The electric cars are parked in the courtyard here at University of California at Davis. From the Jaguar-wannabe
Tesla EBS Viper to the covered motorcycle from Myers Motors, they catch your eye. And green tech transport is one of the themes of this AlwaysOn first conference on GoingGreen.
I got a chance to talk with Ian Clifford, CEO of ZENN. And then Dana Myers of Myers Motors and his business development guy, Ron Huch.
First, the ZENN. A low-speed vehicle designed for urban commuting and travel. Clifford said he drove one around Berkeley all day and never felt constrained by the top speed of 25 MPH. The car sells for $15K or less and there are a couple hundred on the streets already. ZENN has 35 retailers in twenty states.
Clifford says the crucial issue in the future of electric vehicles is storage. The motor design and power delivery systems he feels are mature. The question of the future: what battery? We expect to hear more about the coming tech of energy storage at this conference. Two whisper words I picked up from Clifford: lithium, and barium. Barium is abundant, lithium harder to find. We shall see.
Myers Motors makes a much smaller, but pricier, vehicle. It's a three-wheeler, two in front. It currently sells for about $27K. In the U.S. this vehicle counts as a motorcycle. The cover is often vibrantly colored, a fiberglass sandwich with foam layered between the inner and outer fiberglass. Ron Huch called it "a rolling crash helmet."
So though it's a one-person vehicle, Myers points out that most American households have two vehicles. He clearly thinks one should be a Myers. You get the lower insurance rates of a motorcycle. You need smaller and cheaper parking. Some cities like Sacramento give FREE parking to all electric vehicle. One urban owner claims he now saves $180/month just on parking fees. This baby really moves, travelling as fast as 75 MPH. So Myers sees their prodeuct as ideal for the lone commuter.
Both ZENN and Myers sell only in the U.S. Carp all you want about American bureacracy. Here these two vehicles are legal and can compete. Niether one could be sold legally in Canada where government regs are far more complex and limiting for new electric vehicles.
Huch suggested one of the crucial developments is yet to come in electric transport: the wheel motor. This would eliminate traditional braking systems and their resulting particulate pollution, heavy use of grease, drive trains and innumerable moving parts that break, need lubrication and add weight to traditional cars and trucks.
The pictures at the top are from the Myers Motors website.