Against the gray backdrop of first-stage smog alert, Los Angeles officials on Thursday unveiled the first working prototype of the LA301, an electric car they say will help carry Southern California into a pollution-free future.
The city’s Department of Water and Power has invested $7 million in the venture officials say will produce a commercially viable electric car by early 1993.
CleanAir Transport, the Swedish company developing the automobile under an award from the DWP, plans to produce 1,000 of the two-door, hatchback cars in 1993 and as many as 30,000 a year by 1995, officials said.
“Today we stand on the brink of a new age--the age of the electric vehicle,” said City Councilman Marvin Braude, who spearheaded the effort.
“You can see the need for it,” said Braude pointing to the hazy downtown skyline. “You can look up and you can’t see the blue sky.”
John Samuel, CleanAir director of engineering, said: “Our goal has been to develop a high-quality, zero-emissions car that overcomes the size and range limitations traditionally associated with electric vehicles. . . . The LA301 is the first electric vehicle that can actually compete with conventional cars in comfort, ride and practicality.”
The car, which seats four, is expected to sell for about $25,000. CleanAir, a company formed to develop the electric car, is the only manufacturer that now has a firm production date for a zero-emissions vehicle, officials said.
The DWP’s electric car initiative is one of several efforts to put such vehicles on the road by the mid-1990s.
General Motors is developing a battery-powered car. A prototype can travel 120 miles at an average speed of 55 m.p.h., and go from zero to 60 m.p.h. in eight seconds. GM has not said when it will start production.
Recently, GM, Chrysler and Ford formed a consortium to develop a new generation of improved batteries to power electric cars. Similar efforts are under way in Japan and Europe.
The push to develop electric cars came last year when the California Air Resources Board approved strict new tailpipe emission standards that required manufacturers to build a minimum number of electric cars. Under the ARB plan, by 1998, 2% or 40,000 of the new cars sold in California must be electric. By 2003, 10% or 200,000 of all cars must be electric powered. A group of Northeastern states announced this week that they will follow California’s lead.
At Braude’s urging and with Mayor Tom Bradley’s support, the DWP agreed two years ago to award financial incentives to a company that would commit to commercially produce an electric automobile and make it available for sale in Los Angeles. Last year, the agency awarded $7 million to CleanAir to develop the car that was unveiled Thursday.
Samuel said that 90% of all trips taken by Los Angeles drivers could be accomplished in the estimated 60-mile range the car has between recharges.
Mike Gage, president of the DWP Board of Commissioners said that most electric cars would be recharged at night, when demand for electricity is low. Gage said that more than 200,000 electric cars could be accommodated in the city for recharging, without having to add any electrical generating capacity. Each recharge would cost about $1, Gage said.
If the batteries run down before reaching a desired destination, the LA301 sports an auxiliary gasoline-powered engine and a seven-gallon fuel tank to extend its range to 150 miles.