Back in the mid 1990s, a motorcycle seat salesman by the name of Mike Corbin turned up at the San Francisco Auto Show with a single seat, three wheeled electric car that resembled a boot on wheels. 

But while Corbin experienced an initial spike of interest from curious consumers and international media, the firm failed to convince the world that the future of transportation lay in its brightly-colored bubble-gum cars. 

With just 289 cars delivered, Corbin Motors filed for bankruptcy in 2003, but now the company is back, with plans to bring the Corbin Sparrow 2 to market by the end of the year. 

Looking sleeker than the original Sparrow, the Sparrow 2 uses the same basic principle of a single-seat, three wheeled vehicle -- or Private Transport Module as Corbin Motors calls it. 

Talking with Wired, it’s clear that Corbin thinks the Sparrow’s time has finally come, nearly a decade after fading into oblivion

“The Sparrow was my best idea,” he enthused. “And all of [a] sudden the world is ready. What are we gonna do, let it pass us by? We have proven we can sell a three-wheel electric car, and now the technology is there.”

Corbin Sparrow 2 Single Seat Electric Car

Corbin Sparrow 2 Single Seat Electric Car

But while Corbin enthuses about the resurrection of his personal transport vision, we have to remain skeptical about its future. 

First of all, there’s price. With cars like the 2012 Mitsubishi i retailing from $29,125 before federal and state incentives, Corbin Motors is already faced with an uphill struggle to produce a competitive product.  For reference, the first generation Corbin Sparrow -- which lives on as the Myers Motors NMG after Myers Motors purchased the original bankrupt Corbin stock -- retails at an unbelievably high $29,995

Secondly, it takes a lot of money to develop a car, especially one that doesn’t follow conventional design idioms and is being developed by a company without millions of dollars of funding and decades of automotive experience. 

Ask the team behind the Aptera 2e, which promised to be the most aerodynamic vehicle on the road, but ran out of funding long before it reached production. No matter how appealing the vehicle is to a niche market, it needs to deliver on price, performance, reliability and safety.

Finally, there’s practicality. While the Corbin Sparrow 2 might be cute in a niche-market kind of way, it isn’t all that practical. 

For a start, it can’t take passengers, and while it can take more luggage than most motorcycles, it can’t wind through traffic like most motorcycles can. 

In short, the Corbin Sparrow 2 is neither fish nor fowl. It isn’t a car, and it doesn’t benefit from the positive sides of commuting in a motorcycle. 

Corbin Sparrows

Corbin Sparrows

Does it have a role? 

LIke the Aptera, and so many small-scale electric vehicles before it, someone, somewhere will buy it. 

Even we have to admit that, given unlimited resources and a large enough garage, the Corbin Sparrow 2 might be a fun vehicle to own for the occasional weekend drive.

But for most consumers, the search for a green electric vehicle will end in a production electric car like a 2012 Nissan Leaf or 2012 Mitsubishi i -- not a small-scale three-wheeler. 

Is the Corbin Sparrow 2 doomed before it even starts production? Or will it have significant interest to survive? Let us know in the Comments below. 


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