Ed Begley Jr., the guy from the Living With Ed TV show, was there to introduce the truck.
I was on the list with my coworker Steve, from Clean Air Gardening. (We were invited because Clean Air Gardening specializes in environmentally friendly lawn and gardening tools and supplies, and the organizers correctly figured that we would be interested in attending.)
We arrived at 6 p.m., and immediately went over to sign up for a test drive. Steve and I were number 16 and 17 on the list, and we each got to drive the electric truck a few blocks after waiting for a half hour or so.
When you sit in the driver’s seat, it seems pretty much like a regular car, until you look down at the shifter. There was a neutral setting in the middle. To put it into reverse, you just pull the shifter backwards to R. To drive forward, you shift it forward into D. Those three settings were all that there was.
I drove at dusk, so I turned on the headlights during my drive.
When you first push down the pedal to give it gas (or juice, I guess I should say), it was a little bit sluggish and weird feeling, and you could tell it wasn’t a regular car. It was much quieter, for one thing. I wouldn’t call it a fast car, by any means. I would probably compare it to driving a Toyota Corolla as far as the acceleration goes. But it was plenty fast for a typical commuter vehicle, which is how you’d probably use it.
The prototype model I drove had no air conditioning, but it was perfect weather, so it didn’t matter. The final version is supposed to have AC. They told me that it will cut your driving range by 20 to 30 percent to run with the AC on. The heat also uses battery life, because gasoline cars use the heat from the engine, and an electric car doesn’t generate heat that way, so it needs a heater.
The weirdest part about the truck was the way they had it set up to regenerate power whenever you let off the gas pedal or hit the brakes. You actually didn’t need to brake very much, because if you let completely off the gas, then the car started to slow down fairly dramatically as it used the slowing down kinetic energy to charge back up the battery. It takes a slightly different driving style to keep you from speeding up and then slowing down all the time like some kind of a crazed taxi driver.
The truck looks kind of like a plainer version of the Honda Ridgeline, but it is sized sort of like the Subaru Baha, but maybe a little bigger and taller.
They said that the price would be $45,000 for the truck. In California, you might pay as little as $35,000, because the state evidently has some kind of program to promote the use of zero emission vehicles and will give you back $10,000, from what I understood from the Phoenix Motorcars guy I talked to. Evidently, the company also gets some kind of subsidy that brings the upfront price down too, or it would be higher than $45,000. Their cost to build it is evidently higher than that, but they didn’t say how much higher.
After test driving it, I can say that I would definitely buy one if I could get the $35,000 California deal, and I would probably buy it at $45,000 if the car was available and there was a place in Dallas to get it fixed.
The company says it is making 500 of them in 2007, and selling those first 500 mostly to fleets, like PG&E in California.
In 2008, they should make several thousand (I don’t remember exactly, but I think they said 5,000), and they hope to ramp up to around 20,000 in 2009.
Here are the details from the sheet they handed out at the event:
Phoenix Motorcars Sports Utility Truck Specs:
Top Speed: 95 mph
0 to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds
Range: Urban or Highway, 100 plus miles per charge
Charging Time: 5 to 6 hours with the 6.6KW on-board vehicle charger, but just 10 minutes to 95 percent SOC (I think that means 95 percent charged) with the 250KW charger that you would stay at your home or charging location.
So how much does it cost to charge it? Approximately $3 to $5 for a full charge that will take you 100 plus miles, according to the engineer I spoke with.
Motor Manufacturer: UQM Technologies
Power Rating: 100KW peak, 55KW continuous
Torque Rating: 500Nm peak, 300Nm continuous
Controller Thermal Management: Liquid cooling
Regenerative Braking: Programmable
On-Vehicle Charging System: UQM Technologies
Battery Type: NanoSafe Lithium Titanate
Battery Management System: Altairnano Technology Integrated BMU
Overall length: 194 inches
Overall Width: 73 inches
Overall Height: 69 inches
Wheelbase: 108 inches
Gross Vehicle Weight: 4,800 lbs
Curb Vehicle Weight: 3,800 lbs
Payload: 1,000 lbs
Battery Life: This type of lithium battery supposedly has no “memory” issues, and has a life span of 12 plus years, or approximately 250,000 miles.
Photos: (Click through to Flickr to see larger versions.)