Just one day after Paul’s recent Outtake of several Zap EVs he found in Port Orford, we were walking down the street in Monterey, California, after dinner with our son and his GF, when I spotted a vehicle I had never seen.
But just a few feet away, in the same business driveway, was a vehicle I did know, and had in fact once driven, as I mentioned in a comment to Paul’s post. The CC Effect was in overdrive, as I can’t remember seeing one of these for at least 20 years!
First, the larger blue trike. A reverse image search revealed that it was a Triac EV. The Triac has mostly faded into history. There’s some info on the internet about its launch and its ending, which came pretty close together, but very little about its actual specifications. The interior shot above, for example, suggests it had a clutch. But it was definitely an EV, sold by a company called Green Motors which was founded in 2010 by a former Zap dealer in Los Gatos. Green Motors got significant grants from both the State of California and the City of Salinas to build a factory and to hire and train employees—a green economic boost for mostly agricultural Salinas, but by 2011 it had wilted; Green Motors and the Triac disappeared from view, and the mayor of Salinas regretted not seeing any return for their investment. Salinas is in Monterey County, about 15 miles inland from where I saw this Triac. It’s not clear how many were built or sold, though I found an old YouTube video from 2010 which shows more than one of them moving under power on public roads. At least one still exists, based on my sighting. It carried a For Sale sign: $700 as-is.
The Sparrow had a longer and more successful life. Around 300 were built between 1999 and 2003 by Corbin Motors, a spinoff from a successful motorcycle accessory company in Hollister, California—not far from Salinas. My encounter with the Sparrow was on September 11, 2001, when I had an appointment at Corbin to get a custom-fitted saddle installed on my motorcycle. Given the events of that day, I probably shouldn’t have even gone on such a trivial errand, but I had an appointment and the news was still sinking in here on the West Coast. Employees were trying to meet commitments but were also, like us, huddled around TVs. The owner, Mike Corbin, offered us a drive in the Sparrow. I probably spent five minutes behind the wheel and recall smooth, strong acceleration, a busy feeling from the high- revving electric motor, and less-than-optimal stability due to quick steering as much as anything inherent in the layout or geometry.
I don’t recall the configuration of the one I drove; the white one I saw this week was the original shape, while the green one above (from the net) features the later extended ‘pizza butt’, designed to facilitate pizza delivery. The Corbin-built Sparrows used 13 lead-acid batteries, which made up about 50 per cent of the overall vehicle weight. Top speed was around 60 mph (100 km/h). A Corbin Sparrow was featured in one of the later Austin Powers movies.
Mike Corbin admitted in interviews that the Sparrow was a labor of love with no real business model, but from what I’ve read, support was decent and taken seriously. That’s not something that seemed to be the case with the Triac. There is still a small but active community of Sparrow owners, and a Sparrow sold on Bring a Trailer last year for over $17,000. In any case, in 2002 Corbin Motors (but not the still-successful motorcycle saddle company) filed for bankruptcy, and rights and assets were transferred to an Ohio company called Myers Motors. The Sparrow was revived and sold as the Myers NmG (“No more Gas”). Later versions, at least, featured lithium batteries and more powerful motors. After the NmG was discontinued, Myers announced a tandem two-seater four-wheeled EV called the Point5. As in 0.5, half a car. It’s still visible on Myers’ website, but I’m not sure how serious the business is.
But the story doesn’t seem to end there. The basics of the Sparrow and NmG were picked up a Canadian company called ElectraMeccanica, and sold as the Solo. ElectraMecccanica is publicly traded on NASDAQ and has a pretty seasoned management team, at least based on their biographies. Their website is up to date as of this Spring, with details of their voluntary recall of all Solo vehicles. ElectraMeccanica, now headquartered in Arizona, evolved from Intermeccanica, a maker of Porsche 356 replicas.
And the current company has partnerships with Volcon, another EV company I hadn’t heard of, which sells miltary and recreational electric two- and four-wheel ATVs and UTVs—including the $40,000 Stag, which will do 80 mph. Volcon was founded by the current CEO of another EV company, Ayro, which has just launched a light electric utility truck. A tangled web! Ayro and Volcon are also public companies traded on NASDAQ.