In 2009, Oliveira, made one of the boldest moves of his life, he decided to launch VE, the first ever Portuguese electric sports car company. ‘The initial investment was in great part covered by the public funds we succeeded to obtain through EUREKA,’ says the company’s lead designer Pedro Almeida. ‘And the whole process was far less complicated than one would think.
Electric car start-ups have burgeoned in recent years. Some companies, like the California-based Tesla motors, are highly successful. This is thanks to the affordability of the technology needed to build battery-powered vehicles. One thing that most of those companies all have in common is an economic model: balancing high production costs by going for high-value sports cars.
‘Rather than aiming for a Ferrari, we are building an electric equivalent of cheaper compact sports cars,’ Almeida tells us. The first model, called VEECO, will be affordably priced at around 25.000 euro. The VEECO is a niche-market vehicle, ‘not as much because of the price,’ says Oliveira, ‘as because of its energy efficiency performances.’ It allows for a 100km drive on only a euro’s worth of electricity, with a battery autonomy of 400km, unmatched by most competitors.
Those performances are achieved through the extremely light weight of the car, the secret of which lies in a bold aesthetic statement: it has only three wheels. ‘At first we were afraid this would scare clients, but instead of trying to hide the third wheel under the bodywork we went all in and decided to base the design entirely on this concept,’ Almeida says.
The result is that you can see the rear wheel from all angles. Lines flow harmoniously in a tear-shape chassis with aerodynamic, energy-smart features. The audacious design created by Almeida was worth the gamble. Pre-ordering is not yet possible, but according to the designer, not a single day goes by that he does not receive an email from a potential customer interested in buying the car.
"THE INITIAL INVESTMENT WAS MOSTLY COVERED BY EUREKA FUNDING."
The first prototype was built in 2006 and the VEECO is now finally ready to enter a beta-testing phase - a small car fleet is under development for the trials. VE is moving fast, production will start in June 2013 and 200 units should hit the road in the first year. The sales of the vehicle will launch in Portugal and in Spain, where VE’s EUREKA project partner Varelec is based. The company from Barcelona provides the last generation lithium-ion batteries running the VEECO.
Asia could be another market of choice for the atypical electric vehicle; the car appeals to local taste. Though Oliveira insists that negotiations are still in a very initial phase, three Chinese manufacturers have already shown interest in the VEECO. ‘All I can say is that we are open to propositions to build a bigger series,’ says the entrepreneur.