Those of us who follow the world of electric cars are all too aware how difficult it is to start up an electric car company.
Even the larger companies like Tesla Motors, Coda Automotive and Fisker Automotive aren't out of the woods just yet, though some are in a better position than others.
One company acutely aware of the struggles is AFUTURE, based in Norway.
The electric Qashqai
Rather than building an electric car from scratch, AFUTURE's plan was to convert an already-popular vehicle in Europe, Nissan's Qashqai. The European equivalent of the Nissan Rogue, the Qashqai is one of Europe's top-selling cars, so it's a vehicle people are already familiar with.
As the firm's online brochure (pdf) revealed, the AFUTURE Qashqai was to be offered, like the Tesla Model S, in several variants, with different ranges and performance abilities.
The car would start with an entry-level model, offering 62 miles of range (on the combined European cycle), a 62mph top speed and a leisurely 0-62mph acceleration time of 25 seconds, and run to a model with a 155 mile range, a top speed of 81 mph, and more sprightly acceleration of 12 seconds to 62mph.
The lithium-polymer batteries ranged from 17 kWh to 34 kWh, and motor power was between 30-60 kW (40-80 bhp).
The team even went as far as sending one of the cars on a round-the-world trip in 2011, which it completed after 10 months and 18,640 miles.
So what went wrong?
We emailed the company to find out their current progress, and received an email back from one of the original engineers, Søren Beck.
Søren bought the remains of the company following its original bankruptcy, as a result of a lack of money and the poor publicity of one of the Qashqais catching fire on an Oslo ferry.
He's now once again building up the company and even building a car for one Norwegian customer, but the model is a long way from series production. Cost is still an issue--type approval for the model is expensive so impossible at this stage, and to really make a serious attempt at production, Søren needs to find $740K-$865K from an investor--which given the current state of economies around the world, is easier said than done.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, though it's a long way yet. AFUTURE is in talks with a customer for a production run of 240 vehicles, which may well be based on the Dacia Duster, a Renault-owned, Romanian budget crossover that shares its platform with the Qashqai.
Startups: A risky business
AFUTURE is just another example of the difficulties in starting a car company, particularly one that deals in electric vehicles.
The market is volatile and customers are currently few and far between. When even the largest companies are delivering modest five-figure production runs, the chances of small concerns making a splash in the market aren't good.
We wish the best of luck to entrepreneurs like Søren--it may not be easy, but the few that make it through will find it's worth the risk.