Gone are the days when tiny two-seater cars turned heads on the streets of Los Angeles. But imagine a zero-passenger, gas-free, three-wheeled vehicle driving down the 405, and you can expect a good amount of rubbernecking. And for Angelenos who want get to point A to point B while still being safely shelled by a roof and two doors, that's where ElectraMeccanica's Solo EV comes in.
The Canadian auto company debuted L.A. locations earlier this year at Westfield Century City and more recently at Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks, and is now reserving vehicles exclusively on the West Coast. We had a chance to test-drive the single-occupancy, all-electric auto last month at a parking lot-turned-track by the Santa Monica Airport, bringing us back to our white-knuckled driving test of teen years past (we kid, sorta).
The Solo looks like a micro hatchback (or a giant red sneaker) of sorts, and it's equipped with the luxuries of full-sized vehicles: Power steering, a seat warmer, vegan-friendly faux leather, Bluetooth speakers, a rear-view camera, and a cup holder that conveniently folds into the right door, to name a few. We'd call it the passenger side, but no plus-ones allowed; the compact car was designed for eco-conscious drivers who don't want or need extra cargo.
We're no certified auto experts, but we found the three-wheeled ride to be surprisingly zippy and easy to handle (we immediately compared it to our old Toyota Yaris), so we can imagine taking it for scenic spins on windy Mulholland Drive and Topanga Canyon. The brand says the Solo can go from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds; the small track meant that we couldn't top much more than about 42 mph. Braking felt smooth, and quick turns, three-point turning, and parallel parking were all a breeze.
Lead-footed or long-distance drivers, be warned: The Solo's speedometer tops off at 80 mph and there's a range of 100 miles, so don't plan on any Palm Springs road trips. The back trunk has a capacity of five cubic feet, which translates to about three-and-a-half average carry-on suitcases. Vertically-challenged (read: short) drivers may prefer a little boost on the seat for better visibility; however, this five-foot-one editor had no issues in the driver's seat as-is.
Turns out the two cherry-red cars on the lot are the first two models off the production line (we drove No. 1). They're the result of a slew of improvements since Solo's first prototypes, explains ElectraMeccanica CEO Paul Rivera. We sat down with him just before taking the wheel during that balmy mid-October afternoon to learn more about what we were (literally) getting ourselves into.
"This is about doing something that's so completely different as an [electric vehicle] company. And we're excited because just to get the vehicle, to this point where we're in production has been a really long road," Rivera tells UncoverLA. "We improved the steering geometry, we improved the electronic power steering. We added additional safety features into the vehicle, so additional side impact protection on the door and torque limiting stability control."
The Solo's battery packs are located on each side of the seat. It's fully-charged in about four hours on a 240-volt electric vehicle charger; standard home outlets (which are 120 volts) will juice it up in approximately eight hours. Due to its size, the car is technically registered as a motorcycle in California (note the tiny plate), but you're fine driving on a standard class C license. (It meets the DMV's criteria for a three-wheel moto.)
And the price tag? The three-wheeler costs $18,500 before taxes, and prospective buyers can choose from red, white, black, and silver colorways. The reservation fee is $250.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in September that all new vehicles sold in the Golden State must be zero-emission by 2035. The solo ride will likely be one of many options in the coming years for Californians looking to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and fight climate change and pollution. According to the state, half of its greenhouse gas emissions (which contribute to global warming) come from transportation.
With local and urban commuters in mind, Canada-based ElectraMeccanica is ramping up its efforts on the West Coast. In addition to its two L.A. "showrooms," the company recently opened an outpost at Westfield UTC in San Diego, and another center is set to open at Brea Mall soon. And Rivera says that the brand imagines the Solo as a potential fleet vehicle for delivery and service companies and car-sharing services.
Rivera was unable to comment on how many vehicles have been reserved so far as the company is publicly-traded on the NASDAQ. "Because we're going from pre-revenue to revenue, we haven't given any guidance on any of the numbers. It's just too early," he notes. The brand will have a better idea "once we get into production," and possibly at the beginning of 2021.
The Vancouver-headquartered company has L.A. roots by way of Italy. It was born from family-owned custom sports car maker Intermeccanica, which had a brief stint in the City of Angels in the mid-'70s until it relocated to Canada in 1981.
The Canadian EV maker has an office in Studio City, and hopes to expand to New York. The company also has its sights set overseas on Europe and Southeast Asia, but that's "a few years out," says Rivera.
Rivera also reveals that the brand will soon announce the site of its first U.S. assembly operations "before Thanksgiving. We're down to two states now; we're about to choose between Nashville, Tennessee area, and the Phoenix, Arizona area."
Angelenos book a test drive at its Westfield Century City location by calling (818) 856-8170.