Phoenix Motorcars ready to start taking a few retail orders, still hiring too

One company we haven't been hearing too much from of late is Phoenix Motorcars. They made a pretty big splash in 2006 around the same time that Tesla launched and they've turned up at all the usual conferences and events with prototypes of their electric pickup truck. They grabbed a lot of attention for their plans to use Altairnano's lithium titanate batteries with their potential for 10-minute quick charges.

Subsequently, some doubts began to surface about the viability of the company's business plan due to the high cost of producing their vehicles and the reliance on selling clean air credits to fund operations. When the company launched they said that they would start off by supplying their trucks to fleet customers such as PG&E. We got word from a reader last week that he had received an e-mail from Phoenix indicating they were ready to start taking some orders from retail customers for their sport utility truck and SUV. We decided to call up Phoenix and get the full scoop which you can find after the jump.

ABG talked to Bryon Bliss VP of Sales and Marketing at Phoenix Motorcars about the current status of development and deliveries. Since the truck was first announced, the company has done some major re-engineering work on powertrain in an effort to improve efficiency and drive down the cost. The heart of the Phoenix vehicles remains the Altairnano batteries and they will be equipped with 35kWh packs. The original UQM motors, however, have been discarded in favor of a new custom-designed unit.

The new motor has a peak power output of 200kW with 600lb-ft of torque. That's double the power and 20 percent more torque than the UQM motor. The new motor is claimed to be 97 percent efficient. Asked about supplying this new motor to other customers, Bliss indicated that was possible if the interest was there. The company is eager to see the electric vehicle market expand and if providing their new motor to other companies would help that happen, they were open to it at some point.

The truck was originally designed to be rear-wheel drive but the new drive-train will send power to the front wheels instead. With all the revisions to both the SUV and SUT, the vehicles are now scheduled to go into production at the same time in the second quarter of this year.

Once the company does start production, they plan to follow their original plan of delivering units to fleet customers first. The target is to deliver 350-500 of the vehicles in 2008. When it comes to retail customers, Phoenix is currently only opening the order books to a few select individuals who have indicated a serious interest in their products. At this point they are looking at potential retail deliveries this year measured in the tens, not hundreds.

Pricing for the SUT pickup has been set at $47,000 with the SUV going for $54,000. Range remains pegged at about 130 miles per charge. Phoenix plans to release more information about the new power-train and the vehicle as well as marketing plans later this spring when they are ready to launch production. In the meantime Phoenix is still looking for some more experienced engineers to work on their vehicles. If you're interested you can check out the careers page on their site.

[Source: Phoenix, thanks to gregger for the tip]

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