- The Electra Meccanica Solo is a $US15,000 all-electric three-wheeler, made in Canada.
- It can do 0-60 mph in about eight seconds, with a top speed of 82 mph and a range of 100 miles on a single charge.
- There is, however, just one seat.
Around 2010, there were numerous electric-vehicle startups on the landscape. Sadly, the financial crisis finished off most of them. Tesla survived, of course. But the dream of new carmakers died.
Or did it? A Canadian company, Electra Meccanica, got started in 2015 and recently began to deliver $US15,000 examples of an all-electric three-wheeler to customers in the US (the firm is descended from an Italian maker of relatively obscure sports cars, Intermeccanica).
They asked me if I wanted to spend a few hours driving the Electra Meccanica Solo around Manhattan. Here’s how it went:
Behold! The wee Electra Meccanica Solo three-wheeler, a $US15,000 vehicle so named because it has but one seat. Yes, it’s rather small.
Smaller, really, than the smallest car we’ve ever tested, the Smart Fourtwo.
Not an optical illusion: My hand is on top of the Solo. It’s ten feet long and four feet wide, according the company.
It’s a trim little thing, with a peppy 82 horsepower motor that draws electrons from a 17 kilowatt-hour battery. Using so-called “level 2” charging, it can be rejuiced in three hours (a wall outlet takes six). Total range is 100 miles.
The styling is kind of cool: sleek and eye-catching. The front “frunk” can handle a modest duffle bag.
The rear end is almost comically narrow. But this scale means that the Solo can fit into just about anywhere in space-challenged Manhattan. A small back hatch holds a charging cable.
The wheels and tires are downright rinkydink, but there are disk brakes.
The Solo nameplate is found on the fascia, where a grille would be on a gas-powered car. Technically, the Solo is an “autocycle” and doesn’t require a motorcycle licence or certification.
The Electra Meccanica branding is subtle, located on the Solo’s flank. It reminded me a bit of a Vespa scooter script — makes sense, as the Solo is very much like a scooter.
It’s a single seater — but it has two doors!
Let’s slip inside.
The instrument are rudimentary, but the digital display does provide the important stuff, such as speed and battery charge.
A closer look. No push-button start — the Solo requires an old-school key.
A row of switches and toggles controls the basic vehicle functions, including the parking brake and the transmission, as well as a heated seat.
There’s a Kenwood radio!
And stereo speakers! But that’s about it for infotainment. You can connect devices via Bluetooth.
Let’s (electrically) motor!
The 0-60 mph dash passes in 8 seconds. OK, that’s not crazy fast, but it happens in a very small vehicle that has electric-car torque, so you feel the pop.
A sensible warning. And everybody was indeed watching — I’ve literally never had so many people ask me about a vehicle before, and I’ve driven around Manhattan in Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Rolls Royces.
So what’s the verdict?
This adorable, attention-getting vehicle is ideal for city living and could perhaps be pressed into service as a commuter car, if you don’t mind being slightly terrified out on the highway. The $US15,000 price tag is understandable for a new market entrant, but it’s worth noting that you can get a nice used car for about that and obtain far more creature comforts.
I can’t vouch for safety or reliability, and I did only zip around for a few hours (Electra Meccanica says that the Solo has been rigorously tested, and the top speed is 82 mph, so taking it to the freeway is possible). The ride isn’t exactly plush, but darting in and out of traffic is enjoyable, and parking the Solo would be perpetually satisfying. So I can make a case for ownership, but at this point it’s narrow. However, with most electric vehicles going on sale for over $US40,000, it’s cool to see a company offering a more basic idea.
If you like to ride motorcycles but are ageing out of it, you can find some of the same fun with the Solo. And the cargo capacity, while limited, is good enough for runs to the grocery store.
Apart from the ride, the brakes take some getting used to. I found myself programming my brain to prepare for a stop a bit earlier than usual. Larger adults might also struggle with the seat, although I think anybody six feet and under would be A-OK.
Electra Meccanica is promoting the Solo as being cheap to maintain, and I suspect it will be: it doesn’t have a lot of components, the drivetrain is simple, and the tires should be inexpensive to replace.
The company is taking $US250 refundable reservation to build the Solo for delivery. Yes, it’s offbeat. Yes, if you drive around a city or town, you’ll be mobbed. Children will point. Adults will ask questions. You’ll become a sort of small-time celebrity. And if that plus driving the smallest thing on three wheels doesn’t trouble you, then the Electra Meccanica Solo might be your ticket.
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