The Electrameccanica Sparrow is among the new contenders vying in the electric car market. This single-user vehicle with three wheels and odd shape is made in B.C. has gotten notice on Vancouver roads.
ElectraMeccanica chief executive Jerry Kroll is confident that an oddly-shaped, three-wheeled electric vehicle will please Canada drivers and drum up big profits.
“This is the Volkswagen Beetle for the 21st century,” Jerry Kroll told driving.ca’s Andrew McCredie. “After 30 minutes of driving it, you feel like you are wearing Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman suit. You’re wearing the car. It’s the way driving should be.”
Kroll is an entrepreneur who grew up racing and building cars. For the past five years, he’s developed electric drive systems for race cars for NASA in Mountain View, Calf.. Now, he has his sights set on making a electric commuter vehicle to ease woes with parking and gas prices.
According to Kroll, the vehicle is approved for highway use and has a maximum speed of 130 km/h (80 m/h). He said it can travel up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) on a single charge. An empty lithium ion battery charges in four hours.
Major car manufacturers such as Tesla and BMW have invested money into electric cars. Is there room for the B.C. company?
Kroll said it’s all about finding a niche, claiming that if ElectraMeccanica can sell vehicles to just one-tenth of one per cent of the Canadian target market, that would work out to 14,000 car sales a year.
“That leaves 99.9 per cent of the market for anybody else,” he told the Vancouver Sun.
Automobile reporter McCredie accepted Kroll’s offer and took the Sparrow for a 30-minute spin through Vancouver traffic.
“Motorcyclists know the feeling of lots of room to roam in a single lane,” McCredie wrote. “The Sparrow captures that essence but with none of the wind and engine noise of a gas-powered bike.
McCredie said the Sparrow had a similar feel to driving a small car and its low center of gravity and three wheels offer a “confident handling feel, and the quick acceleration gives you the confidence to play in Vancouver’s infamous dodgy traffic.”
The Sparrow is priced at $19,888 and expects it will soon qualify for the B.C. government’s $5,000 Clean Energy Vehicle grant, which would bring the buyer’s cost down to $14,888.
Canadian Sparrow builds upon a U.S. prototype
The Sparrow was first built by Corbin Industries way back in 1999. Kroll worked with Mike Corbin back then to bring the car to Canada, but then bought the rights and assets of Myers Motors, which took over Sparrow production in 2004.
Mike Corbin is famous for stitching motorcycle seats and selling custom parts, which got him inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. He directed his creative energy to building a three-wheeled vehicle that went on display at the San Francisco auto show in 1996.
Corbin feared he’d be mocked, but the opposite happened. “We took a million dollars worth of orders,” Corbin told Wired. Corbin Motors was a tiny shop, not a factory and had no way to fulfill customer demand.
“We bit off more apple than we could chew,” Corbin said in an interview with Wired. “We were under-capitalized from day one. Our single biggest problem was everybody loved the car, but then we didn’t give to them.”
Corbin Motors produced 289 cars before an economic downturn bankrupted the company in 2003.
Myers Motors bought remnants of the company, which were bought by ElectraMeccanica to resurrect the Sparrow to get it to fly again.