|Your first reaction is: golf cart. It’s your mind searching for a correlation to this machine somewhere in your driving past. The silent ignition and not-so-silent constant electric whir instantly remind you of one. But, then your speedometer rises above 10 … 20 … 30 … 40 miles per hour, and it’s clear you’re in a different motorized universe. Everything about Myers Motors’ electric vehicle is a trade-off. It is not necessarily comfortable, but it is incredibly fun. It is inexpensive to fuel, but the 30-mile limit on the batteries leaves you wondering where you’d plug it in after your commute downtown. Overall, the Sparrow provides a positive driving experience. Though the manual brakes are a drawback, you quickly get used to them. The steering is responsive and it’s easy to zip in and out of lanes, even without a rearview mirror (like a motorcycle, the side mirrors are all you need to see behind you). Of course, you squirm at the thought of any kind of car accident while sitting in the tiny cabin. But everyone will see you coming down the road in this thing.
California’s Corbin Motors saw the future, created an electric-powered vehicle, sold 300 of them, and went bankrupt. But Dana Myers saw potential in the company’s Sparrow concept, so he brought the tiny vehicle to Ohio and back to life.
“At first, I thought, This looks sort of goofy,” recalls Myers, who purchased some of Corbin Motors’ assets to launch his company. “But when you go down the road, you change your mind. Everyone you see is honking at you or smiling or giving you a thumbs-up.”
Since 2004, his Tallmadge-based Myers Motors has been working out the kinks in the Sparrow’s original design — like how it would shut off if you lowered both windows while driving. The vehicles are built by hand, and Myers is taking it slow to avoid the financial pitfalls that sunk Corbin Motors in 2003.
“We’re getting to the place where we understand how to make it, can put it out on the road and have it be reliable,” Myers says. “Right now, we’re the only highway-legal electric vehicle in America. Our goal now is to bring our costs down, come out with some new models and then really go out and promote it.”
The Sparrow (promoted as an “NmG” — for no more gas) sells for $36,000. Pricey for a one-seater, but fueling it costs just two cents a mile. Plug it into a standard electrical outlet for six to eight hours and you get 30 miles of driving time.
“Thirty miles, to most people, seems not very far,” Myers says. “On the other hand ... the average person travels less than 10 miles to work.”
The real test will be whether we’re ready for such a shift in how we move around our daily lives. So far, the company has sold a few dozen vehicles in this start-up phase, and Myers says he believes in the concept.
“We’re selling out everything we make,” he says. “That says to us there’s a latent demand for this and, once we get out there and really start pushing it, I think we can sell a lot more.”