Miles Electric readies all-electric family sedan

Start-up plans to test next year whether an electric sedan with a 100-mile range will appeal to consumers for daily use.

Miles Electric Vehicles will test the market for all-electric vehicles next year with a $45,000 sedan, though under a different brand name.

The company, founded in 2004, now sells electric fleet vehicles or "neighborhood" sedans that top out at about 25 miles per hour. It has also been developing, through a series of partnerships, an electric four-door, five passenger sedan with a range of about 100 miles.

Miles Electric Vehicles plans to use the chassis of this existing car manufactured in China for its electric sedan. Miles Electric Vehicles

In the first half of 2010, Miles plans to market test about 200 or 300 of the sedans and then make more available for sale in California by fall of that year, according to Kara Saltness, the director of marketing at Miles.

Later this month, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company will announce the name of the sedan.

There are several electric and hybrid cars aimed at mainstream consumers that will start coming to market late next year, including a plug-in Toyota Prius and General Motors' Chevy Volt.

The advantage of gas-electric cars is that they can ensure roughly the same driving range as a gasoline car. However, there are a few efforts to build all-electric cars which, because of improvements in lithium ion batteries, have a longer range than previous generations.

Miles Electric expects that its sedan will appeal to environmentally minded American consumers who, in many cases, already have one car.

"It's a practical vehicle, but it has revolutionary technology that's powering it," said Saltness. "We're not targeting people who want a trophy vehicle. We're targeting people who are going to use it every day."

The top speed of the car will be about 80 miles per hour, she said, and the 100-mile range is realistic based on Miles' tests. It will take 8 to 12 hours to charge an empty battery with a regular 110-volt outlet, or about half of that on a higher voltage connection.

The company is in the process of crash-testing about 20 prototypes in an effort to get the highest U.S. safety rating, Saltness added.

Previously, company officials said that the electric sedan would cost about $32,000, rather than its current estimate of $45,000.

But buyers could benefit from up to a $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as possible state rebates. In addition, Saltness noted that the maintenance costs of electric vehicles are expected to be much lower and that the cost per mile, if charged during off-peak times, could be as little as 2 or 3 cents a mile, which is significantly less than gasoline.

The car itself and the lithium-ion phosphate battery pack will be manufactured by partners in China. The company intends to make 3,000 cars in 2010 and has the ability to reach 20,000 units per year.

The company expects to raise a series C funding in the next several months to finance its sedan production plans, Saltness said.

 

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