Earth-friendly, energy-efficient vehicles that produce zero emissions seem to be from a dream of the future. But several companies are already well on their way to introducing such vehicles in North America and around the world. Recently, more than 400 environmentalists, investors and celebrities gathered for the unveiling and induction of the only five-passenger, all-electric, freeway-speed sport utility trucks at Los Angeles’ famed Peterson Automotive Museum, and there, they nabbed a sneak peak at the newest electric automobile soon to be launched: The Phoenix Motorcars “SUT” or sport-utility truck.

These new SUT vehicles will be made available by Phoenix Motorcars ( for full release in 2008, but if you are lucky enough to live in California, a limited number of vehicles will be released to selected consumers in late 2007.

Phoenix Motorcars’ SUT is an all-electric, sport-utility truck with a top speed of 95 miles per hour. It’s a zero-emissions vehicle with no tailpipe or evaporative emissions, no emissions from gasoline refining or sales, and no onboard emission-control systems. Like other electric cars under development, this model can accelerate with great speed, from 0-60 mph in 10 seconds. However, performance electric cars from other companies like Tesla Motors can go from 0-60 mph in a whiplash-inducing 4 seconds.

According to the website for Phoenix Motorcars, the company “manufactures zero-emission, freeway-speed fleet vehicles. It is an early leader in the mass production of full-function, green electric trucks and SUVs for commercial fleet use.” The trucks can drive roughly 130 miles before needing to recharge, but the company is currently working on an expansion pack that would extend the range to 250 miles.

Charge me up!

The question on everyone’s mind about this vehicle is: how do you charge the battery? It’s accomplished with an onboard 6.6kW charger that plugs into a 220V wall socket. The battery operates in cold and hot weather and is expected to last more than 12 years. It only costs about a $3.00 to charge the battery, and it takes about six hours to charge. (A range of 130 miles for $3.00 worth of electricity is quite a bargain, considering it would cost about $30.00 or more in gasoline to go the same distance…)

The six hour charging time is typical for electric vehicles. The power is supplied through your household current, so the electricity could be generated by coal, solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear sources, depending on what your electric utility company uses. Off-board charging can be accomplished with a special charger in as little as 10 minutes, and a company called GreenIt is planning the construction of rapid-charging stations for electric cars.

Phoenix Motors is generating a lot of interest from consumers, and may start selling vehicles to the general public in the next two years. Actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr., has recently purchased one and sees it as the car of the future. “This electric vehicle is rising from the ashes of the failed electric car industry,” said Ed Begley, Jr. “This is a cool vehicle. It is fast, green and attractive.”

Phoenix Motors acknowledged their supporter, saying they were “so appreciative to Ed Begley for his tireless efforts in helping to create awareness, not only of this vehicle, but of the larger environmental issues that all of us face,” said Dan Elliott, CEO of Phoenix Motorcars. “We’re equally as excited to be working with a team of brilliant partners, Altairnano Technologies, Boshart Engineering and UQM Technologies.”

The cars will sell for about $45,000 — not a bad price when compared to around $85,000 from some other electric car competitors.

The Phoenix Motorcars vision

Phoenix Motorcars started out as an alternative fuel research company that planned to design commercial products. They hope to eventually produce 20,000 electric vehicles a year, but for now will have to settle with the 500 currently slated for the first production run. The Ontario, California vehicle manufacturer hopes to expand production to more than 6,000 in 2008.

According to Byron Bliss, Vice-President of Sales, Phoenix Motorcars plans to sell fleets of vehicles to school districts and businesses, government agencies and companies with large groups of outside representatives.

The 2007 market strategy of Phoenix Motorcars targets operators of fleet vehicles, such as public utilities, public transportation providers, and delivery services. This market presents a significant opportunity for an increasing number of fleet operators now seeking freeway-capable, zero-emission, all-electric vehicles. Some government agencies currently use plug-in hybrids.

The car company is planning to follow up the truck model next year with a sport-utility vehicle (SUV) that can go 250 miles on a single charge. The price to consumers will remain about the same. The cost to the environment, however, represents a substantial improvement over any vehicle using a combustion engine. Clearly, if we are going to sustainably live on this planet while still retaining the luxury of personal transportation, we are going to have to shift to clean, green and energy-efficient vehicles. Phoenix Motorcars hopes to play a significant role in that future, and should they succeed, we will all share in the benefits.