Electric cars, bikes ready to rip in July

Tesla Motors on Wednesday will demonstrate its all-electric sports cars in Santa Monica. The Tesla Roadster can challenge a Porsche in performance, says the company, but it runs on electricity. The company, founded by former execs at an e-book company, has discussed the car but not shown it.

Interested buyers can reserve one of the first 100 by plunking down $100,000. Thirty, according to the invitation to buy a car the company sent me, have already been reserved. A lack of a child seat in the current model has restrained me. The cars come out in the summer of 2007.

Meanwhile, a Russian-Indian-British company with a new kind of electric bike will release its first models in a few weeks.

The first electric bikes with an engine from Ultra Motor will come out in India at the end of the month. The company also plans a line of scooters. "Ultra Motor will be launching several scooter models by the Indian new year (Dewali) in October," wrote Joe Bowman, at Russian Technologies, which invested in Ultra Motor.

Ultra Motor is also trying to come out with a three-wheeled electric rickshaw.

The bikes were originally supposed to come out last year and sell for $150 to $175. The final price will be somewhere between $200 and $300, said Bowman, but it will go down as production ramps up.

Ultra MotorÂ’s chief technology officer, Vasily Shkondin, began tinkering with the concept of an e-bike while managing an air defense radar station for the Soviet Army in East Germany in the late 1980s. After the Berlin Wall fell, Shkondin showed off his ideas for a magnetic motor at a few trade fairs, but he lived about 125 miles outside of Moscow, far outside the mainstream of venture investing.

It wasn't until 2003 that Flintstone Technologies, a British venture capital firm whose directors include a former professor of Moscow State University, funded the project. Others subsequently jumped in.

The motor consists of a stationary permanent magnet attached to a hub and surrounded by three pairs of electromagnets. Those magnets are embedded in a rotating cylinder, which is attached to the wheel. Rapidly changing the polarity of the electromagnets from positive to negative causes the wheel to propel itself forward.

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    Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.

     

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