Automotive startup Electra Meccanica’s first electric car is called the “Solo” because there’s only room onboard for one person in the single, central driver’s seat, and that’s only the first weird thing about it.
The Solo is an ultra-compact electric commuter car that marries an inverted-trike configuration — two wheels up front and one at the rear — with an enclosed passenger cabin. It steers and controls with a regular car steering wheel. It also has pedals and feels a lot like a normal, albeit wee, automobile.
The narrow rear end is where the electric motor puts 82 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque to the road through a single wheel. That doesn’t sound like a lot of grunt, but consider that the Solo weighs just 1,380 pounds (about 1,000 less than a 2016 Mazda Miata) and that its electric torque delivery is instantaneous and responsive. Acceleration is not at all unpleasant or underpowered.
Juice comes from a 16.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted beneath the Solo’s floor where it also adds a bit of stability to this lightweight and extremely narrow chassis by keeping the center of mass nice and low to the ground. Charging from flat to full takes about three hours at a level 2 station and grants the Solo a nominal cruising range of about 100 miles.
On the road (rather, around the wet parking lot where I was able to test the EV for a few hours), the Solo isn’t the whisper-quiet ride that I expected it to be. There’s a lot of mechanical whine from the electric motor and its single-speed reduction gear, as well as a good deal of road noise coming up from below the poorly insulated, lightweight composite cabin. Were there actually room for a second soul aboard, you’d have to shout to talk to them.
The Solo also lacks power steering, which gives the handling a very direct feel when moving, but also requires a bit of muscle to turn when parking or reversing. Also, this not-quite-a-car configuration means that the Solo gets by without an airbag — an omission that would give me pause considering this half-a-car has to share the road with crossovers and SUVs.
So, this is bare-bones transportation — basically just a seat, an e-motor and a steering wheel — but the Solo isn’t without creature comforts. There’s a total of 10 cubic feet of storage between its front and rear trunks and standard features include Bluetooth connectivity via a single-DIN car stereo, a reversing camera that shares a display with the digital instrument cluster as well as a heated seat. You’ll…