Just a month after being turned down for low-interest loans by the U.S. Department of Energy, the reclusive V-Vehicle Co. has shown a drivable prototype of its affordable, green V-Car to Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and members of the press in Baton Rouge.

While no photos were allowed, many more details have emerged of the car and its equipment. V-Vehicle says the V-Car would sell in the very low five figures--perhaps for no more than $11,000. Before now, the mystery car had been seen only by a handful of investors.

2011 VVC sketches

2011 VVC sketches

2011 VVC sketches

2011 VVC sketches

2011 VVC sketches

2011 VVC sketches

2011 VVC sketches

2011 VVC sketches

Loan quest ongoing

Under interim CEO (and noted venture capitalist) Ray Lane, San Diego-based VVC will continue its quest for low-interest loans of $321 million from the new-technology vehicle program to allow it to start production at its plant in Monroe, Louisiana.

It claims it can produce a "very affordable" and green car with such a low price and high fuel efficiency that it will sell in the hundreds of thousands a year. Showing a production-ready car may help convince skeptical DoE officials that the company's business plan is viable.

Lane told reporters that VVC plans to raise an additional $100 million in private capital, to add to its existing $90 million of funds. It will also build an additional 65 V-Car prototypes for testing and validation.

Offspring of a Golf and a Neon?

The somewhat boxy V-Car is a five-door hatchback that the company says is the length of a Toyota Corolla (179 inches) but as wide as a BMW 5-Series (73 inches).

Reporter Gary Perilloux of the Baton Rouge Advocate was one of the very few members of the media at the V-Car event, and was able to drive the car on a 2-mile oval Louisiana State Police training track along the Mississippi River.

In an exclusive interview, Perilloux told us the styling of the "plain vanilla" V-Car resembled a cross between a Volkswagen Golf and a Dodge Neon, a comparison that he said "raised visible winces and cringing" among VVC executives.

Engineers and designers told him in return that their consumer clinics had produced comparisons to a small crossover, and that the V-Car's profile "hinted strongly" at the lines of a Porsche Cayenne. Perilloux called that "more than a bit of a stretch."

Any color as long as it's white

Only images from a promotional video and teaser shots of the V-Car have been seen thus far. An earlier teaser photo shows the V-Car to have round sealed-beam headlights of the sort that were required on all cars sold in the U.S. until the early 1980s.

The body is made of composite material in a matte finish, and white is the sole color offered. Buyers would be able to add plastic "body wraps" of anything from abstract art to sports logos or photos of their kids or dog.

The V-Car's wheels are painted white, making them so visible that the company's new CEO (and venture capitalist) Ray Lane said he planned to insist on adding spoked wheel covers.

Recycled interior materials

Interior panels, including the dashboard, are made of a recycled material resembling brown pressboard. The seats are covered in an orange-brown recycled material resembling canvas, and the rear seats fold down to provide a flat load deck.

Equipment includes air conditioning, power windows, and power locks, although controls for those items are mounted on a central console on the tunnel, requiring front-seat passengers to reach back to operate them. The benefit is reduced wiring complexity and cost.

Neither hybrid nor electric

The V-Car is fitted with an unspecified high-efficiency small gasoline engine mated to an automatic transmission; it is neither a hybrid nor an electric vehicle. The company declined to comment on rumors that its car would achieve 40 miles per gallon.

Power steering is standard, and the console contains a sport gear shift. Of his brief drive in the production prototype, which showed about 5,000 miles on the odometer, Perilloux said, "the handling feels good."

Big-box retailing

One element of VVC's business plan is distribution through an unspecified "big-box" retailer that has still not been announced. Lane said the company will discuss its retailing plan in "one to two months."

[Baton Rouge Advocate]