2009 WheeGo Whip NEV
It looks like a 2009 Smart ForTwo, it's made in China, it only goes 40 miles on its batteries, and it has a dopey name. So why should you care about the Wheego Whip?
Right now it's in a category of cars called "neighborhood electric vehicles," which are limited to low speeds (35 mph or less) and licensed only for certain types of roads. Regulations vary by state, so as they say, your mileage may vary.
Neighborhood electrics have to have lights, brakes, wipers, and seat belts, but not much else. They range from glorified golf carts to fully-outfitted tiny cars. All currently use lead-acid batteries to keep prices below $25,000.
Wheego says it is now "federalizing" the all-steel Whip, and that it will have completed the certification process sometime next year. That version's lithium-ion battery pack and 55-horsepower motor will provide a range of up to 100 miles and a top speed around 60 mph.
Despite its remarkable resemblance to the 2009 Smart ForTwo, the Whip is significantly larger and has its powertrain up front.
Smart has launched an all-electric version of the ForTwo--the Smart EV--in Europe, with a powertrain from Tesla Motors, so if they bring that vehicle to the States, we forsee the potential for some significant confusion.
Rex drove a prototype of the 2010 Wheego Whip HSV (high-speed vehicle), and says it felt roomy, solid, smooth, and refined, though he slammed the suspension as primitive and underdeveloped.
If and when the high-speed Wheego hits the market, we'll bring our own impressions. Until then, while its aspirations are laudable, we're taking a "wait and see" approach to what right now remains a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV).
NEVs are used both in planned communities, some of which have separate road networks for golf carts, and on city or town streets with lower speed limits, where permitted.
We don't spend a lot of time covering NEVs, simply because they're not "real cars" and can't do highway duty. They have some limited applications, but fewer than 100,000 have been sold globally.
Most importantly, NEVs don't have to comply with the safety standards that real cars do. And you don't want to know what happens to the plastic ones when they're in an accident.
We would have included a video clip from the UK's Top Gear show, which barrier-tested a plastic G-Wiz electric vehicle that falls into the same class. But the BBC has asserted a copyright claim, so it's no longer on YouTube.
Take our word for it: You wouldn't want to be in most NEVs when they run into anything. At any speed.
The WheeGo Whip offers plenty of room for two, a car-like feel, and high seating position that is as tall as many crossovers.