It’s Time for Single-Passenger Electric Vehicles

By · November 28, 2012

Myers Motors Single-Occupant Electric Vehicle

Myers Motors now sells a three-wheel single seat vehicle, is working on a two person three-wheel vehicle (shown here) and has plans to produce a single-occupant four-wheel car.

Bringing practical, affordable electric cars to market is not just an issue of technology. It’s also is an issue of how one sees the world. From my perspective, what we need is a lot more single-seat cars. Pop Quiz: Out of every 10 cars you see on the road, how many are carrying only one person? Answer: About 9 out of 10.

With this in mind, imagine our rush hour highways filled with colorful, fun-to-drive, 200-MPGe, single seat electric cars speeding their lone occupant to a desired destination. Not only could such a vehicle improve traffic flow by up to 70 percent, but it could also increase energy efficiency by up to 800 percent while reducing transportation’s carbon footprint.

It is hard to imagine something you’ve never seen, but the practicality of purpose-built electric cars that operate as second or third household vehicles (and that can be charged overnight from standard 120-volt outlets) is obvious from a look at U.S. driving data:

  • 70 million people commute daily, by themselves, less than 40 miles.
  • 70 percent of all travel is one or two people driving less than 40 to 60 miles per day.
  • 65 percent of all miles driven in the U.S. are with just one person in the car.

I wish I could say I was imaginative enough to have looked at all this data and come up with the idea for a single passenger vehicle all on my own. But it was Mike Corbin who not only came up with the idea, but put into production a three-wheel version. I loved it so much that I bought many of his assets, put together a team, and now have an 80 mph, 60 – 70 mile range, electric vehicle powered by a low-cost lithium battery system. Myers Motor is also pioneering manufacturing methodologies to enable us to bring a four-wheel version to market for just $15 million. Our goal is to make a difference by producing electric vehicles that are affordable, practical, fun to drive, and beneficial to society. Look at the competitive cost structure:

Cost Comparison of Volt, LEAF and Myers Motors Vehicle

Mass Adoption via Single-Seat Cars

I support all kinds of electric cars. However, putting the new wine of electric vehicle technology into the old wineskin of what a “car” is supposed to be and do has so far resulted in somewhat disappointing electric cars sales. The cost of batteries to power a four-seat car and its occupants 40 to 100 miles has made today’s EVs too expensive in people’s minds. The lack of a national fast charging and electrical infrastructure to charge these vehicles for long distance travel has also slowed their adoption rate. The technology works, but how it is being applied isn’t working to create mass adoption.

We believe that the time has come for a single seat electric car. Billions of dollars haven’t opened the door to the mass adoption of EVs because the key to that door can’t be purchased until it is first seen. Do you see it? Or am I just seeing things? I’d love to get your feedback.


· Ken (not verified) · 5 years ago

I think there would be a market for this but I wonder how big. I'm one of those who travel less than 40 mi each day commuting by myself. But I also don't want to buy a dedicated car just for commuting that I can't use to take the family out after work or weekends or load the dogs into to take to the vet.

· · 5 years ago

My wife and I have a Leaf that we enjoy very much. My commute is 24 miles round trip so we usually have plenty of electrons left in the battery for scooting around town. We live in Torrance, CA so we seldom use the climate control in the vehicle. We also own a minivan for long trips or when the Leaf is not available.

I believe the time has come for the single seat electric car, or a 2 seater. Your take is a little opposite of what most manufacturers are looking at. Most believe the biggest issue now is the range. Where 100 miles is fine for me, most people need (or want) something more in the 2-300 mile range. But this is for a 5 passenger vehicle that cost much more than what you’re describing.

I would be very interesting in looking at the car you’ve described. For me the range, and speed are good and the price and efficiency very attractive. I never thought I would own 3 vehicles, but this may be perfect for my lifestyle.

· Arthur Blake (not verified) · 5 years ago

Good idea, although there is something, although generally gas powered, called a motorcycle that niche already...

I think most people probably don't like to drive motorcycles in this country because it's riskier as you are more exposed (to the elements, and big SUVs that don't see you as they change lanes, etc.)

Which is the main reason I don't drive a motorcycle.

If these could be made safely and cheaply, I'd be on board for sure.

· Jesse Gurr (not verified) · 5 years ago

I don't understand why this is supposed to improve traffic flow by 70%. Its not like you can fit 2 of these side-by-side in one lane. Maybe you can, but nobody will do it, and if they did, there would probably be more collisions on the freeway slowing down traffic anyway. Or are we just supposed pack in more vehicles per 100 yards and have everyone tailgate each other?

If it had 150 mile range, I would be more interested.

· · 5 years ago

I like the idea of a two seat high efficiency electric vehicle. However, my main concern is safety. I think it may not be possible to hit the price point above with a vehicle that is fully FMVSS certified and 5 star safety rated. The main reason for a three wheeled platform in the United States is exemption from the full suite of automotive regulations. So, to me, a three wheeled car will never be a "real" car simply by virtue of classification. I understand the benefits of the vehicle pictured in this story. The teardrop shape is inherently more aerodynamic and it could certainly be made safe with proper engineering. However, given the current regulatory framework, I don't think that a company like Myers Motors would do the safety engineering and crash testing required of a conventional four wheeled automobile.

· · 5 years ago

I hate to burst your bubble but you seem to be asking for honest opinions. I think single-occupant EVs will be about as popular as single-occupant ICE vehicles.

· Bret (not verified) · 5 years ago

I agree with Ken. I want an EV that will drive my family of four and replace one of my ICE vehicles. It needs to work for me on weekdays and weekends. Cost and efficiency are one thing and safety is quite another. I won't be risking my neck on a California freeway in a quadracycle or a three-wheel vehicle. People are way too distracted when they drive and it's getting worse.

· · 5 years ago

Thanks for posting, Dana. I don't want to pile on here but I'm in agreement with most others here today. Even the 2 seat Smart would be a hard sell for me in regards to flexibility.

While it's true that my 4-door Saturn is vastly underutilized for the 2 mile drive to work most mornings (I park and walk the last mile, to both get a little exercise and save money that I would get charged at the University's parking garage,) several afternoons on any given weekday finds me picking up my son and his cello after I'm off work, before heading home. This would be challenging enough in a Smart and outright impossible in your admittedly cute single-seat runabout.

· Mr. Lucas Brice (not verified) · 5 years ago

I wouldn't buy one, nor do I know anyone who is looking for a one-seat electric car, or any type of electric car, for that matter.

· · 5 years ago

Here's another point. Figures are not actual, but guesstimates:
- 85% of my miles are driver-only
- 10% of my trips are driver-only
So, if I drop off my daughter at school on my way to work, she only rides for one mile, but I still need a safe place for her to sit. A safe place for a small child is generally a back seat. So, a one or two seat car is not practical for me. I would have to go back home to get the smaller car - probably not going to happen.

· · 5 years ago

Just a few comments. The picture is of a three-wheel vehicle but the article is about an as-yet undesigned four-wheel car that meets car safety standards (crash tests, air bags, ESC, ABS, etc.).

When my daughters were in high school, a single seat vehicle was sort of fun to drive but not very practical since I took them to school in the morning. Now that they are out of the house, I find most of my driving is just me and when my wife and I go places, then we take her car. Not everyone is in my situation, but I am thinking that perhaps there are a lot of people who are. How many would we need to make it work? If you figure it takes about $10 to $15 million (depending on marketing expenses) to bring the car through all the safety engineering and testing and production tooling to build 10,000 vehicles per year ... then if you found 5,000 people per year to buy these vehicles, you could amortize off your start-up expenses in three years at $1000 per car.

The other reason I am looking at the single seat car (other than I and the other 200 or so who drive them enjoy them) is because it seems like the key to electric vehicles cannot be 4+ occupant vehicles traveling 100+ miles when 70% of all travel is 1 or 2 people driving less than 40 to 60 miles per day. Building a car for the exception is what is keeping EV prices high and not selling very well.

All your comments are great ... and I hope to hear more ... and one more thing ... yup to 70% increased traffic flow coms from having shorter vehicles. If highway vehicles were 1/2 the length of the standard car/SUV, then some studies done awhile ago said that traffic flow could be increased by up to 70%.

· · 5 years ago

@Dana Myers,
I think the problem you have is that you are trying to fit a niche within a niche.
Electric vehicles are a niche by themselves. People aren't used to them so there is some trepidation to spend a lot of money on something we don't know will even work out for us.
At the same time, you're talking about a single passenger vehicle. People aren't used to them either so there is further trepidation to spend a lot of money on them since we don't know how well they will work for us.
You, on the other hand need to find a market where people will be willing to spend money to buy your products. Unfortunately your current market has these cascaded uncertainties going against it.
For me, I seldom drive my Leaf with more than one person in it because of its limited range, however, I often do find it filled with stuff that I'm not sure would all fit in an NMG such as luggage, gym bag, brief case, groceries, etc.
I also hope you've improved the power train. I test drove a Corbin Sparrow many years ago and was disappointed.
I'd probably consider it but not at the price I'm sure you'll need to charge, given the choices of real cars available today.

· · 5 years ago

I think if you could compete with motorcycles on price this could work. I mean, if it literally cost the same as a moped, and much less than a 2-4 seat MiEv or Smart, then you've got something. I can't see it working though if the price matches a Smart car with 2 seats. Sure some people will buy it, but not enough to justify your time.

The statistics imply a logical consumer. Yes roughly 9 out of 10 cars carry one person. But, we all know percentage of those cars are SUVs and Suburbans? If it were the 80's/90's and those 9 of 10 cars were still sedans, then sure. But in the US at least, most/many are driving the existential freeway.

However, in a 3rd world country (India/China/Mexico) or a fleet market, there might be a market. If all people can afford are motor bikes and old used cars, then the cheapest EV possible could work....But only if it's much cheaper than a MiEV.

Hopefully the opinions aren't too discouraging here. I think a lot of this is just how it would do in the US market. Maybe it's good to think outside the border. Price is everything though if you're cutting it down to one seat. Or just add 1-3 more seats. ;)

· · 5 years ago

In the 3rd world, a motorbike is often a 3 or 4 passenger vehicle. I doubt a family would trade enclosed driving for the flexibility to carry the whole family to grandma's house.
. . . and then there's the price issue. They won't pay a lot, just as most American's won't.

· Bubba Nicholson (not verified) · 5 years ago

I built my own E.V., single seat aerodynamic, top speed: 60 mph. Still the idea of a completely enclosed cockpit seems a good idea.

· Warren (not verified) · 5 years ago

Sorry Dana,

Folks will never get it. The real choice is not between keeping the SUV, the minivan, and the pickup vs setting for an enclosed 3-4 wheel scooter. The choice is between the enclosed scooter and your grandkids living like the middle ages. The news about climate change, and increasingly expensive fossil fuel just doesn't sink in.

Party like rock stars while you can.

· · 5 years ago

You're right that many will never get it.
Therefore, it is up to those of us who do get it to lean forward a little and promote sustainable technology. That way, when oil becomes impractical in the not-too-distant future, the technology will exist for our society to continue sustainably at a reasonable level. Technology causes problems but it can also solve them.
I just hope that we run out of affordable oil before the climate changes become intolerable and un-reversable.

· Frank the Volt Owner (not verified) · 5 years ago

I'm waiting on the C-1 from Lit Motors. I hope they make production. Until then the Volt will do just fine!

· · 5 years ago

I might consider commuting in one of these if it had more range than my LEAF and a much lower price. As our LEAF also gets used as a family car, anything with limited seating would have to be super cheap for us to consider it as a commuting-only vehicle. What I primarily want to see in my next EV is more range and faster L2 charging. For market acceptance, less range is not the way to go!

· Spec (not verified) · 5 years ago

I'm loving my little 2-seater Think City. I think there is indeed a market for low-priced electric commuter vehicles. But having the price low is key. People can then buy as a 'second car' even though it will end up being the car that they drive most often.

· · 5 years ago

@Dana Myer

Your website doesn't Load pages. Not exactly inspiring confidence.

If you really qualify for a $7500 credit you must have a huge battery in it.. How big and how many miles? Too bad your article didn't have any info in it.

· · 5 years ago

For the car version, the $7500 tax credit comes to cars with a minimum 16 kWh of battery capacity. That capacity in a single seat car would get somewhere in the 70 to 75 mile range per charge.

I am not understanding the price aspect of it since at $15,500 (with tax credits) it costs less than many gas cars and the 10 year cost is about 1/2 that of the Volt.

Yes, this is a niche within a niche. The concept is that 43% of American drivers (Pike Research, 2011) said they were "very" or "extremely" interested in purchasing an electric vehicle. Their study, as well as many others, stated that the number 1 reason people were not buying an electric vehicle was price. The second reason was lack of fast charging stations. So, what we are trying to do is take away price and fast charging -- and what comes out are one and two occupant vehicles that get a 40 to 60 mile range: and it is interesting that something like 70% of all car trips could be handled by one and two occupant vehicles.

This might be like the qwerty keyboard -- designed to be the slowest way to type but it is standard so everyone uses it. Or, because EVs are new, we actually have a chance to change the paradigm of what a car is and does.

To say it another way, Deloitte's worldwide report on EVs stated that even with technology developments, EVs would likely never rise above 4% of new car sales. They also said that people buy what the car manufacturers advertise to them to buy. With 70% of all travel more cost-effectively and more environmentally sound being done with electric vehicles ... it seems there is an opportunity here to change how we drive and if we just put one EV in every two car garage, the EV population would be over 40% of all new cars sold ... and our dependence on (foreign) oil would be dramatically reduced.

· Streetcar Eddie (not verified) · 5 years ago

So far all the electric cars I seen and rode are "lead sleds", Substantial heavy bank vaults full of batteries built like railway locomotives. Even my gen2 Prius handles like a cement truck, but yet gets "good" fuel economy. I don't need such size heft and weight. Where is Toyota, Ford, Nisssan, GM on the 1 pasenger EV?

· Warren (not verified) · 5 years ago

There is no secret here. Batteries are heavy and expensive. Compared to gasoline, that will be true even for next generation batteries. The answer is to start with a 100 mpg vehicle. Super efficient ICE drivetrains are expensive and complicated.

In a truly efficient vehicle, electric drive wins hands down. But it only makes economic sense in a very efficient vehicle. Such vehicles have existed as concept cars, and limited production series for decades. But the public never wants them. Every time they appear on these car sites, they are called clown cars, golf karts, fish-mobiles.

We are like junkies, covered in sores, looking for a vein that hasn't collapsed yet. We have it under control. We can quit any time.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

The solution is already here!
Less then 7000€, it's a dual seater.

· · 5 years ago

It's amazing that nobody mentioned this, but have you all heard about renault twizzy? It's 2 seater urban car priced at 6990 euros and sells quite well back here in this unknown neverland we call europe.

· AnonymousForNow (not verified) · 5 years ago

Dana Myers,

You have hit upon the primary part of our energy problem: we routinely put much more into motion than what is required. Your vehicle needs the support of a specialized guideway for its long haul travel, and operation on safer low speed ordinary roads while not on that guideway.

What you are building is essentially an electric "bubble car." They became somewhat popular in post WWII Europe. One can be seen at the Ripley's Museum at Baltimore Inner Harbor. A particular one in Brazil became known as "pizza-butt," because the little bubble hatch back was used for pizza delivery.

I'm sure I could help you with your project, and would even like to discuss it with you offline, if you like. Let me know in this forum.

· X-ironman (not verified) · 5 years ago

I would buy a two wheeled enclosed or partially enclosed bike for transport, I have ridden bikes to many times in the cold and wet to take them seriously as a form of transport. Tried Heinzmann e-bike, to slow. Tried a ride on a Vectrix okay but too expensive for a scooter . Three wheeler s would get stuck in traffic so not for an impatient solo rider. However (nearly) all solo bike riders like the idea of having a passenger. How about a foot forward (Quasar) type bike (safer) with a bit more weather protection possibly fully enclosed so that security is provided for luggage.
ps have a guzzi and a volvo at the moment and five a bit bicycles.

· Warren (not verified) · 5 years ago

I am keeping my eye on this one. I like the idea of a kit. Right up my alley.

· · 5 years ago

Electric Motorcycles: they exist and fill this "niche within a niche" quite well.

· · 5 years ago

@Dana Myers

Thank you for the information.

· Warren (not verified) · 5 years ago

If by "niche" people mean getting to work, and shopping...that is a mighty big niche.

Motorcycles are fine for young, adventurous people, in warm climes. Most of us have responsibilities, which don't allow us to ride a two wheeler in rain, snow, and ice.

Unfortunately, offering the $7500 tax credit based on battery size, rather than efficiency, killed the market for efficient vehicles.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

We need to rethink this absurd notion that people will commute more than 10 miles each way by SOV. A person driving 50 miles to work in a Prius is no greenie. Factor in the congestion, the huge socialized costs of maintaining and ever expanding a road network and you have an unsustainable vision of the future. Move closer to work, use public transportation and limit car use to a minimum.

· Warren (not verified) · 5 years ago


Thanks for volunteering to buy my house for what I paid for it. I'll take cash, or a cashier's check. :-)

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

Unfortunately your two seater, which I like, is still not ready for production and cost as much as a leaf if you want decent range.

· · 5 years ago

Here is a poor (very poor) way to justify anything. "It meets the average needs of a person".

We don't buy keeping in mind only the "average needs". My commute is 11 miles (usually !) and I drive alone. But I won't buy a "car" that goes 11 miles and is a single occupier.

Talking in terms of statistics, I want a car that meets my needs 90% of the time. Not 50%.

· W Tahil (not verified) · 5 years ago

The Twizy is selling quite well in Germany, a country with widespread green consciousness compared to the USA - the price matches its performance. There are a number of other enclosed e-bike/ 3 wheelers being developed here in Europe too - but remember we have extremely expensive fuel, at €1.55 a liter or €6.00 per US gallon - if your fuel prices were $6.00 per USG people might start to take more notice. The difficulty with EVs is that oil prices have been set so that if they go high enough to cause enough pain to make people clamour for EVs, they kill all economic activity as at the end of 2008 (the global economy basically stopped in Janaury 2009) - but even at $100 per barrel, it's not high enough to make enough people demand an EV because they are too expensive - or there isn't enough value in them until oil hits $150.

But you have the emerging markets yes - Magacities. But price needs to be right.

What is really needed is a breakthrough or re-think in EV propulsion technology to bring the price of the powertrain and battery to below €/$/£5000 with acceptable range. Unlikely with LiIon. Other batteries exist as do other understandings of electrodymanics.

· · 5 years ago

Dear "Anonymous for Now" ... Yes, I'd love to discuss how you could help.

For the rest ... For the $15,500 price, we were looking at a 70 mile range at 60 mph. Plugs into a standard 120 volt outlet. Gets the equivalent of about 200 mpg. And, from the chart in the article, it is less expensive to buy and operate than most every other vehicle on the road today.

The Twizzy is a great vehicle -- but can't come to the US as is because the regulations that allow it on the road in Europe prohibit it from coming to the US. Plus, I don't believe it is highway appropriate. Our concept is something like the Twizzy that is highway legal in the US and that gets the $7500 tax credit.

I thank you for all your comments. If anyone (like "Anonymous for now") want to contact me directly, you can do so at:

What would be nice to hear from this group ... knowing that batteries are expensive, knowing that 80% of all driving is less than 60 miles per day, knowing that people are not flocking to electric vehicles primarily because of the initial cost of the vehicles, and assuming that oil prices will continue floating up and down but not getting much past $4.00 or $4.50 per gallon ... what electric vehicle would you design that would be practical enough to use and affordable enough to buy so that we could see, over a five or ten year period of time, a massive movement towards buying this electric vehicle?

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

The problem is most people can't (or don't want to) afford two vehicles, and you still have situations where you need to carry somebody else.

So what is really need is a system of automated single and multi-seater (self driving) EVs that are accessed on a monthly subscription service (or pay per use).

That way I don't have to have "ownership" of any particular configuration. Bring up the app on the phone, tell them how many people, and get the right self driving vehicle to come to you. Or maybe you just get 3 vehicles if there are three people and they are automated to stay in a cluster.

Keep working Google, the self driving cars will get us there.

· · 5 years ago

@Dana Myers,
What is the top speed for your proposed 4-wheel single passenger car? What is the projected 65 mph and 70 mph range?
60 mph is useless to me as I do most of my driving on a freeway. I also won't get on a freeway on a daily basis in a small vehicle unless it can get from 65 mph to 80 mph quickly and cruise at at least 70 mph.

· · 5 years ago

Top Speed is governed to 80 mph.

The idea of a pool of cars to pick from to suit your daily needs makes a lot of sense. How to make it practical for people not living in a city ... how did you think that could be done?

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