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Miles to goCNET News.com's Michael Kanellos test-drives the cars from Miles Automotive, one of many new companies putting out electric cars.
[ music ] ^M00:00:03 >> Hi, this is Michael Kanellos at News.com, and I'm in the ZX40AS, a prototype electric car from Miles Automotive. They're good, there's a [inaudible] around the cars that only lets them go thirty five miles an hour. So it's not the speediest car in the world, but it doesn't use gas. Now you think a car that only goes thirty five miles an hour is gonna be kind of slow and dumpy on hills. Actually, it's pretty good. Watch this. ^M00:00:29 >> You probably haven't heard of Santa Monica's Miles Automotive. But with a little luck they might be able to break out of the pack of electric car start-ups that have started in the past few years. They make low speed electric cars that sell for around fifteen thousand dollars, universities and military bases buy them for their maintenance crews. Yale has some, and so does UCLA. But the bigger ambition comes in 2009 when Miles will come out with a freeway legal car that will go eighty five miles an hour. It will only cost around thirty five thousand dollars, which for an electric car is really cheap. The first prototype just came off the line in China, and the company gave a ride to New York's Mayor Blumberg [assumed spelling]. Blumberg was there on a goodwill tour, and Miles Rubin, the company's founder, is an old friend. So how will a tiny company undercut industrial giants by coming out with a cheaper electric car than they can, faster than they're going to? Miles is using existing cars, and retrofitting them for electric motors. The low speed cars are based on a gas car that Dihatsu [assumed spelling] currently sells, and the electric freeway car is based on a gas car that's currently on sale in China by, from another company. Thus Miles doesn't have to start from square one when building an electric car, and that saves a lot of money. >> And we believe in all of the alternative energy transportation options that are out in the field, but we've placed our bet exclusively on the all electric model. In terms of the long-term viability, we believe that all electric is the way to go. Right, our highway speed vehicle is gonna come out in early '09, it's under development, under development right now as a prototype. It's doing very well, we're very pleased with the progress. And that's going to be a consumer vehicle. Our current low speed line is primarily a fleet vehicle, it's designed for campuses, universities, that sort of you know, enclosed type of area. >> The freeway legal prototype won't be in the states for a few months, but we got a tour around Santa Monica in one of the low speed vehicles. >> Under the hood of an electric car you have big black boxes. You have your batteries, an AC controller built by Curtis, the AC motor sits directly underneath it, and you have your auxiliary battery. We like to say the only liquid you're gonna pour into the vehicle regularly is your windshield washer fluid. As far as maintenance, the batteries are maintenance free. >> Now what's, what's the auxiliary battery do? >> The auxiliary battery starts the entire system, and it runs your auxiliary systems, your headlights, your CD player. It runs all those separate systems. >> Air conditioner if you have it. >> Air conditioner if you have it. It helps to mitigate that power drain. >> So what does Miles have going for it? Well they're being practical. They started with a small market, they're gonna go bigger, they're not gonna command a huge price. And they're using established and already built car chassis to build these things. They're cutting as many cost corners as they can. Who knows? It might work. I'm Michael Kanellos for News.com.