By Sarah Terry-Cobo
Published September 10, 2009
It won’t go zero to 60, but it will go for 40 miles on a single charge. The Wheego Whip zoomed around the City by the Bay on September 2, with a test drive tackling San Francisco’s steep hills and narrow dead-end streets. The all-electric low-speed vehicle is headed to dealerships on Friday, September 4th, and retails for just less than $19,000. With federal and state incentives, this all-electric car could be a great benefit for companies looking to green their fleets.
The Whip will cost approximately $0.03 per mile to operate and estimates the lithium lead battery pack will last about seven years, according to CEO Mike McQuary. The full-speed version of the Wheego is currently undergoing crash tests, and the company hopes the highway-safe vehicle will be ready soon. While he did not have a lifetime total cost of ownership figure, McQuary said there are few maintenance costs with no oil to change and very little transmission fluid and brake fluid used.
For a small business such as the solar panel installer A1 Sun, based in Berkeley, Calif., using an all-electric low speed vehicle is a great way to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. CEO Larry Giustino purchased a Zenn car two years ago from Berkeley’s only all electric vehicle dealer because it was the only “real car” that was available.
The Zenn’s maximum speed is only 25 miles per hour, but Guistino noted that there are times when an extra 10 mph –- or having a highway-capable vehicle — would be beneficial to his business.
At the University of California, Berkeley, the fleet system is decentralized, so each department is in charge of deciding which vehicle to purchase — which can make purchasing electric cars challenging, said Eric Robinson, the fleet administrator, in a telephone interview.
Robinson said he has the power to approve or deny requests from departments, but said he “promote[s] low speed or all-electric vehicles as heavily as we can,” especially for departments that drive less than 3,000 miles per year.
Greening the university’s fleet is just one way the campus is working to reduce its carbon footprint.
The Berkeley campus currently has 24 electric vehicles, including three Zenn cars, several GEM cars and two Toyota Rav-4s that were spared from destruction. While some departments may only use their vehicles in town, Robinson noted that a highway-capable electric vehicle could help persuade purchasers who are on the fence. “If they have the perception there is a limitation they are hesitant [to purchase an all-electric vehicle],” he said.
If purchased in the remaining months of 2009, owners can get a $7,500 tax credit for the low-speed vehicles and beginning in 2010, there is a 10 percent federal tax credit for the first 200,000 units of the Whip. Not to mention the state incentives: in California, zero emission vehicles can drive in the HOV lane with a single passenger, and in Oklahoma, there is a 50% state tax credit, in addition to the federal incentive.
While the Wheego may not be suited for Oklahoma’s sprawling metro area (around 600 square miles), it could be perfect for many different fleet applications, said Ryan Deatherage, president of Amp Control, Inc. The Piedmont, Okla.-based company sells electric and remote-controlled mowers, in addition to the Wheego.
Deatherage noted that courier services, flower delivery services, and security services could benefit from having an all-electric vehicle in their fleet. Amp Control has already sold three of the five Wheegos it has been allocated, he said.
Wheego’s McQuary said 100 of these low-speed Whips are on their way to dealerships, but if a large company wanted to purchase 100 for their fleet, it would take approximately six weeks to assemble them in their plant in Ontario, Calif.