Lee Iacocca, the former car czar who masterminded theMustang and minivan, is now trying his luck on electric vehicles (EVs).
Electric bicycles, to be exact.
Mr. Iacocca now heads EV Global Motors Co., a new company that manufactures an electric bicycle called E-Bike. Mr. Iacocca expects to start selling the $995 EV this year through participating auto dealers. Mr. Iacocca says his product is a recreational lifestyle tie-in to sport/utility vehicle buyers and feels the two vehicles are a natural match-up.
The E-Bike is unique in that it's a clean-sheet design. Unlike many models that are nothing more than conventional bicycles retrofitted with electric motors, the E-Bike boasts the engineering of a purpose-designed vehicle. Such engineering results in details like electrical wiring tucked inside the frame to prevent undue wear.
The E-Bike has a top speed of 15 mph (24 km/h) and a maximum range at 10 mph (16km/h) of 20 miles (32 km). The E-Bike requires 4.5 hrs. to fully recharge, and recharging can be done from any 110V household outlet.
The E-Bike can be ridden under full electric power, pure pedal power or a combination of both. Using a combination extends its range.
The E-Bike weighs only 65 lbs. (29.5 kg), thanks to a strong yet light steel frame. Almost 25 lbs. (11.3 kg) of its weight can be erased by removing the battery pack and charger. Removing them still allows the E-Bike to be ridden like a conventional bicycle.
At the heart of the E-Bike is a 400-Watt hub motor fed by two 12V lead-acid batteries. Fully discharging the battery pack is no longer necessary, as it doesn't suffer from memory retention.
Mr. Iacocca thinks the country is ready for the electric bicycle, if not the electric car.
“I don't think the world is ready for electric cars yet,” he says. “GM has only sold 300 of them in three years and I bet they invested $1 billion in their EV program. I give them credit for trying, though.”
On the other hand, he says he doesn't want to get too far ahead of what the public is willing to accept at a particular point in time.
“Electric has to start some place, and it won't start with cars,” he says. “The technology for it just isn't here yet. It's like air bags in the early days. They'd blow up in your face until the technology came on board.”
He plans to start selling E-Bikes in Florida, Arizona and California and hopes to sell 50,000 a year from the get-go.