Thursday, July 20, 2006 at 3:14 PM
Imagine if a car could take you to and from work and on errands for only two cents a mile. Imagine if you never had to buy gas again. Well, such cars actually exist. They're electric and one's made right here in Northeast Ohio. As Lisa Ann Pinkerton reports, high gas prices may improve the market for electric vehicles in the coming years, but mileage gasoline cars plan to give them stiff competition.
It’s so small, it could fit in the back of a long-bed pick-up truck. It’s trunk is big enough for a cart of groceries. It sits on three wheels and seats only one person. But it’ll take you 1,000 miles on $20 of electricity. The NMG, or “No More Gas” car, is hand-made in Tallmadge, Ohio. It resembles a jelly bean with a flattened front end. And it has an ignition switch, just like a gasoline car.
Dana Myers: Turn it all the way to the right, you’ll see the light come on and the car is on.
But as Myers Motors President Dana Myers explains, the similarities end there.
Dana Myers: You can tell when your getting low on energy by this light that will come on, this little red light here. If you ignore all the warning lights, the car will go into this creep home mode and it’ll only go 15 or 20 miles an hour and you know its time to get home.
The NMG weighs less than a normal car, so it’s 30-horsepower motor creates a surprising amount of pickup. It produces 140-foot pounds of torque and tops out around 70 MPH It’ll go up to 30 miles on a single charge, and takes an hour to charge in a 220-volt outlet. It’s three wheels classify the NMG as a motorcycle, but you don’t need a special license to drive it. Al Strauss has owned one for almost a year. He says freshly fallen snow is the only condition he won’t drive his NMG in.
Al Strauss: But other than that, it’s fine. In the snow it’s kinda like an empty pick up truck.
Despite the limited range and space for passengers and storage, Strauss still loves his little NMG.
Al Strauss: It’s a real hoot, a kick to drive. If you don’t like attention you probably don’t want one. Cause it’s very hard to be anonymous in this car.
Strauss, a marketing specialist, says the key to selling the NMG is convincing people that every car they own doesn’t have to fulfill every possible need.
Al Strauss: It’d be a perfect car for a commuter, anybody that goes under 30 or 35 miles and they don’t run around during the day, they just go to work and come home. Or if you can plug it in at work you can go 35 miles one way.
Myers Motors purchased the rights to manufacture this little car from the California company that invented it - Calpron Motors. Calpron sold around 300, at a 50% loss, until the company went bankrupt three years ago. Today, Myers Motors hand assembles and sells only about two per month, at a price of $25,000. He considers the NMG a precursor to a more mass-marketable electric vehicle that could compete with the growing number of highly fuel efficient, but very small gas-powered cars ones. However, Robert Ebert, an auto analyst at Baldwin Wallace Collage, says while that market is growing, it’s not necessarily a stampede.
Robert Ebert: I think what people are looking for is a car that meets the needs that they’ve had for decades. They can haul the kids, they can haul the dog… they invest in the vehicle, they want it to have versatility.
At Myers Motors, Dana Myers understands that sentiment, and says the next generation of his electric car will have longer range, two seats, and the comfort of air conditioning. But for now, his single seat NMGs are easing the daily commute for a select few - and turning heads wherever they roll.
Lisa Ann Pinkerton, 90.3.
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