Ben Hoyle, Los Angeles – thetimes.co.uk
The bubble car is about to make another bid for credibility, beginning in Los Angeles where stars are born, fads take o and public transport is, crucially, an afterthought.
There have been many doomed attempts since the 1950s to convince the motoring public that the urban vehicle of the future might actually be some sort of three- wheeled car for one.
Now the Canadian manufacturer ElectraMeccanica believes that its tiny single- seater can succeed where the German Messerschmitt KR200, the British Sinclair C5 and the American Corbin Sparrow all failed.
The Solo, as it is called, looks like a small car with the back sheared o and will go on sale in shopping malls as soon as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Priced at $18,500, about half the cost of the average new vehicle sold in the US, it is an electric model with zero emissions, a range of 100 miles between charges and a top speed of 80mph.
Although technically a motorcycle, and not subject to the crash tests imposed on four-wheelers, the Solo is fully enclosed and drives like a car with foot pedals, a steering wheel, a seat belt and a rollover bar.
It also has a boot, air conditioning, a Bluetooth stereo and, perhaps most importantly, an unexpected market opportunity.
The pandemic is likely to transform the landscape, making commuters warier of public transport but also eroding consumers’ spending power.
Even before coronavirus almost 90 percent of American commuters in cars, trucks, vans or motorcycles drove alone. That creates an opportunity, said Paul Rivera, chief executive of ElectraMeccanica. “Why does everybody think they need to drive around and leave three or four empty seats?” he said.
There have been two earlier generations of Solos. The new version will be manufactured in China in partnership with Zongshen Industrial Group, a motorcycle manufacturer.