Could these tiny, low-cost electric cars save America’s cities from SUV hell?

With cars on American roads getting bigger and heavier every year, going electric just might not be enough. To take back our cities of huge trucks and SUVs while simultaneously promoting affordable and efficient electric vehicles, New York-based startup Wink Motors thinks it has the answer.

Wink has just unveiled four new Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) designed for US roads.

They are designed to comply with federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations and are therefore permitted on the road under Low Speed ​​Vehicle (LSV) regulations.

Wow, that’s a lot of acronyms!

Basically, LSVs are small electric vehicles that follow a specific set of abbreviated safety rules and operate at speeds up to 25 mph (40 km/h). They are allowed on US roads with posted speed limits of up to 35 mph (56 km/h).

And Wink Motors tells us it has some of the few street legal options available in the country.

As Wink Founder and CEO Mark Dweck explained:

We designed these vehicles to be the perfect small-format city vehicle. They’re small and easy to park in tight spaces like an e-bike or motorcycle, but have fully enclosed seating for four adults and can be ridden in rain, snow, or other inclement weather like full-size cars. Since they are electric, you never have to pay for gas or contribute to harmful emissions. And you can even charge them in the sun with the solar panels on the roof.

I’ve actually had the pleasure of watching Wink Motors grow in stealth mode over the last year and a half while providing technical advice on vehicle design.

The Winks may not be fast, but they exceed the legal 25 mph (40 km/h) limit allowed for LSVs.

This lower speed also makes them safer and more efficient – ​​perfect for city driving in crowded urban areas where speeds rarely exceed LSV limits. In Manhattan, you can never even go 25 mph!

Wink offers four vehicle models, two of which are equipped with roof-mounted solar panels to add between 16 and 25 km of additional range per day when parked outdoors.

All vehicles include four seats, air conditioning and heating, rear-view cameras, parking distance sensor, three-point seat belts, dual-circuit hydraulic disc brakes, 7 kW peak motors, safer LiFePO4 chemical batteries, power windows and door locks, key fob for remote locking, windscreen wipers and many other features that we usually associate with cars.

But they are not really “cars”, at least not in the legal sense. They are motor vehicles, but LSVs have their own separate classification from traditional cars.

Most states still require a driver’s license and insurance, but they usually have relaxed inspection requirements and may even qualify for tax incentives.

LSVs may not be widely available yet, but several companies are already producing interesting models. We’ve seen them built for commercial applications like package delivery as well as commercial and private use, like the Polaris GEM that recently spun off into its own business. Unlike the GEM, which is designed as an open-air vehicle similar to a golf cart, Wink’s vehicles are enclosed like conventional cars. And they come in at less than half the price.

Wink expects to begin delivering its first vehicles before the end of the year. Promotional pricing at current launch starts at $8,995 for the 40-mile (64 km) Sprout model and increases to $11,995 for the 60-mile (96 km) Mark 2 Solar model. Considering that a new golf cart can easily cost between $9,000 and $10,000, that seems quite reasonable. And I don’t know of any golf carts that have air conditioning or power windows.

Of the four new Wink NEVs, the Sprout range is the entry-level model. The Sprout and Sprout Solar are both two-door models that are largely identical except for a larger battery and solar panel in the Sprout Solar model.

The upgrade to the Mark 1 gets a different body style, also with two doors, but with an included tailgate and a folding rear seat that turns the four-seater into a two-seater with extra cargo space.

The Mark 2 Solar has a body similar to the Mark 1, but with four doors and an additional solar panel. The Mark 2 Solar has an on-board charger, although Sprout models come with off-board chargers like an e-bike.

Compared to full-size cars, these NEVs lack the higher speed needed for intercity travel. No one will jump onto the freeway in the blink of an eye. But as a second car for staying in town or wandering around the suburbs, these might just do the trick. Whereas a new electric car can easily cost between $30,000 and $40,000, a low-cost electric vehicle like this can provide many of the same benefits without the added expense.

wink engines

The vehicles have between 40 and 60 miles (64-96 km) of range, depending on the model.

The solar versions would add about a quarter to a third of the battery charge per day, depending on the sunlight available.

For city dwellers living in an apartment and parking on the street, the car may never need to be plugged into a wall outlet as long as they average only about 10 to 15 miles (16 to 25 km) per day. Considering my town is about 10km wide, I can see that’s a real possibility.

Unlike many electric vehicles today that can weigh between 3,500 and 8,000 pounds (1,500 to 3,600 kg), Wink’s vehicles weigh between 760 and 1,150 pounds (340 to 520 kg), depending on the model. Light vehicles are thus much more efficient, easier to drive and easier to park.

wink engines

A 25 mph vehicle may not fit the life of every American, but it certainly could for some.

LSVs may only be a tiny fraction of the larger EV market, but their numbers are growing everywhere, from cities to beach towns and even retirement communities.

I recently purchased an LSV van, although mine is not legal as I did a private import from China. What was originally marketed as a $2,000 mini electric truck in China ended up costing me close to $8,000 after factoring in bigger batteries, upgrades like air conditioning and a dump bed. hydraulic tilter, freight (over $3,000 in itself, door to door), and tariffs/customs fees.

Dweck explained that while Wink’s vehicles are also produced in China, Wink had to set up an NHTSA-registered factory and worked with USDOT throughout the process to ensure full regulatory compliance. They also use multiple redundant inspection stages to ensure manufacturing quality and have even exceeded federal safety requirements for LSVs.

wink engines

Personally, I’m more of a two-wheeler, and you can usually find me commuting on an e-bike or e-motorcycle.

But if I needed a car for the city, these winks would definitely have my eye.

They may not have quite the same charm as some of the European offerings like the Microlino. But we can not say that they are not adorable!

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