Here Wheego! - Electric Cars Coming to Your Neighborhood

Wheego Neighborhood Electric Car

Wheego Electric Car

As many of our readers know, Mapawatt's headquarters is located Atlanta, Georgia.  When most people think of renewable energy, they think of clean-tech centers like California, Oregon, Washington, etc.  This is why I was thrilled to find another great clean energy startup based in Atlanta.

Wheego Electric Cars provides Low Speed Vehicles (LSV), Medium Speed Vehicles (MSEV) and will soon provide highway speed electric vehicles through a nationwide dealer network.  Michael McQuary, one of the founders of MindSpring in Atlanta is the Chairman and CEO.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recognizes the LSV class of vehicles and several states have laws allowing for LSV vehicles on roads with speed limits posted as 35mph or less.  By definition, the LSV must be able to achieve at least 20mph, not to exceed 25mph and must meet federal motor vehicle safety requirements such as headlights, brake lights, turn signals, safety belts, etc.  Most states also require vehicle registration.  As you can imagine, the LSV has limited use for most consumers unless you live in a community that has access to most venues with a road system with a 35mph speed limit.  However, the Wheego LSV can serve these consumers as a second vehicle.

Six states have adopted enhanced legislation for medium speed vehicles (MSV/MSEV) that increase the maximum speed to 35mph and require a safety cage or hard-shelled exterior.  They still can only be driven on roads with a 35mph speed limit.  Since the Wheego LSV is governed at 25mph, the same vehicle can be reprogrammed to travel at 35mph.

Whip LiFe electric car

Wheego Whip LiFe Announcement at the DC Auto Show

This summer, Wheego will be releasing a new car that will travel at highway speeds and have a range of 100 miles.  They announced the Wheego Whip LiFe at the Auto Show in Washington, DC at the end of January.  Unlike the previous Whips, the Life has a 65mph top speed and uses a 28kWh Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) battery pack and management system provided by Flux Power in California.  The LiFe will undergo crash testing and be available later this year at a price point around $35,000

Tax Incentives?

The Wheego Whip LSV qualifies for a 10% federal tax credit that requires having the buyer pay the full price of the vehicle and then file for a tax refund at the end of the year of 10% of the cost of the vehicle up to a $2,500 maximum credit.  Some states have additional tax breaks for LSVs but they vary by state.  The federal incentives for a highway speed are slightly more complex but provide a much larger incentive for purchasing an electric vehicle.  It varies depending on the size of the battery storage system.

Qualifying electric vehicles will receive a $2,500 tax credit plus $417 if the battery pack is at least 5kWh.  Owners will also receive an additional $417 for each kilowatt-hour of storage over 5kWh.  However, the complete tax credit may not exceed $7,500.  If we do the math on the Wheego Whip LiFE for federal tax credits, the storage system is well within the range to qualify for the complete $7,500 tax credit. (any EV with at least 16kWh of storage will qualify for the full federal tax credit)

Some states also provide additional tax incentives to encourage residents to purchase highway speed electrics.  I will be providing a guide in an upcoming post that will help you navigate state and federal tax incentives for electric vehicles.

If you live in a community that is self-contained with a 35mph road system, the LSV may make a great second car for you.  An example of a self-contained community is a small town or planned community that has all of the amenities needed within the range of an electric LSV such as shopping, grocery stores, dining, entertainment, recreation, etc.

If you live in a city with more traffic and congestion, have access to amenities within the range of an LSV, and the roads have a 35mph speed limit, I would recommend that you hold out for a MSV since it will give you more protection in an accident and will be able to travel at the maximum posted speed limit.  However, don't forget that your community also has to allow for LSV and MSVs before you can register your car and travel on the road.

For the rest of us, I'm looking forward to all of the highway speed electric vehicles that are scheduled to be released this year.  Between the Wheego Whip LiFe and the Nissan Leaf, we'll all have some great options for a functional second vehicle that runs on electricity!

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I think it is great that we are starting to release these cars. There are advantages especially for those that don't drive long distances often. But truly at this point, they aren't economical. I figure with my commute, I would probably use 15 Kwh a day, and at $.23 a Kwh that's $3.45 a day. Meanwhile, my car uses about 1 1/2 gallons a day or about $4.50 on current gas prices. Do the math on that and it would never come out to be a financial benefit compared to a Smart or Versa or Accent equally equipped. But, we didn't get to the moon without building lots of crappy rockets first. The rich hippies will buy these and put their stickers on them, and although they won't be directly saving the world, they will be funding the research for better EVs.
Economically speaking, even at $25,000, that is about $13,000 more than I can purchase a new small gas burning car. I calculate that as worth about 4300 gallons of gas, which I would use in about 7 years of normal driving. I would likely need new batteries in the electric by that time. So unless they can make and sell these electrics for around $12,000, it makes no econimic sense to buy one. Not to mention the electric's distance limits.
ckmapawatt's picture
Paul, You may be right, but a lot of people aren't purchasing electric cars for the economic benefit. They are purchasing them because they want one. It's like trying to justify the economic payback period of an iPad over a Kindle. You want the iPad because it has more features, performs better, and is cooler. If you don't care about those features, you end up buying the Kindle. If you only care about an electric car because it will save you money then you may have to wait awhile. I personally want an electric car because I want to cut down on air pollution (I cycle, so smog is a big deal to me) and I want to give our foreign enemies as little money as possible. Check out our post on <a href="" rel="nofollow">Electric Car Payback</a>.
Third line third paragraph the cars must be able to go 20mph but not more than 25mph? Is that correct?
ckmapawatt's picture
I think so. I'm sure some LSV might go a little bit faster, but I'm sure there has to be some limit to their speed or else you couldnt classify them as "low speed".
Electric cars are very useful at the small scale, but on the whole we need to be reducing the total numbers of cars and increasing alternatives such as rail. Ideally we should try to follow the European example and move to mostly car free cities.

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