Malcolm Bricklin Working on Electric Three-Wheeler, Reality Show


  • Malcolm Bricklin Picture

    Malcolm Bricklin Picture

    Entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin's next project is an electric motorcycle. | July 18, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin is developing a three-wheeled electric vehicle to be called the Bricklin 3 EV, he said in an interview with Edmunds.
  • Bricklin says the vehicle will be powered by multiple electric motors, with front-, rear- or all-wheel drive selectable by the driver.
  • The development process is to be documented for an online reality show.

NEW YORK — Entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin — known for such ventures as his 1970s SV-1 sports car, founding Subaru of America and importing Yugos into the U.S. — is planning to build the Bricklin 3 EV, a three-wheeled electric vehicle that he says will have a range of at least 200 miles and cost less than $50,000.

The development process of the vehicle is to be documented for an online reality show.

Bricklin told Edmunds in a phone interview on Wednesday that the 3 EV will be powered by a hub motor on its single rear wheel and a conventional electric motor driving the two front wheels. Depending on conditions and preference, the driver will be able to select front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive. His goal is to see 0-60-mph acceleration times of around 4 seconds.

Batteries, located under the floor, will initially be lithium-ion, but Bricklin said the vehicle will be designed to capitalize on new technologies as they emerge. He said multi-blade turbine generators and regenerative braking will be used to stretch the range to the 200-mile target.

Most of all, Bricklin said he wants his vehicle to be beautiful and "a great-driving car, like a race car" but with a luxurious interior. And he wants it to be safe enough that "if you hit a wall at 100 mph, you walk away."

Bricklin told Edmunds he is "really getting tired of all the things you have to do to meet both emissions and NHTSA" regulations.

"Not that they're bad, it's just that the amount of time and energy that is required to go through those tests limits the ability to build something better," he said.

As a result, the 3 EV will be licensed as a motorcycle.

He stressed that safety is a major issue for him, as it was with the SV-1. His goal in the earlier project, which he says he accomplished, was "to build a sexy-looking very, very safe car." But registering the new vehicle as a motorcycle will allow him to make it safe without submitting it to testing, and making it electric removes it from emissions regulations.

Development to date has been funded by Bricklin himself and a group of friends. He said that once prototypes are available he'll seek longer-term investors. After his many automotive ventures, he said, he knows how to hold costs down, and he believes he can get into production for "under $100 million." And, he added, government funding is "the last place I want to go."

Bricklin said that prototypes, which should be ready by Thanksgiving, will be analyzed for further development and vetted by a potential network of 350-400 dealers. Bricklin wouldn't speculate on how long those steps might take, but once the design is finalized, he expects to begin delivering the vehicles in about 24 months. His admittedly optimistic sales estimate is 5,000 to 10,000 units per month.

Chief engineer on the project is another well-known automotive entrepreneur, Dan Panoz, famous for his line of exotic sports cars. Made in the U.S. and powered by American V8 engines, they were intended to challenge top high-performance European nameplates. Panoz's mandate, said Bricklin, is to build "the most fun car you ever drove."

Bricklin told Edmunds that the 3 EV will be built in the U.S. and that 80 percent of his workforce will be military veterans. Each one will be assembled by a small team, and every member of the team will sign off at the end of the production process. Employee compensation will be partially dependent on how well the team's vehicles perform in the hands of customers.

If all goes according to plan, the development of the vehicle will be documented by what Bricklin told Edmunds is a "very major player in the reality TV business." After seeing The Entrepreneur, the documentary about Bricklin made by his son, Jonathan, the production company got the idea of following progress on the three-wheeler and presenting it as a weekly half-hour online program, perhaps on YouTube. Although a pilot was filmed two weeks ago, he said he was not able to divulge any further information on the reality-show project at this time.

Bricklin said photos of the new vehicle are not available at this point.

Edmunds says: Whatever Bricklin comes up with, it won't be boring.

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