As any early adopter of consumer electric vehicles will tell you, being a clean transport pioneer might be kinder to the planet but it can cause the average wallet to suffer a seizure. Chevy's 2013 Volt, for instance, is priced at a snip under US$40,000 and Ford's Focus Electric is only a few hundred bucks cheaper, and a new Nissan Leaf is over twice the price of a new ICE-powered Dodge Dart. The owner of Lincoln and Jaguar dealerships in Riverside, California is hoping to strip away the high cost barrier to the mass adoption of electric vehicles with the opening of his first all-electric EcoCentre showroom later this month. Three EVs are to lead the charge, including a small commuter car for under $10,000.
San Diego-born car dealer Ramon Alvarez founded the Alvarez Electric Motors Company in 2010 and is due to open the first of a planned national network of electric vehicle sales centers in Southern California this month. All three of the electric vehicles initially available through the new Fladeboe EcoCentre (housed within Orange County's Irvine Auto Center and operated by the Fladeboe Automotive Group) are manufactured in China by Liuzhou Wuling Special Purpose Vehicle Manufacturing Co. Ltd and are being offered at a fraction of the price of other electric vehicles currently being sold in the U.S.
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The eco-E is a two-seater EV with a 3.1kW motor powered by a 48-volt absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery. The vehicle's range is quoted as between 30 to 40 miles (48 - 64 km) on a single charge, and has a charge time of between 8 and 10 hours via a standard household (110-volt) electrical socket. This model carries a suggested retail price of US$9,995.
The vehicle of choice for ferrying a few more than two people around is the eco-Van, which has bucket seating up front and one or two bench seats behind. The 13kW peak motor gets its power from a 96-volt AGM battery with the same charge time as the small car and a range of 25 to 40 miles (40 - 64 km). This EV is priced at $17,995 with factory-installed air conditioning available as an optional extra.
The remaining EV on offer is the eco-Truck, which has the same motor and battery specs as the eco-Van but features over 1000 pounds of cargo capacity. This model has a price tag of $16,995 (with the same optional extra of factory-installed air conditioning also available).
In each case, local, State or Federal tax incentives could reduce the cost of purchase even further and the typical cost of operation is being given as 3 to 5 cents per mile (or about $5 per month). But there's just one catch for all budding electric speed monkeys hoping to zoom up and down the highway in a budget EV - all of EcoCentre's neighborhood electric vehicles detailed above have a (regulation limited) top speed of just 25 mph (40 km/h).
The EcoCentre has been designed to offer customers a friendly and engaging place to take their first steps into the emerging world of electric vehicles. A Connection Counter will be the focal point for customer queries about the vehicles on offer, as well as any applicable rebate or incentive information. Initial sales are expected to be from corporate, institutional and government fleet buyers with retail sales projected to follow after. It's hoped that the EcoCentre will expand to all of the top 75 U.S. markets by 2015.
An electric scooter and a quad/ATV are expected to be added to the catalog by the end of 2013.View gallery - 21 images