Most of the new California electric car start-ups were started by the auto-design equivalent of fashionistas – auto afficionados who love cars for their gorgeous design, the thrill of the torque and the 0-60 in whatever seconds. So they build beautiful electric cars able to attain speeds that only those of us who can afford the speeding tickets could ever afford.
So it is ironic that Miles; the one electric car startup started by someone with some exposure to actual fashionistas – Miles Rubin had been a Ralph Lauren executive – for a long time didn’t even bother with fancy mockups of their prosaic electric car to be, but for the last few years made just one image available, that looked as if it was snipped from an old Life Magazine.
They allowed the image to drift about desultorily in the blogosphere for several years, not bothering to control the branding. Even the name – Javlon, and now, XS500; was just temporary: they will name it this year.
Instead of investing in a gorgeous new design, Miles had just picked a workable, practical five-seater sedan already in production in China, and adapted it into an electric vehicle, designed it to stay below $40,000 before subsidies (which would be $7,500 off, under the current legislation – and likely more with the new probably filibuster-proof Senate majority) and just kept going with developing it.
Then they limited the top speed to a sensible 85 MPH in order to keep the range to a practical 100 mile round-trip per charge.
Miles’ new CEO shares the former design executive’s disinterest in design. Czinger hopes the same car will still be sold in five years, and merely plans to update the look occasionally:
“Fundamentally, we’ll have put in enough engineering in this car and this chassis that with continual technology upgrades – this is going to be attractive to people for many years.”
Unlike the major auto companies that need to sell 150,000 to break even, the break even is at just 5,000 cars a year, and they have production for 9,000 the first year. Like the other small EV start-ups, it doesn’t need fleets of flighty jets for management, or teams of fancy law firms to prevent legislated climate-related business-model changes, or millions for advertising and branding.
The prototype passed crash tests successfully (Autobloggreen) at 40 mph.
Over the next six months, more crash tests to meet both European ECE and American NHTSA rules; four prototypes will go through durability and reliability testing. Then the software will be tuned for full electronic stability control. Once that is complete, Miles plans a fleet test at the end of 2009.
It’s not for Fashionistas.
It’s just an electric car. One that can get you to work – on a freeway – allowing 100 miles every day to pick up both kids and their best friends from soccer after work, go get the groceries and go to yoga, go pick up a friend at the airport and get everyone home again to recharge again overnight for another 100 miles tomorrow.