Electric car dealership opens up shop

COSTA MESA — Were he still alive today, James Dean may have been a rebel with a "green" cause had he cruised the open highways in a 550 Porsche Spyder all-electric replica.

The sleek, semi-automatic, fiberglass vehicle powered by two lithium-ion batteries — one in the front and one in the rear, which provides additional stability though equal-weight distribution — is the newest all-electric roadster launched by South Coast Electric Cars.

The dealership held a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon, with public and city officials present. The 27,000-square-foot showroom at 1880 Newport Blvd. also features a selection of electric Vectrix motorcycles, Busetti Vortex mountain bikes and a Kandi COCO two-seater vehicle.

"A lot of the past years have been rough on businesses," said Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer. "So every day that a business opens its doors here in Costa Mesa, it's a big deal."

But the main draw of the showroom was the Spyder and a green and white convertible 1957 Porsche Speedster, another all-electric replica. Both vehicles were listed as $34,900 — down from the regular $49,900 price — as a special opening deal.

"There is a stigma in the industry — why do electric vehicles have to look ugly?" said dealership owner John Calicchio. "This is a way to illustrate that the electric car can be sexy, sleek and effective."

The electric roadsters get an average of 100 miles per charge for an average cost of about $2. They can also reach speeds up to 130 mph, he said.

The cost-efficient cars attracted Irvine resident Shin Wu to browse the new showroom Wednesday.

While the speedster looked "quite pretty," Wu, who drives a Mercedes-Benz SUV, said it was the wallet-sparing factor at the gas pump that appealed to him the most.

Calicchio believes that the roadsters, which drive "fantastically and handle superbly," and other electric vehicles will become increasingly prevalent as the technology and infrastructure for electric vehicles become more readily available.

"You are going to see a tidal wave of electric vehicles," Calicchio said. "Right now there are about 100 electric vehicle charging stations from Los Angeles to Orange County, but no one knows about them. I think that overnight you are going to begin to see them everywhere."

South Coast Electric Cars also specializes in converting any gas-fueled car into an all-electric vehicle, starting for about $25,000.

The Costa Mesa dealership is in the process of adding all-electric four-door sedans and medium pick-up trucks to its inventory.

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