At first glance, the Wheego Whip isn't that exciting. It's made in China, it only goes up to 25 mph or 35 mph (depending on state laws) and it gets 40 miles on a single charge. But according to Jeff Boyd, the President of Wheego Electric Cars, the Whip takes a world-class vehicle platform and combines it with a top-of-the-line electrical components to create a quality neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV). Perhaps most importantly, Wheego is taking technology from the NEV Whip—available later this year—to produce a highway-ready Whip in 2010.
Boyd believes that most EV and NEV makers in the past have geared their products toward early adopters. Wheego, however, is taking the mistakes of others to build its first EV. "We've learned from the obstacles that others have faced," Boyd said. "So we've learned that most LSVs have been built on golf cart chassis', and we know that's a limited platform in terms of utility and durability. " Instead of starting with a golf cart chassis, the low-speed Whip is built like a highway-ready car, with a chassis based on the the Noble platform from Shuanghuan Automotive.
With such strict speed limitations, the 2009 Whip probably won't be anyone's primary mode of transportation. But unlike many other NEVs (hint hint, Peapod), the Whip meets U.S. safety standards. "It won't appeal to everyone," Boyd concedes. "We don't need to sell a lot of cars to have a viable business." In an ideal situation, Wheego will sell between 500 and 1,000 Whips in its first year. So far, 100 customers have reserved the 2009 Whip online. The company is also in the process of establishing a national dealer network. By next year, Wheego will have over 70 dealers in the U.S.
"Our primary limitation isn't technology or the vehicle platform. It's the availability of lithium ion battery technology. But as demand grows from vehicle manufacturers, production capabilities will increase probably 100-fold over the next two or three years," Boyd said. Eventually, that means that li-ion battery prices will drop dramatically—a boon for EV manufacturers like Wheego.
At $18,995, the 2009 Whip isn't cheap for a NEV. But Wheego hopes to sell its highway-ready Whip somewhere in the low $20,000 range (after a $7,500 tax credit). That will make it an reasonably-priced competitor to EVs like the Volt and the more expensive Tesla Model S. So while the NEV Whip might not make a huge splash in the auto world, the 2010 Whip could be a car to watch.
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