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Promising News from PHEV Startups: Fisker | Visionary Vehicles | Venture Vehicles
Sep 7, 2007 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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The news is coming fast and furious on addition to developments at major carmakers, a number of independent efforts aim to build "clean sheet" (from the ground-up) PHEVs. Although we focus on the majors, because small numbers of vehicles (conversions or "niche cars") won't by themselves have much impact on the climate crisis or energy independence, these efforts are important on multiple levels:

  • Major carmakers watch closely and are influenced by what happens throughout the industry.
  • Unless plans by the world's large automakers accelerate (which they might -- PHEV advocates are working on that) there's at least a two-to-three-year window of opportunity for small companies to get a head start.
  • These projects could gain momentum and become major high-volume players, or could be acquired by carmakers that don't want to be left out of the PHEV race.
  • Even when major carmakers mass-produce PHEVs, just as there are many independent internal combustion car companies, there's no reason these new startups can't build successful businesses. In fact, if, as reported, GM really expects to build and sell 30-60,000 Chevy Volts in Year 1, then millions of potential customers for high-quality high-mileage, low-carbon PHEVs will consider every available choice.

Here are links to the websites and media coverage of three companies -- Fisker, Visionary Vehicles and Venture Vehicles -- plus short updates on two others, Aptera and AFS Trinity. We'll cover others as we hear about them.

FISKER AUTOMOTIVE The Eco-Chic Quantum Drive car plans to launch four months from now at the Detroit Auto Show. It's a joint venture between two established Irvine, California companies, Quantum Technologies and Fisker Coachbuild. The company expects to ship 15,000 high-end, premium vehicles annually, priced at under $100,000.

Automotive integrator Quantum, in a project for South Coast Air Quality Management District, turned several dozen Priuses into hydrogen internal combustion cars (which we didn't think made much sense). Again for AQMD, Quantum is expected to convert 20 Ford Escape Hybrids into PHEVs; the original announcement said this project would have participation by Ford, but we haven't been able to get further details.) Quantum's battery partner is Vancouver-based Advanced Lithium Power Ltd. (ALP) For more:­news.cfm?newsid=16141&url=s press release­2007/­09/­new-joint-ventu.html mentions another electric transportation project with an unnamed Chinese company.­2007/­09/­fisker-shifting.html provides background on the news.


We've previously covered Visionary Vehicles, the aggressive startup by Malcolm Bricklin to bring a $35,000 luxury Mercedes-S-style V2G-capable PHEV to market around 2010. VV's innovative business model includes dealers as part-owners of the company. VV just announced it would compete for the X-Prize. The three links below cover that, include pointers to audio of the press conference, and For more:­archive/­2007/­09/­06/­348494.aspx by MSNBC science editor­article.cfm?storyid=1314 includes audio of the press conference­2007/­09/­06/­malcolm-bricklins-visionary-vehicles-to-enter-automotive-x-priz/­ includes photos of a preliminary scale model by famed auto designer Herb Grasse.

VENTURE VEHICLES­ This California company has been working on Venture One, a two-passenger, three-wheeled highway-speed PHEV (technically an enclosed motorcycle, which means it's quicker to get safety tests). It recently raised $6 million in venture capital, so it's on its way. The company expects to use batteries from A123Systems. For more:­2007/­08/­maker-of-3-whee.html and previous posts


  • Aptera Motors, building a diesel-electric PHEV. This highly aerodynamic vehicle will use strong lightweight composite materials; the company plans to compete in the X-Prize. Its website is currently being rebuilt, see­wiki/­Aptera_hybrid_car
  • AFS Trinity­ announced in 2006 it was developing a PHEV with Ricardo Engineering; we haven't seen more recent news. NOTE: there are of course a whole range of all-electric vehicles in various stages of development, including AC Propulsion, Commuter Car, Phoenix Motorcars, Tesla Motors, and Think Global, but we leave it to others to keep you informed on this promising plug-in startups.
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