Tesla has beaten every major automaker and electric car startup to market by years with the first truly successful electric vehicle. Well over 1,000 Tesla Roadsters have been built and bought, and while there is some uncertainty about the brand’s next car, the Model S, Tesla has become synonymous with electric vehicles. So now, the race is on to be number two to market. Will it be the Nissan Leaf? The Chevy Volt? The Ford Transit Connect Electric?
It could be none of the above. Start up company Wheego plans to build their first batch of their “Whip Life” electric cars this summer, if the financing comes through. So what the hell is the Wheego Whip Life?
The Atlanta-based Wheego has been churning out neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV’s) for a few years now, their primary vehicle being the Whip. An NEV is an electric vehicle with a low top speed that does not have to meet stringent government safety standards for regular passenger vehicles. It also has a very limited range (40 miles of real world driving according to Wheego) which makes the $20,000 vehicle more of an expensive toy commuter than a practical replacement for a petrol car.
Wheego seems to realize this though, and has been hard at work improving the Whip to appear more practical for would-be buyers. The two-seat, Smart car look-alike can supposedly reach speeds of up to 70 mph, but in order to be approved for highway driving, it needs to pass safety standards. Based on a Chinese car platform… this could present some difficulties, if one were to judge solely by the track record of Chinese car safety. The other obstacle standing in the way is financing. Wheego hopes to raise some $5 million, which would allow them to build a batch of 200 Whip Life highway-capable electric vehicles, rolling off the production line as early as August.
That would beat Nissan, Chevy, Ford, and even Coda to the finish line. While the Whip Life has a steeper price tag than its NEV cousin (about $33,000), with tax credits it will be right in the range of the Nissan Leaf. I think they’ve got a good shot at snagging a piece of the electric car pie for themselves, if they really do make it to production this summer.