Alt Car Expo: Solar Bug NEV ready for production

Built around an imported ATV chassis, the Solar Bug neighborhood electric vehicle will soon go into production. Steve Titus, owner of Free Drive EV in Bozeman, Montana, says a more stylish body will replace the telephone-booth-looking engineering model on display at the show. The Solar Bug isn't powered entirely by the sun. Titus says the solar panels supply from 1-10 percent of battery recharging in ideal conditions. Since the foundation is an ATV chassis, the driver (and passenger) straddles the seat and operates the steering and throttle on the handlebar. Even the regenerative braking is actuated by a hand lever. Titus has been driving his engineering model for more than three years. Since it's classified as a NEV, top speed is limited to 25 mph and can't be driven on roads with posted speeds higher than 35 mph. Titus is working with the Montana legislature to speed up the limitations to 35 and 45 mph, respectively, if the vehicle is enclosed and provides a rollbar. Although ATVs are notorious for rollovers, Titus says he dramatically lowered the center of gravity with 300 pounds of batteries and changed to road-worthy tires. He has not had any problem with tipping or rollovers. Total weight is 650 pounds, charge time is 4-6 hours and range is 30 miles. Prices will start at $9,500.

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