Home » Piles Of Cheap Three-Wheel Electric Cars Are Dying In A Junkyard

Piles Of Cheap Three-Wheel Electric Cars Are Dying In A Junkyard

Electrameccanica Solo Junkers
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Back in late 2022, I got to drive a seriously quirky three-wheeled car. The ElectraMeccanica Solo was supposed to be the modern-day people’s car. It was great in concept until you realized the Solo gave you a single seat and a cheap-feeling interior for a whopping $18,000. Then ElectraMeccanica issued a voluntary buyback after a fatal bricking condition was discovered and the company couldn’t figure out how to fix it. The Solos returned to ElectraMeccanica are now showing up in junkyards and it’s not a pretty sight.

This tip comes to us from Pokemonprime on our wonderful Discord server, which you should totally join. Truth be told, I enjoyed my short time with the ElectraMeccanica Solo. The vehicle had some oddities like lifting its rear end on acceleration and interior pieces that seemed to be a collaboration of knockoff parts from Alibaba and Pep Boys. Still, the bones felt great and I could have seen myself owning one as a toy.

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Unfortunately, the Solo wasn’t meant to be, and ElectraMeccanica wanted 429 Solos back. ElectraMeccanica never said where those EVs were going, but now we know. A literal pile of these EVs have shown up on TikTok thanks to a former Local Motors engineer who goes by StartupSlick on the platform. The engineer explains that these ElectraMeccanica Solos are at the Pull-N-Save in Gilbert, Arizona, awaiting destruction.

@startupslick

#junk #electriccar #arizona

♬ original sound – StartupSlick

StartupSlick indicates in the video that he believes these vehicles to be trashed Elios. However, ElectraMeccanica is a totally different company. And to ElectraMeccanica’s credit, it actually put some vehicles into customer hands, unlike Elio.

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ElectraMeccanica?

Oh, right, this thing is so obscure that there’s a non-zero chance you’ve never even heard of this thing.

The company’s heritage technically dates back to 1959 with a completely different company, Intermeccanica. This company was founded by Frank Reisner and specialized in go-fast parts for Renaults, Simcas, Peugeots, and more. Intermeccanica’s history includes building Porsche 356 replicas, coachbuilding, and body construction for the Apollo GT, the Italia, the Indra, and others. Reisner died in 2001, and his son Henry Reisner took over. Today, Intermeccanica continues its tradition of custom-built cars and replicas.

In reality, Intermeccanica has nothing to do with ElectraMeccanica, but when Henry decided to open a new venture, he slapped the “-meccanica” suffix to his new company. As Automotive News Canada reports, in 2012, Reisner joined forces with Jerry Kroll to create ElectraMeccanica. Despite the similar name to Intermeccanica, ElectraMeccanica wouldn’t be a coachbuilder. Instead, Reisner and Kroll decided to build an innovative three-wheeled electric car.

ElectraMeccanica

Kroll’s connection was important. He had a history of being involved in failed startups, including two other EV startups and a failed sports drink startup. The startup most relevant to this was Kroll’s involvement with the Corbin Sparrow (above), an electric cutie first produced in 1999. At one point, Kroll ran Corbin Motors Vancouver. Eventually, Kroll decided it was time to make an electric people’s car, from my review:

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In 2015, Kroll purchased the rights to the Corbin Sparrow, and while the ElectraMeccanica Sparrow looked pretty much the same as the Sparrow did in 1999, the new version ditched the lead-acid batteries for lithium. The plan, as Canadian car publication Driving.ca wrote, was to produce a handful of Sparrows before shoving the drivetrain into a sleeker body. Kroll touted his company’s EV as the new people’s car:

“This is the Volkswagen Beetle for the 21st century,” Jerry Kroll declared in the Westin-Bayshore parking lot during my pre-test drive briefing. “After 30 minutes of driving it, you feel like you are wearing Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman suit. You’re wearing the car. It’s the way driving should be.”

In a video, Kroll went even further, saying the Solo would end up “as ubiquitous as the iPhone within a year” and calling it the best experience that you could have that isn’t sex. But what wasn’t happening were deliveries, and after those 2015 teasers of the production version and tens of thousands of pre-orders, sites began to doubt whether the cars would ever reach customer hands.

The Company Delivered, Then Failed Anyway

ElectraMeccanic succeeded in doing what so many dreamers couldn’t. The company pulled the covers off of the production model in 2016 and in 2017, began production in Vancouver, Canada. Those first production ElectraMeccanica Solos were built by hand and as Robert Dunn of Aging Wheels says, about 180 of them or so were built in Canada.

Oh, and ElectraMeccanica was smart to switch up its marketing. The trike went from being the next Beetle to being a fun commuter.

Not often reported is the fact that ElectraMeccanica technically had multiple generations of Solo. The first “generation” Solos were built between 2017 and 2019, but it’s believed 40 or fewer reached customers. Apparently, ElectraMeccanic then made a second-generation Solo, which was designed to be cheaper and mass-produced in China. Dunn says that of 300 or so built in just 2019, just one was sold. The rest were examined and scrapped.

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The Solo you might be familiar with is technically the third generation, which sold from 2021 to 2023.

These new Solos were still built by Zongshen in China, but have improvements such as a wider track to reduce the chance of rollover. They also have stability control to try to keep all three wheels on the ground. They came with specs that were reasonable for a city car. The Solo had a 17.3 kWh battery, a 56 HP and 103 lb-ft torque motor, and a top speed of 80 mph. The 1,769-pound weight was about what a Smart Fortwo weighs and 100 miles of range is ok for city use.

I found the little Solo to be a great urban vehicle. It practically sliced its way through tight city streets and it was so small it could park in places usually reserved for Smart Fortwos and motorcycles.

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All of that is fine and dandy, but the ElectraMeccanica Solo suffered from a couple of glaring issues. One was the price. The Solo was $18,000. For that, you got just a single seat and an interior on par with an early Chevy Aveo. That’s a lot of dough to spend to make a lot of compromises.

Another issue was the fact that the Solo could suddenly lose motive power and ElectraMeccanica didn’t know how to fix it. As a result, ElectraMeccanica issued a voluntary buyback of the 429 Chinese-built Solos sold between 2019 and 2023. ElectraMeccanica had another 800 units sitting around unsold. Thomas wrote about the reason for the buyback and here’s what ElectraMeccanica said:

While driving, the vehicle may experience a loss of propulsion. An instrument cluster warning light illuminates, and the driver will experience a loss of power as the vehicle decelerates as if removing their foot from the accelerator pedal. Steering, braking, and lighting systems are not impacted. The vehicle can be restarted after a period of time. In the event of sudden loss of propulsion, the vehicle maintains all other critical functionality including power steering, braking, and lighting, and in most instances allows the driver to pull over.

[…]

If the error occurs, a red “BMS” or “Motor Icon” instrument cluster warning light will illuminate, indicating a loss of propulsion.

[…]

EMV (ElectraMeccanica Vehicles) has been unable to determine a root cause for the issue, therefore, EMV is repurchasing the SOLO.

Now, this buyback is voluntary, so owners of these three-wheelers can roll the dice and keep them, but ElectraMeccanica made it clear that these people would be, well, left solo:

EMV strongly recommends you accept the purchase offer for safety reasons. Please note that EMV will no longer warrant, support, or service your vehicle.

As for what’s happened to those Solos? Sadly, as the video above shows, they’re living out their final days piled on top of each other in at least one junkyard. StartupSlick says these vehicles will be destroyed, not parted out and sold. That’s a shame because the ElectraMeccanica Solo is sort of living a second life as vehicles for YouTubers like Robert Dunn and also the Grind Hard Plumbing Co. I also occasionally see some for sale.

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As for ElectraMeccanica, the company shuttered its office in British Columbia and moved to Arizona. The company appears to be in a weird holding pattern today. ElectraMeccanica announced and then canceled a four-wheeled EV. Most recently electric truck manufacturer Xos bought ElectraMeccanica. Xos wasn’t interested in the cars or designs, instead, it reportedly wanted its cash reserves, so who knows where it’s headed now.

The ElectraMeccanica saga is a sad one. There was so much potential here and the company even reached production. But even it is now sitting on the scrap pile of history.

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Rapgomi
Rapgomi
1 month ago

Its a real bummer these are being broken up! I would love to have one to take apart and play with.

I interviewed for an engineering job working on updates for the Corbin Sparrow around 1999 or 2000. I was very excited for the prospect, but the position was never fully funded. It made me sad when the whole Sparrow project shut down 🙁

Huja Shaw
Huja Shaw
1 month ago

I can’t help to think that thing would disappear from sight under the ever-elevating hood lines of modern trucks/SUV’s. Looks like it’d be a lot of fun until it got crushed by Rivian or the like.

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