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Electric Car Sighted on Highway - Who Makes It? 124

moophus managed to spot an interesting vehicle on the roads: "Spotted: one electric vehicle on the highways of Atlanta, Georgia. Sighted around 6:30pm EDT, going south on I-85, traveling ~60mph (had a cool hum). It was a single seater, three wheeled wonder. Can anyone identify make, model? Any details on this bugger, like: range, efficiency, top speed, acceleration, cost, and cell type? I could only get several pictures which didn't turn out too well, since I had to gamma correct two of them. Another interesting thing that I've heard about electric cars: they have purposely put in noise makers in the wheels (like those plastic tri-cycles back in the day) because they just ran too quiet to be safe. Is this true?" The pictures didn't turn out too badly, as you can definitely make out much of the shape of this thing. It's more like a motorcycle than a car, but it still looks interesting enough. Hopefully more vehicles like this will be making their way on to the markets (and the roads) sometime soon.
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Electric Car Sighted on Highway - Who Makes It?

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  • Try... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Stone Rhino ( 532581 )
    A Google Image Search [google.com]
  • by isorox ( 205688 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @06:29PM (#2910879) Homepage Journal
    "Spotted: one electric vehicle on the highways of Atlanta, Georgia. Sighted around 6:30pm EDT, going south on I-85, traveling ~60mph (had a cool hum)"

    "I could only get several pictures"

    Is anyone else worrried about people driving at 60mph snapping away?
    • The pictures were taken from the passenger's side.
    • Not if we were smart enough to read the article and realize he was parked.
    • Is anyone else worrried about people driving at 60mph snapping away?

      I've had a number of people take pictures of me while driving my sparrow down the road, it's very much an attention getter. I've had it over 70, though with the short wheelbase, the steering gets a bit twitchy at that speed. I saw one, albeit slightly modified, do the 1/4 mile at 86mph in just over 15 seconds at the EV Drag Races in Woodburn, Oregon. Mine wouldn't do burnouts like that one would, but it's nearly as fast, definitely fun to drive.

      The biggest problem is the belt drive --- a $100 belt that likes to break every few thousand miles, which leaves you stranded (it's not field replaceable), and it's something of a "tinkering machine". But when it works, it's a blast.

  • Sparrow (Score:4, Informative)

    by Score0, Overrated ( 550447 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @06:38PM (#2910925) Homepage
    Is it a corbin sparrow [eevolutionmotors.com]? Looks v.similar and they're Atlanta based.
  • Hard to tell, but that car bears a passing resemblence to a Messerschmitt [google.com]. Wacky little car, that was/is.

    Benjamin Coates
    • I was just going to say that -- the front end looks just like those old post-war Messerschmitt 3-wheel bubble cars, though the profile doesn't really continue the illusion, unfortunately.

      (Those of you who have no idea what this was, check out the link above, or think back to the 'personal transport' from the movie Brazil, sans rocket engine.)
  • Whatever it is (and I don'y know), it is sexy enough to attract the interest of slashdot, which is unbelievably important to make these cars attractive to a new, ecologically aware generation of traffic users.

    ..and whatever that "gentleman"was saying about the 3 wheeled Robin Reliant: it has an impeccable safety record and still has a large following in the UK. It is even build again [reliant-motors.co.uk].

    • 3 wheeled Robin Reliant: it has an impeccable safety record

      I distinctly remember seeing a 'That's Life' (the UK consumer affairs program of the time) special about steering failures in Reliant Robins - Reliant is the manufacturer (not Robin), who also made the interesting all-fiberglass Scimitar coupe/estate [scimweb.com].
      Here it is: Possible loss of steering column control [glass.co.uk]. They may be generally safe (I don't know), but loss of steering is not 'impeccably safe'!
      • Yeah, like they're the *only* ones with steering problems...
        These guys [glass.co.uk] should know better, then, shouldn't they?

        Anyway, it sounds like a simple check and replace steering UJ thing, an hour's work.
        • So it's OK as long as you're not the only people doing it? I don't care how easy it is to fix - a car with the possibility of steering failure acknowledged by the manufacturer has not got 'impeccable safety' (the original posters words).
          • Did you visit the link? Probably not. It was meant to be funny. At least, I thought it was.

            Anyway, Rant Time: all cars are inherently dangerous. It doesn't matter if there is a recall, if the manufacturer can be held liable, or anything else. It's up to *you* to make sure it's safe to use, before you use it.
    • The new, ecologically aware generation might want to keep in mind that electricity still comes from somewhere, often coal power plants. Depending on the source of electricity, electric cars may actually be less efficient and merely redistribute pollution. Not to mention those lead-acid batteries got to be stored somewhere (such as a landfill or local lake) when they die. Not saying the internal combustion engine will never go away, just the ecologically aware often aren't as aware as they claim.
      • The electricity may have had to be produced somewhere, but even the dirtiest of power plants is much much cleaner and more efficient burner of fossile fules than the cleanest of regular automobile engines. Do your homework and actually gather the figures instead of replaying the kneejerk reactions of others.

        As for the lead acid batteries, almost all are recycled now. The few that aren't are because of idiots who don't realise that they can be exchanged for $$$ at the recycler. The recyclers want that lead, plastic, and acid back as all can be recycled. The only part of a lead acid battery that isn't recycled is the label.

        • Do your homework Just like you apparently did in this post. Yes Ma'am. http://cartalk.cars.com/Mail/Electric/ [cars.com]-another good kneejerk reaction http://michele.usc.edu/105b/electrochemistry/batte ry.html [usc.edu]-Problems with using batteries & fuel cells http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/Shop/3589/effic iency.html [geocities.com]-Maybe Stanley had it right to begin with... As for the lead acid batteries, almost all are recycled now Ah, yes they go to that happy, magic place where batteries go in dead and come out alive, and leave absolutely no pollution in the air or water. Again, I'm not saying electric cars and recycling are bad- just there's more to being 'environmentally friendly' than riding around in over-blown PowerWheels [fisher-price.com].
        • Here's some more 'homework' on recycling lead: http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/01/28/lead.to wn/index.html [cnn.com]
        • I'd like to get an electric for the pure "geek" of it all, but power storage is a big hole right now. Yeah, I know that 60-100 miles handles most commutes, etc. But you can only guess what happens to a car full of batteries in the dead of winter in a parking lot all day while you're at work.

          Bought an Insight a month ago, and while it's still gas, the car is SULEV and the dash has more than enough geek factor for me for now.

          BTW, we also own a VW wagon for driving the family around, but the round-trip to work every day is done in the hybrid. For most families, it really breaks down to "both cars do a commute during the day, one car drives the kids around at night and on weekends." If not for the "storage issue", most households in the US would do fine with one electric. That was the clincher for me and the Insight: one of the reviews said "makes a great second car," which is exactly what we were looking for.

  • I think it's a UFO! The guy looks like a Martian, and it's bright red like everything from Mars!

  • a carefully crafted free publicity stunt by E*Evolution? Money is tight for everybody lately -- it almost makes sense.

    crafty use of the marquee tag on their site :)

  • My ex-boss had one, in Palo Alto. (Our VP of Sales was the son of the founder.) One of the great things about electric cars (in some parts of California anyway) is you can park them almost anywhere, for as long as you want, and they won't get ticketed.

    My boss's name was Gumby, and his car was orange, so we were careful never to call it Pokey.

  • Moophus,

    I've had my eye on those vehicles for 2 years :)

    The car you are looking at is called the 'Sparrow'. [corbinmotors.com]. It is manufactured by Corbin Motors [corbinmotors.com] of San Francisco (actually, their main factory/headquarters is in Hollister, CA, 30 miles south of San Jose; but few people know where Hollister is). It's a one person vehicle. It has a 60 mile range and can go up to 60 mph. Cost is $14-16,000 It's available in North America, Europe & Asia.

    I've sat in a Sparrow, but I've never driven one. It's a comfortable, but spartan interior.

    Corbin Motors deal mostly with motorcycles, but has this small electric vehicle business on the side (and good luck to them!).

    Their main showroom is located 1.5 blocks from the 'South Park' area in South of Market in San Francisco. They are surrounded by a bunch of former dotcom buildings (and a few surviving dotcoms, like mine :) .
    • Actually most people who buy their motorcycle products think Corbin has gone overboard into the Sparrow business and as a result is neglecting their original customers. So perhaps they make/sell Sparrows with a sideline in motorcyle products these days (lots of custom seats, etc). See rec.motorcycles and various other places for information.
    • I live in Hollister and managed to test drive one of these things. It was sort of reminiscent of driving a forklift or one of those fair ground bumper cars. Handling was pretty good, and the vehicle accelerated real well. Interior finish was good. I have to admit though that it did not feel all that solid or safe. Basically you are in a motorcycle with an all-encasing crash helmet, and every other vehicle on the highway seems MUCH bigger and faster than you are. I think I would pay about $6-8000 based on my experiences. Supposedly Corbin is going to move a lot of the manufacturing out of california which should hopefully drop the price. $15,000 seems a little too much.
  • Nerd 1: "Let's go race our cars!"
    Nerd 2: "Cool, I'll get my pimpin' Sparrow."
    Nerd 1: "Hold on a sec, lemme finish this kernel compile."

  • by rakerman ( 409507 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @08:50PM (#2911362) Homepage Journal
    now I'm thinking hybrid gas-electric is more practical, at least until we get to fuel-cell cars. Not that it isn't great there are lots of options now, but I still think something like the Toyota Prius [toyota.com] or the Honda Insight [honda.ca] would work better for combined city/highway driving.
    • Honda is going to start selling a Civic hybrid this spring. 50 mpg, normal size Civic. See here [vtec.net] for the press release and for the pictures [vtec.net].

      I personally would find this a huge step up from the Insight, and probably the Prius as well.
      • What would be nice is a VW TDI/electric hybrid... the TDI models get >50mpg as it is, and with the boost from the electric, could be rather nice. Not to mention that you can run it on biodiesel, and there is more passenger space, cargo room, and comfort than the Civics...
        • Like pure ethanol, biodiesel costs more than normal diesel. I live 70 miles from a bigass ethanol plant and loading facility. Even with significant subsidies, the ethanol enriched gasoline is only 1 cent per gallon cheaper.

          It's not at all a price issue...but many people think that ethanol is cheaper than oil, and BD is cheaper too. Neither are. But good call on the VW stuff. Jetta with diesel. Nice.
    • Bought the Insight in December. Looked at the Prius, but it cost more, had lower mileage,
      and had a four-month wait in my area (Midwest US).

      Might have gotten the Toyota if four seats was a priority, but my wife and I already have
      a wagon for driving our daughter around, and if you're like most people, you're just driving
      alone to and from work everyday, anyway. Back seat is a waste of weight.

      Actually, the kicker with my Insight is the CVT. With an infinite number of gears, it's always
      in the right gear. For the Insight, the electric sort of acts like a turbo, supplying extra power
      when needed. It actually levels out the "stops and goes" so well that it gets better MPG
      in the city than the highway (57/56 EPA).

      Yeah, there was a price premium for a three cylinder car with an electric motor in series with
      the gas, but I tend to think of it as "putting the money where the mouth is".

      If you're a real geek, take a look at these cars. The technology in them actually makes getting
      to work fun!

      -no Sig: I'm new here

    • I live in SF. Actually just blocks from their Marin office! And out here you see electric or hybrid vehicles everyday. And you get to talk to quite a few people. Here is what I have found out. Hybrid cars don't get all that great of mileage, especialy when you consider the cost. Heck you can buy a used Honda CRX for about $2g that will get 50mpg!

      Actually you need to read this http://www.corbinmotors.com/sparrow_sun.html
      It's a good story about the real difference between hybrid and full electric.
  • the DMV would never make such a monstrosity legal in the us...the only reason the smart car is legal (i assume) is b/c it's ideal for european city life. kit cars are exempt from alot of saftey concerns for the driver/passenger. looks a bit like a motorcycle conversion...maybe motorcycle rear end + home-made front contraption. There's plenty of crazy cars made by do-it yourselfers out there, not to mention kit cars. This guy [zzz.com.ru] made his own 3wheeled car out of WOOD. and it's street legal. It's a inline 2 engine, and only weighs ~900 lbs, so it gets anywhere from 55-75 mpg. the picture is pretty neat.
    • If you want to risk your life in a home-built, go for it. That the faceless bureaucrats at the DMV get to decide what is and isn't "street legal" for everyone is a perfect example of corruption. A bit of bribery, you too can street legal.

      To those who argue "safety safety safety!!!", that's simple. Prosecute liability for damage done. Gee, just like now. Being killed by a drunk in a wooden car is no worse than being killed by a drunk in a Ford Pinto.

      In fact, with the weight savings, you're much less likely to be killed by some idiot in a wooden car.


  • by whatnotever ( 116284 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @10:14PM (#2911555)
    I sure hope they put noisemakers in those things. Just a few days ago, I was walking past a car that didn't strike me as all that special until it started moving without making noise. It was a Prius, I think. I sort of freaked out and almost shouted, "Dude! Your car isn't making any noise!"

    I then realized that if electric cars become more prevalent, I am *so* dead. When crossing roads these days, I'm often in too much of a hurry or just too lazy to look both ways and all that jazz, so I just rely on my ears to hear any approaching bringers of death and/or mutilation. If cars go silent on me, I'll be roadkill in no time!
    • Ahhh. Darwin at its finest!
    • > If cars go silent on me, I'll be roadkill in no time!

      "Think of it as evolution in action."

      In the meantime, I hope if you step in front of a cyclist without looking you don't hurt the cyclist.
    • I could be spreading suburban legends here or something, but I thought I had once read that
      the electric milk trucks in Europe have little noise-makers on them to avoid this sort of thing.

      I know in "deer-country" every has little whistles attached to the bumpers of their vehicles
      to avoid a run-in with large animals - everyone loses.

    • by dattaway ( 3088 )
      Oh, as someone who repairs electric vehicles for a living, let me tell you how to make a noisy DC motor. Just replace the brushes without letting them seat properly. You will hear a howling loud noise akin to a jet engine spooling up. The commutator/brush assembly is the noisiest part of a DC motor followed by any audible current pulses from the drive. Changing the frequency of the oscillator circuit can be done by the more adventurous hacker and can really make a motor be heard.

      Speaking of modifications, these cars are fun and incredibly easy to hack. No nitrous oxide or bolt-ons needed, just a jumper wire! Weakening the magnetic field increases armature current and motor speed exponentially. You can easily spin a DC motor to the point of destruction just by weakening the current through the field coils.
    • Some how being run over by an electric car would be rather humilating...

      Your in the ambulance and the guy says "what kind of car ran over your leg and you mutter 'Corbin Sparrow'" suddenly the dude just losses it and starts laughing at you.

      You get to the hospital and doctor is like "Damn, 4th one this week. Damn you electric monsters (with fist raised in the air)" (and the doctor would that guy from young frankenstin)

      Yeah I know I'm wacked... I think its the water...
  • by nomadic ( 141991 )
    We have the same kind of thing driving around in Queens. I always assumed it was some kind of kit thing, but I guess they actually sell complete ones...
  • Safety? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by karnal ( 22275 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @02:13AM (#2912306)
    Has anyone else taken a few good looks at a vehicle like this and wondered about safety?

    I currently have 2 different cars (a 1995 Z28 and a 1978 Cougar) and I worry about SUVs, Trucks etc in my Z28 regularly (not so much with the Cougar, the land shark that it is.) Obviously, my 2 cars definitely don't qualify for the emissions or fuel economy award (not by a long stretch), but I would worry about being in this car, in rush hour traffic, and someone barreling over me with a vehicle bigger than mine (anything bigger than a small motorcycle, anyways.)

    They (corbin motors) do have some safety items listed (as far as what's used in the car to make it safer in an accident), but there's no crash data. I'd for one like to see that, but in all honesty, I could see paying about 8-10k for one. A price tag of 15,000USD is a little steep; I would probably go for a used civic or something along those lines for better gas milage, but more safety (at least in the thought that bigger may be better, compared to some cars on the road...)

    Any thoughts?
    • In most states, if it has less than 4 wheels, it's legally a motorcycle. I believe that is also true under federal law. Motorcycles don't have any crash test requirements that I know of. It probably is safer than normal motorcycles, though.
      • I don't know about safer, but if you got in an accident in that thing, at least it would keep most of your parts in the box rather than all over the road as with a motorcycle.
    • I've posted elsewhere on this item. I bought an Insight in Dec. and also own a VW Passat Wagon, so disclaimers "on".

      I think the catch is that it turns into a "bigger gun" concept, along the lines of the Cold War. You know: your neighbors all bought SUVs, so you get one, then when Super-SUVs came along (a la Excursion, Yukon, etc.) you have to get one to stay ahead.

      I'm all for safety, but there is a certain point where you're actually saying "to h**l with everyone else: I'm getting the bigger gun."

      In my neck of the woods (Midwest US), I routinely drive alongside soccer moms driving alone to work in four-ton Excursions. Maybe we can just ship these things with the airbags already inflated to really protect the occupants. :)

      While more weight can be safer, the track record often can be dismal when automakers rely on that weight to supply the safety, hence a high percent of rollovers and other things. Also, driver confidence goes way up, and you end up passing lots of them in the ditches when the snow builds up.

      Don't brand me as a environut or anything yet. I'm all in favor of "right tool for the job", but perhaps people are buying too much vehicle "in case" they need to buy a chair.

      • Electric cars may have something going for them in terms of safety if we can get rid of those massive land barge lead-acid batteries. Even though some cars are light, consider the following:

        Weight is inversely proportional to agility.

        Agility multiplied by driver skill plus that extra weight equals safety.

        A land barge is only safe when the driver has no skill. Marginally at best. This formula may explain why some people seem to avoid accidents and not get hurt, while others are magnets for disasters.
    • If you're somewhat mechanically inclined and enjoy a good project, you can roll your own. Check out some existing conversions:

      http://evalbum.com [evalbum.com]
  • http://www.go-t-rex.com/francais/neuf/neuf.html
    is a car (in fact more a motor cycle since you need a helmet) that can go really fast and can stick on the road :)
  • must be a real geek to get THIS excited over the thing:"

    It was a single seater, three wheeled wonder.

    Gentlemen. You can't put a date in this. Think of it as evolution in action.

  • Acourding to a woman that works for Ford that I spoke with at the NAIAS Ford is going to release there Electric can called THINK late this summer or early fall.
  • Here [evclubsouth.org]is a series of pictures of the gentleman purchasing the sparrow.
  • I want their Merlin Roadster [corbinmotors.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I was shopping for a car back in November and noticed this [thinkmobility.com] at a Ford dealer here in San Diego (Pearson Ford [dealerconnection.com] on El Cajon Blvd, but interestingly their alternative fuel vehicle page [rtc4afv.com] makes no mention of the Think). I've seen at least one of them on I-805 going to and from work also. The Think website says they will be available in 2002.

    One of the images [melhuish.org] on the Google image search page [google.com] mentioned previously is supposed to be an electric vehicle but it ain't. The Smart car (made by some involvement of Daimler and sold only in Europe) is gas-powered but is very much the same size and shame as the Think city.

    Another odd thing about the Think city is that the body panels seem to be mostly plastic. The same dealership had the opensided golfcard model, which they call the Think neighbor.

  • Safety (Score:3, Informative)

    by hether ( 101201 ) on Monday January 28, 2002 @01:44PM (#2914462)
    According to this article by Western Driver http://www.westerndriver.com/information/test-driv e/2001-corbin-sparrow.html [westerndriver.com] the vehicle registers as a motorcycle, so I'm sure it meets all the safety requirements of one. It also says in most states it doesn't require a helmet or a motorcycle indication on a license, but that it might be hard to find insurance.

    This article has a lot to offer about performance and potential problems of the car: http://www.electrifyingtimes.com/corbinsparrow2000 .html [electrifyingtimes.com] Its written by an owner doing their 2000 mile review.
  • About the too quiet bit, a guy who does some work
    for my company owns a prius. And the damn thing is really quiet. He told me a story about almost
    running some kid down in a parking lot, because the kid didn't hear anything so he just walked out
    from behind something. It just goes to show how
    adapted people are to cars.
  • He was driving that in ALTANTA traffic? There's a death wish if I've ever seen one. Maybe people should test these out in a more tame environment first, like Gainseville, GA or how about Greenville, SC, where people still can't drive but at least there aren't that many and they're not going that fast. If that guy keeps driving that thing on I-85, he's going to end up getting picked out of the grill of a semi.

    Oh and one more thing... does he get to use the HOV lane?
  • Does anyone else think this Sparrow looks like the old Messerschmit Bubble car?

    Pictures here [3wheelers.com] and here [3wheelers.com]
  • Want to purchae one (Score:2, Informative)

    by kireK ( 254264 )
    The car is a sparrow [corbinmotors.com]. Check out the web site, there are some other cool cars, even a roadster [corbinmotors.com]!
  • I just rented a movie called "The million dollar hotel". It has Mel Gibson and a few other people you've heard of, made and produced by Bono of U2 fame. Anyways, this car was all over in this movie. It kept driving by, or they would walk by one parked somewhere. It was in the movie so much, we decided that someone must have paid for them to include it in the movie, that or Bono just really liked the car.
  • I posted this two or three days ago and it was rejected. Aargh.

    There's a red one that parks every day in the Lenox mall parking deck, next to the food court, if you want to look at it up close. I also saw a white one on Freedom Parkway last week. The company also makes a three-wheeled roadster powered by a Harley engine.

    • They named a mall after Lenox where you live? I guess Lenox is really going mainstream. I wonder how long before we start to see widespread adoption of Lenox on the desktop.
  • by xtp ( 248706 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2002 @05:46PM (#2921765)
    see www.corbinmotors.com/sparrow.htm

    they're made in Hollister, CA.
    an outgrowth of a company known for motorcycle
    after market products. It's a 3-wheeler with belt-drive
    to the rear wheel. In California it is classified as a motorcycle
    and is allowed in the carpool lanes.

We all like praise, but a hike in our pay is the best kind of ways.