Wheego: Electric Car Made 'As Logical As Possible'

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Turn the key on the Wheego Whip to start the engine, and it sounds like nothing has happened, although it has. Drive it around with the window open and ambient sounds -- everything but the engine -- fill the ears.

Mike McQuary, the CEO of Atlanta-based Wheego Electric Cars Inc., said Tuesday he hopes the quiet car is among the vehicles that will help wean the U.S. off of foreign oil. During a presentation of the two-seat car at the state Capitol, he said the company's goal is to bring "real street-going electric cars to the U.S." that also are affordable.

The current top speed of the Wheego Whip is 35 mph, although McQuary said his company is working on a model that should be out next summer that will travel up to 65 mph.

Inside, the car -- at 63 inches high and 63.2 inches wide -- still has storage behind the seats. It has a stereo system, and air conditioning is an option.

The car has a wheel base of 79.7 inches, which is a little more than 6½ feet. By comparison, the 2010 Honda Civic -- a popular subcompact -- has a 106-inch wheel base.

The Whip can be charged from a standard household outlet and will run about 35 to 40 miles on a single charge, McQuary said, adding that the 2010 model will be expected to run about 100 miles on a single charge.

"It's a real car," McQuary said. "Too often people have to sacrifice amenities and style in order to contribute to the public good. ... You shouldn't have to make huge sacrifices to try and help that cause. This has the fit and finish of a regular automobile.

"We tried to make it as logical as possible."

McQuary said tax credits recently approved by the Legislature make Oklahoma an attractive marketplace in which to sell electric vehicles. He said the Wheego Whip LSV qualifies for a state tax credit of 50 percent of the vehicle's purchase price, which is $18,995, as well as a $7,500 federal tax credit. The state tax credit can be spread over five years.

That's not a popular idea with at least one Oklahoma lawmaker. State Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said Tuesday the tax credits could cost the state money.

"This is one of the worst examples of government incentives," he said in a statement. "I expect it will cause a massive drain on the state treasury, but I feel obligated to tell all Oklahomans about it so they can demand that the problem be fixed."

Other state officials feel differently. State Secretary of the Environment J.D. Strong was among those who took the car for a spin around a Capitol parking lot.

"Certainly, these (electric cars) are catching on quick," Strong said. "You see them all over the place in Europe. ... There are no emissions in that thing."

Under an agreement between Wheego Electric Cars and AMP Control Inc. of Piedmont, the Oklahoma company will assemble the vehicles -- which are manufactured by Wheego -- at a plant that will be either in Piedmont or Kingfisher, both of which are just northwest of Oklahoma City.

Ryan Deatherage, the president of AMP Control, said the plant's site will be determined by the end of the year. The company, which now distributes remote-controlled lawn mowers, also will have exclusive rights to sell the Wheego product line in Oklahoma.

State Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, said he's been told the plant would bring 30 to 50 jobs to Oklahoma. He called the Wheego "cutting-edge."

"Where I'm from in western Oklahoma, it's still oil and gas," he said. "We're still going to have that. But I think this is an opportunity, with tax credits in line. This is not a souped-up golf cart. This is an actual automobile."

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