The electric microcar market in the US is quite limited compared to Europe and Asia, but Dutch company Squad Mobility hopes to change that. The startup announced that its solar-powered EV is now available for pre-order before entering the US.
Announcing today a special edition of the vehicle known as the ‘Solar Buggy’, the small format EV is described by the company as a “compact and affordable solar vehicle that is charged with direct solar energy via an integrated solar panel on the roof”.
Technically, it’s not a “car” in the traditional sense, at least not in the US, where it would fall under the Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) designation, which limits its speed to 25 mph (40 km/h) to achieve street legal status at the federal level.
It’s unclear if the vehicle has yet passed US homologation certification for street-legal status, though the company has plenty of time before its planned 2025 market entry.
Two higher performance versions of the car are available in Europe. The company is working on putting the two-seater solar city car into production in a 28 mph (45 km/h) L6 category variant and a 43 mph (70 km/h) L7 category variant. Squad Mobility also has plans for a longer, four-seater category L7 variant and a cargo variant.
One key differentiator for Squad Mobility is the company’s focus on solar power as a form of vehicle range extension. The roof-mounted solar panel is said to add up to 13.6 miles (22 km) of additional range on sunny days in the company’s home market of the Netherlands. In testing in Las Vegas, solar output was almost 50% higher, adding up to 19.2 miles (31 km) of range per day.
The vehicles feature four replaceable and portable batteries that together offer an all-electric range of 62 miles (100 km), even without factoring in additional solar charging. With an average solar range of 13 miles per day in a city like Las Vegas, Squad Mobility believes most users will find that charging isn’t even necessary.
Compared to the European market, where ATVs and minivans are more commonly found in densely populated cities, the US LSV market is focused more on planned communities, event centers and other campus-style areas.
As Squad Mobility CEO Robert Hoovers explained, “We are seeing tremendous interest from the United States, particularly in markets such as golf cart communities, (corporate) campuses, sharing platforms, hotels and resorts, theme parks and downtown services of the city.”
According to the company, the vehicle will be available in the US in 2025 at a price of US$6,250 before taxes and is now available for pre-order. No initial payment is required for pre-orders outside of Europe.
Electric microcars, mostly falling into the LSV category in the US, are a small but growing niche in the larger automotive space.
Earlier this year, we tested several Wink Motors LSVs in New York to see how a solar-powered microcar could handle a major US metropolis. While the experience may take some getting used to, these smaller vehicles can generally handle city speeds (especially in areas like New York, where traffic rarely reaches 25 mph), yet are easier to maneuver and park.
I love a good microcar and this definitely counts. The addition of solar power is the cherry on top. Sure, you could call it a fancy golf cart. But nobody who drives one of these is going to care what the hell you think about it. People who are interested in this kind of thing already have lifted trucks and exhaust mods. People who just want a vehicle to do what they need it to do… end up with weird little electric mini-trucks like mine. Or maybe a mini-solar car like this thing.
As much as I love what Squad Mobility is doing, though, I’d be amazed if they could actually sell this for $6,250. Consider that a basic golf cart costs closer to $9,000 with a plastic windshield and old-school batteries that require a set of tools and half an hour to access. Entering the market with a sleek looking street legal vehicle with swappable batteries for 30% less money… is going to be a tall order.
But hey, prove me wrong. Do it, Solar Mobility, and I’ll sing your praises from the mountaintops. Which is exactly where I drove the last electric microcar I borrowed.
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