Wrightspeed: Sports cars first, then electric pickup truck

Wrightspeed plans to take on the other half of the manly man car market.

Wrightspeed's X1 prototype car Michael Kanellos/CNET Networks

DAVIS, Calif.--Update. Ian Wright, founder of electric sports-car maker Wrightspeed, wants to get into pickup trucks too.

The company is looking at making an electric drivetrain for trucks that the company would then sell to established manufacturers, he said during a hallway meeting at the GoingGreen conference taking place here. The top-three selling vehicles in the United States in 2006 were the Ford F-150, the Chevy Silverado and the Dodge Ram, he said. "No. 4 was the Camry."

Converting trucks from gas to electric could have a big impact on carbon monoxide emissions. Trucks emit a lot of fumes and don't get great mileage.

Update: It could save a lot of money too, Ian wrote us after we posted the story. The drive train could be used to make a plug-in hybrid truck. If you drove a truck for five years and averaged 25,000 miles a year, you'd spend $50,000 in gas if the truck got 10 miles per gallon and gas averages to $4 a gallon. A plug-in hybrid in optimal conditions in the same period could do the same on $6,000 worth of electricity.

It won't be easy. A new crop of electric cars is just coming to market, and a big issue is battery life. The high-end Tesla Roadster, coming out later this year, only goes 200 miles on a battery charge. It costs $98,000 and a big part of the cost is the battery. How far will a truck, full electric or hybrid, priced in the $40,000 range go with a load of lumber on its electrical power? Wrightspeed would face competition from clean diesel trucks too.

The company also is still in the prototyping stage. Wrightspeed has built a fast electric car, but it's a demonstration vehicle and won't resemble a final product. (It doesn't have doors, for one thing, sort of a tough feature for selling a car in the United States.) Wrightspeed is not manufacturing cars yet.

But who knows. A number of companies are tinkering with electric car ideas.

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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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