This article was originally published by John Faulkner on Clean Fleet Report, a publication that gives its readers the information they need to move to cars and trucks with best fuel economy, including electric cars, fuel cells, plug-in hybrids, hybrids, and advanced diesel and gasoline engines.
Three-wheel electric vehicle for one
Perception is everything.
Solo is the vehicle’s name, and for good reason. It seats one person. Sound restrictive or limited? It all depends.
Coming to grips with a single-seat vehicle
This is the elevator pitch from ElectraMeccanica about owning a Solo EV.
“Every day, 119 million North Americans commute using personal vehicles— and 105 million of them commute alone. Step into the future of driving. Reduce your gas bill to zero. Eliminate your environmental impact. Turn your commute into the highlight of your day.”
Except for the last line, they are on to something here. Look around next time you are stuck in Traffic from Hell freeway jam, and you will inevitably see car after car with only the driver. How about those 8,000-to-10,000-pound SUVs and pickups carrying only one 150-pound person? Salient points. Then there is the no fuel expense and minimal maintenance, and this is looking even more appealing. So, where would a challenge lie for the Solo EV?
Perception 1: Size. When I showed several friends photos of the Solo, to a person, they said it is too small for them. When told it can hold a 6-foot, 200-pound person, they shrugged, then said it is too small to be safe.
Driving a solo EV
Until Clean Fleet Report has the Solo for several days, we can only report on our drive around a coned course in a parking lot. Acceleration and braking were the key points we were looking for, as good handling for a three-wheeler will never be a concern. The acceleration was peppy, but not fast, and the braking was solid, but not short. The motor is loud at slow speeds, which we suspect becomes unnoticeable at freeway speeds. What we have here is a capable freeway runner and an around-town bebopper that will go up-to 100 miles on a charge with a top speed of 80 mph.
The specs illustrate how simple and uncomplicated the Solo is compared to other vehicles.
- 53 horsepower liquid-cooled motor
- 94 foot-pounds of torque
- 17.3 kilowatt-hour NCA (lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxides) liquid-cooled battery
- 220V (level 2): 2.5 hours for up to 90% charge
- 110V (level 1): 8 hours for up to 60% charge
- Power disc brakes
- Electric power steering
- 1,710-pound curb weight
- 10’ 6” length
- 57.5” width–at the front wheels
- 53” height
This all-new, fully electric vehicle from ElectraMeccanica has two responsive front, 15-inch steer wheels shod with 135/70 tires, making the Solo easy to maneuver. Visibility was excellent and, as expected, all gauges and controls are within easy reach.
Solo EV features
Perception 2: Value. My friends assumed a vehicle this small was bare bones, equipped with few convenience features. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I nodded, then gave them this list, which drew their approval.
- Remote keyless entry
- Power windows
- Power mirrors
- LCD digital instrument cluster
- Four-way adjustable seat
- Rear view camera
- Carpeted rear storage compartment (trunk)
- Cargo space=Five cubic feet
- Heater, defogger and ventilation System
- Air conditioning
- LED headlamps
- Dual outside heated mirrors
- Intermittent wipers
- Electric parking brake
Solo EV models
The consumer model of the Solo EV is a single-seat vehicle with a small cargo compartment behind the driver. The line is being expanded to include two versions, offering versatility for commercial and fleet uses, both equipped with a larger cargo box with either rear or side access. Think delivery services for pizza, groceries and prescriptions. Maybe even the last mile for mail and packages. The delivery possibilities are compelling. There are even plans to develop a sports car variant and a two-seat version.
ElectraMeccanica, a Canadian company, has a Chinese strategic manufacturing and investor partner, the Zongshen Industrial Group. An American assembly plant is planned to be built in either Nashville or Phoenix. Online reservations are currently being taken, similar to the early Tesla model, with a $250 deposit. Dealerships are either open or being set up in mall locations in California, Oregon, and Arizona. These manned retail sites do not require a large real estate footprint and are in the flow of consumers.
Solo EV pricing, warranty, and safety
The Solo EV has a MSRP of $18,500, but being classified as a motorcycle works for and against it. The good is it can be driven in the HOV lane without a sticker. The sort of good, but could be better news, is the Solo, as a motorcycle, does not qualify for the federal $7,500 tax credit or California’s $2,000 EV rebate. But in California it is eligible for a $750 rebate that goes to electric motorcycles. So, it is important to check with your state to see what programs apply to the purchase of a Solo EV.
Safety features include a chassis made of Teklam (a lightweight aerospace material), front and rear crumple zones, side impact protection and a roll bar. The Solo has doors on both sides that aid in access for everyday use, and in the case of an emergency. Being classified as a motorcycle, the Solo won’t be crash-tested by the US Government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The Solo EV offers bumper-to-bumper warranties for two years, and five years on the battery.
Observations: 2021 ElectraMeccanica Solo EV
Paul Rivera, ElectraMeccanica’s CEO is an enthusiastic believer in the Solo EV, an enthusiasm which seems to run far deeper than just a paycheck for him. His passion for how this small, single-seat all-electric, three-wheeler will make a difference on society is infectious. The Solo EV Clean Fleet Report drove was designed for the American market, but for Rivera, that is only the beginning.
He said development is currently underway for a world Solo EV that will be targeted for countries where traffic congestion is bad, such as India, and cities where inner city vehicle use is restricted to electric vehicles. Rivera is looking to “the UK and Germany where they are further ahead on their electrified agenda, parking is at a premium, their sharing is more, and they have congestion taxes. In London, Paris, Gothenburg, and Stockholm, it makes a lot of sense.”
Other manufacturers have tried getting market share in America with small electric vehicles that cost twice as much as the Solo EV, but with little success. Both the Mercedes-Benz Smart, which has two seats, and the Fiat 500e, which can seat four, are no longer being sold on this side of the Atlantic. So, maybe the lower cost of ownership will be the difference maker for ElectraMeccanica, where they make the case for the Solo EV as an efficient, practical transportation alternative for an urban setting.
Another factor is pre-owned EVs that are less than three years old, are still on their original warranties, have seating for four and larger cargo areas. These are readily available for $15,000 to $17,000. Personal note: A family member recently purchased a 2019 Volkswagen E-Golf SE with 17,000 miles on it for $15,500. Considering one year ago this car sold for $33,500, you can see where pre-owned EV pricing will be a challenge to the Solo EV. We explored that market recently.
All of this certainly does not mean the Solo EV can’t find and fill a niche where the others could not. If Paul Riviera has anything to say about it, it will. Don’t bet against them.
SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.
Get the Shift newsletter
Get the most important mobility news in your inbox each week.Follow @shift_tnw