Is the sudden interest in neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV) good for EV movement? Are they helping advance the technology needed to introduce mainstream consumers to EVs? Is there really a strong market for $10,000 or $15,000 grocery getters and industrial-yard security cruisers?
Those are questions the Kurrent, an absolutely adorable NEV that will be built by American Electric Vehicles in Michigan, will answer in the next few years. Company president Scott Thornton says he'll hire 50 to 70 employees for the new venture. The problem with NEVs is that laws prevent them from operating on roads with speed limits faster than 35 mph, and they're allowed to run only 25 mph top speed. Experts disagree on the size of the market potential. Thornton is looking at 15,000 a year. The president of GEM, another NEV manufacturer owned by DaimlerChrysler, says about half that. Other experts say NEVs face considerable competition from less expensive golf carts. Thornton is counting on innovation and marketing. He sees solar panels, electric boats and scooters as a way to grow the company. Right now he's hoping to ramp up to 500 a month by next year.

[Source: Howard Lovy / Oakland Business Review]

UPDATE: Read AutoblogGreen's interview with Thornton here.

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