SOLO Is the Perfect Commuter Car

SOLO commuter car in red
The SOLO EV is Marin's newest electric car alternative. (Photo courtesy of ElectraMeccanica)

How many times have you commuted to work with nothing but an extra-large tumbler of coffee for cargo? When you think that, according to the U.S. census 76 percent of Americans drive their own vehicle to work, leaving three or more empty seats in each car — that’s a lot of wasted energy, even for electric vehicles, let alone gas-powered ones. Especially for people commuting into a city center, transportation choices are often few and imperfect. The SOLO from ElectraMeccanica aims to change that with a single-seater electric vehicle that is built on a motorcycle chassis — like a tricycle for adults. But, you know, an enviable, eco-conscious, tech-forward tricycle.

With a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 80 mph, it satisfies the basic requirements of most commuters. Front and rear crumple zones, side-impact protection, torque-limiting control, roll bar, power steering and brakes are included key safety measures and are especially welcome for highway drivers. Air conditioning, a Bluetooth entertainment system, and HOV access provide the comfortable and convenient drive that you’d expect from an EV. The kicker is the $18,500 price tag, which means you can do a good thing without going into overdraft.

Typically, commuters have two choices: jump in the car or take public transportation. Driving can be expensive and wasteful, and public transportation often leaves commuters with more distance to travel from the bus, ferry or train to their job, which led to the birth of the micro-mobility industry (e.g., scooters on every corner). The SOLO flips the eco-commuter paradigm, allowing commuters to drive entirely from A to B without the wasteful byproducts of using a full-size vehicle. CEO Kevin Pavlov says, “We’re creating a unique category that combines the advantages of micro-mobility and the safety and comfort of a passenger car.”

SOLO electric car in white
The SOLO EV is a single- seater electric vehicle that is built on a motorcycle chassis. (Photo courtesy of ElectraMeccanica)

ElectraMeccanica opted for a retail sales model — a la Tesla — rather than the traditional dealership structure. The first SOLO EV retail location opened at the end of 2019 in Westfield Century City and 20 locations are now open across the Western U.S., including one in the Village at Corte Madera. Customers can go online to schedule a test drive and reserve a SOLO EV, which started being delivered to customers last month. Though the company is staying quiet on notable names on the reserve list, one could speculate that many famous eco warriors have reserved a spot. A glance at the company’s institutional investors list reveals titans of industry: State Street, Morgan Stanley and Susquehanna, among others. 

The cute little commuter car that could has origins in an unlikely locale — Turin, Italy. ElectraMeccanica’s parent company, InterMeccanica, was birthed by Frank Reisner, who gained notoriety for building custom sports cars. In the ’70s Frank and his brother Henry moved to Los Angeles and later Vancouver, where they built replicas of arguably the world’s most beautiful car — the Porsche 356. Decades later, they teamed up with Jerry Kroll, an early adopter and investor in electric vehicle technology, and together created the first iteration of the SOLO in 2016. Now the SOLO seems to, well, be picking up speed. Global sales are very much a part of the sales strategy (especially Asia and Europe), but it’s building momentum by focusing on the eco-conscious markets in the Western U.S. 

Team ElectraMeccanica haven’t laid aside their custom-car roots. Consumers can already reserve an eRoadster from the company, based on the Porsche 356, and it’s currently projected to be delivered in 2023. Pavlov says, “It’s for anyone that prefers the efficiency and sustainability of all-electric vehicles but still enjoys the nostalgia of a vintage-looking sports car.” 

Whether it’s function or fashion you’re after, there is a test drive in your future.