Meccanica

ONE FOR THE ROAD
Jerry Kroll shows off Electra Meccanica’s single-seat commuter car

The Vancouver company has taken 500 orders for its one-seater electric car, which is made locally

An electric car is to a fossil-fuel car what the Internet is to a fax machine, says Jerry Kroll, founder and CEO of Vancouver’s Electra Meccanica Vehicles Corp., which debuted its Solo one-person electric vehicle in September. “It’s less expensive, faster, cleaner, more fun,” Kroll explains. “The only difference between a fax machine and a fossil-fuel combustion vehicle is fax paper wasn’t killing the planet.”

The cars are assembled in New Westminster by Intermeccanica International Inc. Founded in Italy in 1959 by Frank Reisner, whose son, Henry, is now president, the company relocated to California in the 1970s and to Vancouver in 1982. Intermeccanica has custom-built 1,100 replica Porsche 356–style roadsters like the one Kelly McGillis drove in the film Top Gun. In March, Electra Meccanica unveiled an electric version of the roadster, which will be mass-produced and more affordable than the $80,000 to $115,000 for handbuilt gasoline models.

“Our plan is to eradicate fossil fuels and do it cost-effectively,” says Kroll, a New Westminster native who previously founded KleenSpeed Technologies in 2007 to develop electric race cars at the NASA Research Park in California. The three-wheel Solo costs $19,888 and qualifies for provincial rebates of up to $11,000. Recharging the lithium ion battery is free at many public charging stations. It takes three (using 220 volts) to six hours (120 volts), but as with cellphones, most users will top up the battery before it’s drained. And unlike filling a gas tank, notes Kroll, “practically, it takes half a second because you plug it in and you walk away—you’re not standing there.”

The Solo is designed for commuters. In 2011, 74 per cent of Canadian commuters used a private vehicle, and 83 per cent of them drove alone, according to Statistics Canada. With a range of 160 kilometres, the Solo accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in eight seconds and reaches a top speed of 130 km/h. Thanks to its aluminum-composite body and light weight (450 kilograms), it would bounce away from another car instead of being crushed in an accident, resulting in a survivable incident, according to Kroll. As for what it’s like to drive, “this thing really has pickup, and it’s quiet and it’s smooth,” he says.

“This is Vancouver Canadian technology that is being built here in New Westminster, and we’ve exported the technology to be built in China for the Chinese market, in India for the Indian market and going over to Europe for the European market,” Kroll emphasizes. “Let me repeat: we are exporting Canadian cars.” The family-owned company has taken orders for 500 Solos.

Kroll, the Green Party candidate for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, would like to have a self-driving Solo on the road within two to five years. “This is as exciting a time for cars as the mid-’70s were for the personal computer,” he says. “There’s so many wonderful things coming, and we’re going to be at the forefront of it.”

This story has been revised to acknowledge that Electra Meccanica Vehicles Corp. and Intermeccanica International Inc. are separate companies.