Tesla has long dominated news of electric cars, with its sexy Ferrari-like styling, famous customers, and tabloid worthy behind the scenes politics. But what if you don’t have in excess of $109,000 for the base model? What if you don’t want to wait a year? What if you don’t want to settle for a close cousin of the golf cart? What if you’d like to travel further than your commute?
Up until now, your options were pretty well non existent. Now comes the AMP, which looks suspiciously like a Saturn Sky. That’s because it is, converted to be a plug in electric, with a 150 mile range, 0-60 in under 6 seconds, at a total pre-tax cost including the car of around $50,000. That’s $10,000 less then the deposit alone for a Tesla!
AMP, or Advanced Mechanical Products has created a car power system based around Lithium Phosphate batteries, which are apparently safer than the at times troubled Lithium Cobalt batteries, are non toxic, and weigh 1/3 that of typical car batteries. This enables the overall weight of the car to remain the same from before the conversion, retaining the balance and stability that was engineered into the original Saturn.
Why Saturn? In part because their control system works directly with the existing computer system in the vehicles, which one would surmise results in cost savings and functional integrity of a proven system. Why the Sky? My guess is because it’s a visually appealing vehicle, sexy enough to attract lots of upfront press, and will draw early adopters who want to impress people with their car. AMP does plan to convert other types of Saturns in the future, including SUVs. This would be a real breakthrough, moving past the speedbump to wider EV adoption among families.
My eyes zeroed in on a page that said What We Don’t Have and was surprised to see detailed something I hadn’t considered: With a car like this, there is no engine oil, clutch, transmission or differential fluids needed, and tune ups are history. This saves both money and the use of chemicals that otherwise might find their way down storm drains.
Exciting as this car seems, I have some qualms about it: For a high end, big investment, the site is fairly amateurish looking, and has multiple typos. I can sympathize, having been an entrepreneur myself and getting excited about an idea, you sometimes drop a plate or two while in a rush to market. But in this arena, presentation matters, you really want to be on point. The site doesn’t give enough concrete info about the actual mechanics of the revamped car, the testing of it, and how well it functions, both from the start and over a long period of time. Only one of the founders has experience in the automotive industry, of which they don’t specify. And you can only buy it if you live in Cincinnati, where the cars are made. That could be seen either as a desire to have hands on customer service and troubleshooting at the ready for these first generation vehicles, or a lack of confidence in the durability and longevity of the cars.
However, despite these reservations, it is highly encouraging to see a company bridging the gap between pure utility and pure luxury electric vehicles. Stay tuned, and let’s see where this road leads…
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.