In the race to find cheaper personal transportation for city dwellers, more niche firms are building vehicles for short range commutes or errands, and a Canadian firm is stepping up to the challenge.
Similar to the recent Elio, and the Aptera before that, the Solo is a 3-wheel vehicle that’s meant to get its driver to and from the office, or around town fetching life staples, at urban city speed limits on a single electric charge.
Like its predecessors, it will likely be classified as a motorcycle in order to get official road-going status. Unlike its predecessors, it’s a single seater, whereas the others had room for a passenger behind the driver (which at least made them a little more accommodating to stay-at-home parents picking up a child at school).
Solo is the brainchild of Electra Meccanica Vehicles. If that names sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is meant to reflect one of its principals Intermeccanica — the New Westminster, BC builder of Porsche 356 replicas, and recently Kubelwagens (the VW Thing). The other founder is Jerry Kroll, whose company CRAiLAR Technologies (a Vancouver-based cleantech company that deals in textiles and composites made from bast fibres, such as hemp and flax).
So combining the two specialties, you have the mechanical and bodypanel knowledge that sows the seeds for a motor vehicle.
Solo has the look of a sub-compact that has been cut off behind the front seat. It is billed by the company as “the smartest commuter car on the planet,” and is available for pre-order right now, with a $250 deposit. The total cost is $19,888 (which will of course come down — by an estimated $5,000 — with government rebates). Deliveries are expected to start in 2017.
It’s 3048 mm long, riding on a 2045-mm wheelbase. It sits 1209 mm wide at the front wheels, but the cockpit is only slightly bigger than the width of a typical car seat, with the driver sitting low to the pavement. Cabin height is just over four feet (at 1283 mm). And it weighs in at just 450 kg, thanks to lightweight construction such as an Aerospace composite structure and carbon-fibre body panels.
It gets its power from a 61 kW AC Synchronous motor (82 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque), that will take the vehicle to 100 km/h in a reported eight seconds, and has a reported range of 160 km. The motor is located behind the seat to directly drive the rear wheel. Above it sits 285 litres of cargo space (about 10 cubic feet).
Energy is stored in a 16.1 kWh battery which recharges fully in six hours, from a standard home electrical outlet (3 hours through one of those dryer or stove connections). Its top speed is limited to 220 km/h, though as mentioned above, it is expected to settle into an average of 50-80 km/h.
Compared to a Smart Fortwo (or more specifically, the Smart Electric Drive, it’s longer, narrower and sits lower on the road. Its motor is more powerful than the Smart’s (61 kW vs. 55) and its battery is smaller (the Smart uses a 17.6 kW battery), which means it takes less time to fully charge (the Smart’s takes 4-8 hours, depending on the plug). The Solo is also quicker to 100 km/h (the Smart takes over 11 seconds) and it has a higher top speed (Smart’s is limited to 125 km/h).
Among the creature comforts in the car are remote keyless entry, power windows, Bluetooth connectivity (include music streaming) and a rearview camera, among others. Air-conditioning is optional. And it's all backed by a 2-year unlimited warranty.