroll said. “As a one-person vehicle you can commute back and forth from wherever you are going because you are in the HOV lane because you are 100 per cent full. Think about it: how much higher than 100 per cent can you get?”

Kroll believes the Solo is the perfect vehicle for folks who need to commute. He says 83 per cent of people commute on their own in a four-person car.

“It’s bonkers,” he said. “It’s the right size for the right job.”

Leona Green and son Matt, owner of Greens and Beans Deli in Sapperton, will be among the first owners of the ElectraMeccanica Solo. The Greens can’t wait to get a bit greener when their new vehicle arrives in early 2016.

“We saw it driving around Sapperton. We figured out where it was from and gave them a call and had them bring it over. Matt test drove it and he actually fit,” Leona said. “It just fits him like a glove. When you are sitting in it on a nice day, you can have both arms out the window.”

Matt, a former New Westminster Senior Salmonbellie and professional lacrosse player with the Calgary Roughnecks in the National Lacrosse League, will use the car to commute from his home in Langley to the deli in New West.

“Matthew drives a coffee truck from Langley to here every day and then home at the end of the day, which is expensive. We thought we needed something for him to commute back and forth,” Leona said. “It only costs one cent a mile to drive that car so it’s pretty economical. Plus, you can drive in the HOV lane.”

Leona hasn’t had a chance to test drive it, but Matt took it for a spin.

“He liked the way it drove; we wouldn’t be buying it if he didn’t. He took a really long test drive - the guy was getting nervous, he was gone so long,” she laughed. “He was having fun. It’s very eye-catching. When you drive by, everybody looks at it.”

The Greens will also be placing their deli’s name on the exterior of the Solo and parking it in front of the East Columbia Street eatery.

“In front of the restaurant, there is a spot to park it so it will attract attention to passersby so it will be good for business,” Leona said. “The day it was being test drove I took some party trays outside to see how many I could fit in the little compartment behind the seat. I can deliver small orders in it.”

While the vehicle can be charged at a regular electrical outlet, Leona hopes to get a charging station as it will get the job done quicker.  The Solo will be able to travel up to 140 kilometres when its battery is fully charged.

“It’s just crossed 9,000 kilometres today, of flawless testing,” Kroll told the Record Sept. 18. “There are three more of these type of vehicles hitting the road in the next 60 days. On Nov. 20, we should have our first Solo production vehicle on the road.”

For now, the company will continue manufacturing vehicles at its facilities in New Westminster and Vancouver, but goal is to establish a 200,000 square foot assembly plant in the future.

“The plan is to take the company public in 2017. We plan on building 120 in 2016 and then in 2017, upwards of 1,200. That would be an IPO – initial public offering as a public company. We are getting investors. The government is very interested in supporting us,” Kroll said. “It’s a fantastic use of Canadian technology with worldwide export potential. Because the vehicle is one person, you don’t have to move the steering wheel to the other side of the car to sell it in England, Japan or Australia. It’s truly a world car as it is.

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