New electric car company targets low speed vehicles

What’s up with Riverside, California of late? The big university there is just a hotbed of green technology development.

Now comes word that an owner of a string of successful car dealerships in that city is kicking off a new electric car company which he hopes will bloom into national network of EV dealerships.

Ramon Alvarez, as reported by the Press-Enterprise, is the founder of Alvarez Electric Motors. He has partnered with Liuzhou Wuling Special Purpose Vehicle Manufacturing in China to import and sell three low speed electric vehicles targeted at different uses. These vehicles include a commuter car, van and small truck.

All three vehicles will be limited in speed to 25 MPH. Range options on them tend to top out at around 40 miles, and charging times are between 8 to 10 hours depending upon what type of voltage you are plugged into. 

Costs are pretty reasonable for these types of all-electric rides: around $10,000 for the Eco-E commuter car, around $18,000 for the cargo EcoVan and around $17,000 for the short haul EcoTruck. All are likely eligible for federal, state and local tax credits, reducing these costs even more.

The commuter car will be of most interest to readers here. With a cargo capacity of 440 pounds or so, the two-seater vehicle is driven by an 3.1 KW electric motor powered by a 48 volt battery. Being that it is a low speed vehicle you won’t be driving this on the highways, but for short commutes or running errands around town it will likely do the trick.

Another nice thing is the projected costs to operate. Alvarez Electric Motors estimates [PDF] these vehicles will cost one 3 to 5 cents per mile to operate, or about $5 per month in electricity charges.

This electric car company, as part of its expansion plans, is looking to franchise EcoCentres, which are essentially showrooms where potential buyers can come in and check out the electric vehicles before buying one. One interesting strategy of how to build out these franchises is a plan to work with owners of existing auto dealerships around the nation to bring an EcoCentre into their mix of offerings.

How well a national network of low speed, neighborhood electric vehicle dealerships will take off remains to be seen. For the time being, one EcoCentre is said to be opening in August in Irvine, California, with letters of intent reportedly filed by dealers in other cities in the Golden State.

Looking beyond the three vehicle choices currently being offered, Alvarez Electric Motors is also talking about introducing all-electric motorbikes and ATVs in early 2013.

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling