Beyond Golf Carts: Santa Monica EVs Chart A Path

In today’s burgeoning market for electric vehicles, the electric car gets all the attention. And with good reason. Analysts predict that the market for emissionless cars is about to take off and those same analysts predict that once they begin their ascent, it’s very unlikely they will ever slow down.

But what if you don’t to shell out $30,000 or $50,000 or even $100,000 for an electric car? What if you only need around-the-neighborhood transit? What if you have specialized tasks for which a full-size vehicle is too big, too clumsy or too expensive? Admittedly, in the rush of excitement surrounding all things electric car, smaller, more nimble electric vehicles have not gotten the attention they deserve for providing a usable, reliable transportation alternative.

We recently connected with Santa Monica Electric Vehicles CEO Britt Jackson, who is currently involved in rolling out his company’s line. Currently, SMEV offers an electric autoturbo recumbent trike and a mountain bike. Waiting in the wings is an entire line, including a configurable cargo trike capable of carrying 800 pounds, a city cruiser and even a small, folding model.

SMEV cargo bike

image via Santa Monica Electric Vehicles

EarthTechling: What is the state of the light vehicle electric vehicle market right now?

Britt Jackson: While the US electric car market is just in its infancy right now, the light EV market is just starting to get developed. With fuel prices going up people are going to start looking for different vehicles for different tasks. You can’t just rely on your feet or your car any more. That’s just not economically viable. Right now the only vehicles that meet that demand are golf carts. We are starting to meet that demand now with our different models.

EarthTechling: What are some of the challenges confronting the light EV industry right now?

Jackson: The biggest hurdle right now is awareness. When I go out on one of our vehicles someone always stops me and asks what it is I’m riding. Most Americans have never heard of an electric bike and have no idea what it is and what it’s used for. But as soon as you have more bikes on the market people will understand them immediately and its going to be a self-reinforcing trend.

EarthTechling: How is the industry evolving?

Jackson: Starting from about the year 2000 a lot of the people who jumped into the industry had a gold-rush mentality. Companies didn’t have the experience or the expertise to build good products. That’s changing now. There are good companies and good products. Another issue that’s getting much better is service and support. Here’s an example. We had a booth at Interbike this year.

Not only were there more people displaying e-bikes and better quality bikes, but the dealers that came up and talked to us were more knowledgeable. They knew the product and they knew they had to have a strategy — that it’s inevitable. I believe the future is very bright. The business is good right now and is going to improve substantially or we wouldn’t be doing it.

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.

1 Comment

  • Reply March 2, 2012

    Ebike Engineer

    This company is a SCAM.  They copied other people’s designs that have been around for years.  They even managed to get a patent or two on these old ideas.  They sell no products! The photos on their website are other manufacturer’s products.  Fancy website with lots of hype…that’s it.  Another smoke and mirror ripoff.

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