American EV Makers - The Next Tycoons

by Aaron Turpen

Innovation is what America is all about. Nearly every major invention of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was created by an American, an American company, or both. Great inventors and entrepreneurs are what made up this nation's economic history. From Henry Ford to Elon Musk, the automobile industry has been a focus of that American spirit.

Behind the innovation are the entrepreneurs that create it and in the new market of electric cars that's now emerging, there is no shortage of entrepreneurs and their startups. Although we all know about the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius, those companies are not the end-all or be-all of EV tech. There are many, many other innovators with electrics available now or soon to hit the streets.

The companies on our list all produce an electric or hybrid-electric car, truck, or other small transportation vehicle. They are highway-ready, DOE-recognized machines, not glorified golf carts and Razor scooters. None of them are the Big 3 in Detroit.


One of the most easily recognizable new EVs to hit the market, the Aptera 2e has been featured on Jay Leno's Garage, is an entrant into the Progressive Automotive X Prize competition, and is an affordable, highway-capable battery or plug-in hybrid electric (depending on options). The ì3-wheeled airplaneî is unique in every way. It releases in 2010 and Aptera is taking pre-orders now. Aptera is based in Vista, California.

Coda Automotive

This company emerged on the scene in June of 2009 when Miles Rubin (of Miles Electric Vehicles) announced he was going to bring a highway-ready battery electric sedan to market in 2010. Teaming with now-CEO of Coda, Kevin Czinger, the Coda sedan prototype was introduced a few months later. The company is located in Santa Monica, California.

Commuter Cars

The producers of the extremely recognizable Tango commuter, this company has been in the news for some time. The Tango is a very thin (motorcycle-width) single passenger vehicle meant for those who commute into or through the city daily. It has a top speed of 150mph. Commuter Cars Corp. is based in Spokane, Washington.

Detroit Electric

Reviving the name of an old, popular company, this startup is introducing electric vehicles through two models: the e46 and the e63. Both are battery electrics with over 100 miles range per charge. Although Detroit Electric is based in Washington, D.C., their vehicles are manufactured in Malaysia.

Electric City Motors

Boasting the honor of being the first all-electric, highway-ready car available for distribution/purchase in the United States, Electric City Motors has the battery electric Current. The Current is a 4-door hatchback that seats four and is capable of highway speeds with ranges from 45-300 miles per charge, depending on options. Other products for future production include a pickup, a small bus, and more. Electric City Motors is located in Parker, Colorado.

e-Roadsters (NORAM Concepts)

This company builds a kit car or finished solution based on a 3/ 4 scale model of a 1932 Ford HiBoy Roadster. The car is capable of 50+mph for about 45 miles on a charge and is built as a city cruiser or weekend driver. It's squarely aimed at the classic enthusiast market and is definitely unique. e-Roadsters is a division of NORAM Concepts and is based in Redondo Beach, California.

Electric Vehicles International

This company manufactures electric vehicles based on the chassis of existing models. Their small delivery vans and medium duty trucks are shipped from the manufacturer without a power train and EVI installs their own. The trucks are capable of 60mph, have a range of 50-115 miles per charge (depending on model) and are currently available. EVI is based in Stockton, California.

Fisker Automotive

Often compared to the Tesla Roadster, the Fisker Karma is very different. It is a plug-in electric hybrid or range-extended hybrid, not an all-electric vehicle. Created by the legendary automotive designer Henrik Fisker, the luxury sedan is set to change many things about the American market. Fisker promotes style, luxury, and price tags in reach of many. Fisker Automotive is based in Irvine, California.

Harvey Coachworks

This company makes the unique-looking BugE series of enclosed motorcycles. Both the SRT and XR models are capable of 45mph while the upcoming XRT model will be capable of 65mph. These vehicles have a range of 40-120 miles, depending on the model. Harvey is based in Knoxville, Maryland.

Myers Motors

This company debuted with the diminutive NMG model, which is a one-seat commuter vehicle. Their latest model, which will release in 2010, is the NMG2 (or NMG squared), which seats two and is highway-capable at under $30,000. The sportier redesign and more contemporary appearance of the 3-wheeler has turned heads. Myers Motors is based in Tallmadge, Ohio.

Phoenix Motorcars

This company introduced a concept model in 2008 and has since used the platform to produce production concepts for a four-door pickup truck (Sport Utility Truck or SUT) and an SUV. Both are battery-electric vehicles capable of highway speeds of a 100 mile range. Their promising beginnings have met with rocky roads, however, as the 2008 model has been pushed back several times with a current expected release in 2010. Phoenix Motorcars is located in Ontario, California.

Persu Mobility

Formerly known as Venture Vehicles, this company builds the extremely unique 3-wheeler called the Persu Hybrid. Part car, part airplane, this vehicle does more than drive, it glides over the road. The company expects to have the car available for purchase by 2012. Persu Mobility is based in California.

Tesla Motors

Anyone at all familiar with alternative fueled vehicles knows what the Tesla Roadster is. Tesla Motors is the company founded by the ex-CEO and founder of PayPal, Elon Musk and visionary Martin Eberhard, who has since left the company. The Roadster is based on a Lotus Elise platform and the company plans an entirely in-house Model S sedan for 2011 production. Tesla Motors is based in San Carlos, California.


This company hit the news when their X1 prototype race concept car dazzled everyone with its extreme specs. It burns out the 0-60 in only 3.07 seconds, it gets the equivalent to 170mpg, and goes from 0-112 with only one gear. The company focuses on power train technology, but plans to take the X1 to production in 2011. Wrightspeed is based in Burlingame, California.


Long known as a maker of neighborhood and low-speed electrics, Zero Air Pollution (ZAP) entered the highway-ready automotive market with the announcement and presentation of their Alias 3-wheeled car. The very strong design of this unique car grabbed immediate attention. The latest incarnation is the production prototype, which is competing in the Progressive Automotive X Prize. ZAP is based in Santa Rosa, California and is publicly traded on Nasdaq (ZAAP).

Related Articles

This site follows the emergence, application and development of transportation innovation. Reference to manufacturers, makes and models, and other automotive-related businesses are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by