By on October 12, 2016

Sondors Electric Trike, Image: Sondors

Last year, Storm Sondors, a Malibu-based entrepreneur, used an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to launch a very basic $499 electric bicycle. He’s since sold 15,000 of his Asian-made electric bikes.

Buoyed by that success, Mr. Sondors has announced the creation of the Sondors Electric Car Company, which he says will sell an electric-powered, aluminum-bodied, three-passenger, enclosed reverse trike with a variety of battery pack options that offer 50 to 200 miles of range.

The Sondors electric trike is supposed to have a starting price of $10,000 and will be called the Model Sondors, more likely a nod to Tesla than to Henry Ford.

The folks over at Gas2.org think the Model Sondors is everything the proposed Elio is not. I agree with that statement, though not in the same way as Gas2go’s Steve Hanley.

Hanley’s colleague at Gas2.org, former TTAC contributor Jo Borras, has been one of Elio’s most vocal critics. Hanley echoes Borras, saying, “Elio has promised much but delivered little in the seven years since it began.”

Considering Elio is nearing production of a fully engineered vehicle with a unique unibody and its own engine, and Sondors is crowdsourcing money to build the first prototype of a vehicle for which it has released almost no details, dinging Elio for broken promises seems unfair in this context.

For his part, Sondors says he wants to make an affordable and practical electric car. To achieve that end, he says his team is designing the vehicle from scratch, “forgoing the unnecessary complexities and focusing on building a technology that people will love. It’s not about complicated engineering, it’s about ingenious technology.”

No details on that ingenious technology have been forthcoming besides range figures, the fact that the vehicle’s body will be constructed of aluminum, and it will be “charged by plugging it into the same outlet you plug a smartphone into every day.” One presumes that Sondors means a wall outlet, not the 4.5V 0.5A micro USB thing you use for your phone.

Like Elio and Tesla, there will be no independent Sondors dealers. The trikes will be sold directly from whatever factory in China Sondors contracts to make them.

It’s interesting that Sondors touts his bicycle company as a distributor, not a manufacturer. His e-bikes are made in the Far East and then drop shipped from their contractor directly to customers. One presumes he would use the same manufacturing model for his trikes.

Sondors Electric Car bike, Image: Sondors

To get the enterprise off of the ground, Sondors has started another crowdfunding campaign, this time at StartEngine, to raise the $1 million in capital needed to build its first working prototype. That effort won’t be shown to the public until sometime in 2017. For a minimum investment of $120, supporters get a reservation and ten shares of common stock in the company. So far, supporters have pledged about $240,000.

When Elio Motors started selling stock — around the time it introduced its fifth prototype first to qualified investors and then a larger offering under the Reg A+ provisions — I told Paul Elio to expect some criticism. Preston Tucker’s legal problems were partly the result of offering stock in a company that had no product to sell. Some of the same folks who raised eyebrows over Elio’s financing haven’t made a peep of skepticism about Sondors.

After it gets its first prototype built, Sondors will have a preorder program to determine sales interest and capital needs, followed by a second round of financing, presumably to start production. Sondors hopes to have as many as 120,000 initial orders by the time the car goes into production. Elio Motors currently has about 60,000 paid reservations for its trike, with an introductory price of $7,300.

As I’ve said concerning Elio, I’m a Detroiter and the idea of someone starting up a car company is romantic to me. I’m just not sure Storm Sondors understands the difference between designing a bicycle and mass producing something that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. I know making something powered by electrons rather than evil gasoline gives it a halo of wonderfulness, but that doesn’t make it any easier to engineer. Designing any product from the ground up takes time. Designing something as complicated as a car takes years. Multi-billion dollar automakers brag when they can do it in less than two years. Tesla has had delays in getting its vehicles to market, and it’s using real automotive engineers, hired in Detroit, Tokyo and Stuttgart, not contract bicycle makers in China.

Mr. Sondors thinks he can engineer and build a working prototype in a year for $1 million. By comparison, Elio has burned through about $93 million dollars since 2009, when it showed its first prototype. Since then, it’s had four more true prototypes made. The latest, P5, has Elio’s own IAV-developed engine. Elio Motors is currently building a run of about two dozen pre-production vehicles that will be used to fine tune things for production. Those vehicles have a fully engineered unibody made of stamped steel panels, as well as Elio’s engines and the Aisin transmissions that’ll be used in production.

Sondors Electric Trike Red Side, Image: Sondors

Elio is still a long shot. It still needs to raise the better part of a quarter billion dollars to buy production tooling and start building vehicles in its factory in Louisiana. I won’t bet $120 on Sondors, but I would bet $120 on Elio making it to production before Sondors.

I suppose in our crowdsourcing era, it might be quaint to bring up a term from earlier in the digital age: we used to call stuff like the Model Sondors “vaporware.” No mention of where it will be made, what kind of battery cells or motors, whether it will have front- or rear-wheel drive, no 0-60 mph times — or even if it’ll be able to go 60 miles an hour. Jo Borras is speculating that at the low price quoted by Sondors, the car will have to be some kind of low-speed neighborhood electric vehicle.

Even so, people have been less skeptical of the Sondors EV than of the Faraday Future venture. When it was first announced, the Faraday Future EV enterprise was mocked as not serious, but FF has serious financial support from Chinese backers and it’s hired, according to some reports, as many as a thousand engineers. Sondors has sold some e-bikes, put up a crowdfunding page, and has a weird video featuring Storm telling us about his dislike for furniture.

Elio may not have made a production car, but all that the Sondors Electric Car Company has produced so far are some nice computer renderings of a very slick looking three-wheeled coupe. Comparing pretty CGI renderings to a fully engineered and almost completely developed motor vehicle, I think it is fair to say, for the time being, the Model Sondors is indeed everything the Elio is not: vaporware.

For more information, you can check out the Sondors Electric Car Facebook page for developments. If you’d like to invest, its StartEngine page is here.

[Images: Sondors Electric Car Company]

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26 Comments on “I Agree, Sondors Electric Autocycle is Everything Elio Is Not...”


  • avatar
    RHD

    This car will most likely be manufactured in the same country as the bicycles.
    It’s got to be very preliminary still, if the range is “50 to 200 miles”.
    50 would be unacceptable in today’s market, and 200 would be competitive.
    The main problem is the lack of a back seat, and the lateral instability of just one rear wheel. Is there really a market for “half a car”? The price would have to be very low, the driving experience better than anything on the market, and the insurance cost so low that it doesn’t provide less vehicle for the same price as a conventional car.
    There’s also the stigma of manufacturing the car in a country famous for less-then-stellar quality. Realistically, how many people will order a car, sight unseen, from overseas, and receive it without any “dealer prep”, or quality control inspection?
    They could call it the Sondors Amazon, and deliver it by a package-carrying drone.

  • avatar
    CombiCoupe99

    Ridiculous. What sort of roads will the government allow these silly vehicles to travel upon? Can you imagine the carnage if these science experiments are allowed to mix with urban / suburban traffic?

    We’ll never see these on the road – never. Ever.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Google “slingshot.” Though not 100% equivalent to the Elio, I’ve seen a fair number of them (slingshot) on the road lately.

      And I’m still pulling for Elio. It may never come to fruition, but the fact that he’s attempting to source and build it here in America has me waving the flag. An attempt at making one out of a bicycle shop in China? Not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        velvet fog

        Three wheelers are classified as motor bikes and held to lesser safety standards than a four wheeled vehicle. So these 3 wheelers are really an end run around the safety regulations that add cost and complexity.

        I think most people don’t realize the nuance of that difference. We’re going to see a bloodbath when these things start mixing with regular traffic.

        NHTSA is proposing a change to that rule that would change the classification and up the safety requirements for these types of three wheelers.

        http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201510&RIN=2127-AL15

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Why would these cause carnage? Unless the guys designing and building them are flat out retarded, they’ll certainly have better safety specific driving dynamics than almost any other vehicle class than passenger cars and CUVs of the past 15 years. Seat belts, crumple zones, front airbags, abs, stability control and grippy tires; you’re golden. Beyond that, lies only fluff and lobbyist influenced over specification, aimed at nothing more noble than driving up the cost for potential upstarts.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        The Polaris Slingshot does have decent lateral stability, but is well known to kick out the rear end in rain, cold, or traction loss situations. That said, I dont think any 3-wheeler should be held to the same standards as a standard car/truck, simply because they are not a car/truck. They are unique vehicles in their own right and are more like a motorcycle than a car.

        People buying 3-wheeled vehicles are well aware that there are some safety concerns. I dont think the Elio or Slingshot are as dangerous as a typical motorcycle, but I dont think either would fare well in a head-on collision with a midsized crossover.

        As for the electric Sondors? If it is being produced in China, no thanks. I can get a 2-year old Smart Electric for less than 10,000 around here nowadays and while equally dorky, it is much more safe and only slightly larger.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’m not sure I can trust a man with a James May haircut who goes shirtless and shoe-less in his company’s future vision advertisement.

    Might buy some Swedish design furniture from someone like that, but that’s about it.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Ronnie,
    You come across as anti this and very pro Elio, you almost sound like a spokesperson for them, if both come to market let the market decide I would not buy either but there are those out there who may and from what I know of Elio ( not much really) I think they have missed several dates their car would be out there to be purchased, i may be wrong on that and I am sure the B&B will let me know.

    • 0 avatar

      Elio’s made a few mistakes, particularly announcing production dates when they haven’t raised the money for production. I understand the skepticism of those who think Elio won’t make it, I’ve publicly called them a longshot on many occasions. That being said, Elio Motors is a genuine enterprise with an almost production ready prototype.

      There’s a Swedish EV startup called Uniti that I hope to write about in the next couple of days, comparing it to Sondors. They’re using a similar funding model as Sondors is, and while they also haven’t built a fullsize functional prototype, nor given any details about the batteries and motors, they have been open about a variety of technologies they will be using. They have a team that has experience in automotive and other technologies, including a couple of guys from Koenigsegg and it seems to me that they have more credibility than Sondors.

  • avatar
    zipper69

    Elio and this effort are still baby steps that could be blown away by yet unrealized battery and running gear modules still in development.

  • avatar
    robc123

    Look at these guys- Motus motorcycles featured just recently on jay leno’s garage;
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNkIvO0eFIw

    True its gas powered, but they built their own motor, from scratch. Still took them years to get it certified. Elio, is a garbage company, garbage CEO- he spends all the money on himself. And this other guy, Sondors- 1 year is not realistic.
    What he needs is investors and a 5 year fund/timeline not preorders yet. This is a product he needs a prototype, that’s hard money needed to be raised.

    • 0 avatar

      The Motus V4 was engineered by Katech, a Detroit area engineering company, for Motus. Elio had IAV, which is half owned by VW, design their engine. You’d be surprised how many engines made by the biggest car companies in the world, were either designed or developed by outside companies like Roush, Ricardo, IAV, AVL, Mahle, Cosworth or smaller companies like Katech. The Harley Davidson VRod motor started out at Roush, then was developed for production by Porsche.

      Elio Motors has gone through about $93 million. Paul Elio doesn’t appear to have a million dollar lifestyle. Jerome Vassalo, Elio’s VP in charge of sales, literally lives in an RV as they take their prototypes on their promotional road tours.

      Nice Elan in the avatar, btw.

    • 0 avatar

      “Elio, is a garbage company, garbage CEO- he spends all the money on himself.”

      Wow. Even Mr. Trump stopped short of portraying himself as that dismissive of Mrs. Clinton on Monday night–despite his own reliance on spurious data and hyperbole.

      Thanks for the fact-checking, Ronnie. Apparently it is needed here.

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    The oh-so-hip, ironically painful video needs a professional voice actor to dub over his cartoon-character voice. And the message is pure marketing B.S. I don’t believe his mission statement/manifesto/script as the attached video his marketing agency has created is utterly useless.

    • 0 avatar
      Macca

      Yeah, that was rough. I almost checked out after the barely comprehensible opening line “I don’t like anything what’s…what has no purpose.” Huh? And what about “when it’s ready I have to say yes to all these crazy ideas when I get in my head…” What?

      If I didn’t know any better I would think this was a send up directed by Wes Anderson.

      Hard to take this (guy) seriously.

  • avatar
    DaPlugg

    “Considering Elio is nearing production of a fully engineered vehicle with a unique unibody and its own engine’ that has been the story for years when the elio finally releases i bet it will not make good on any of its original promises

    • 0 avatar

      The five prototypes Elio made from 2009 to 2015 have all had scratch-built space frames made from steel tubing. The two dozen or so of what they’re calling their E series prototypes, which are starting to be used for testing and by vendors to fine tune systems, will have unibodies made from welded steel panels.

      I haven’t driven one yet, but I’ve been in the shop where they’re are assembling the E vehicles and they look close to production spec.

  • avatar

    The three-wheeler looks like that other vaporware product, the Zap Alias. Remember those guys? Sondors hasn’t done his homework, if ever he had the intention to do so. No way, 1 million will buy him a working prototype. I know that Gas2.org is very anti Elio, up to the point that one starts to think that something more personal is going on.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not just Gas2.org. Just about everyone writing about cars is skeptical of Elio. I’m a contrarian by nature, but more to the point, I took the time to meet with the Elio folks and check out what was their 3rd prototype. At the time critics were saying “scam” and “Dale” and I didn’t see any reason why they couldn’t go to production if they got the financing. The weren’t trying a moon shot, just trying to build a 1,200 lb 55 hp vehicle with good aero.

      Some of Paul Elio’s ideas are flaky, for example their “pay 3X the pump price for gas on our credit card and that will pay off your car”, but they have a lot more credibility at this point than folks raising money to build their first functional prototype.

      I’m skeptical that Arcimoto will find customers for their electric trike, but they’ve at least gone through a few design iterations with working prototype before settling on a production design.

      The whole crowdfunding of prototypes bothers me a bit, as an inventor. Why would anyone invest in something without first seeing a proof of concept?

  • avatar
    shaker

    This car will use a battery pack made with suddenly available low-cost Samsung cell-phone batteries…

    Or… worse?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    With Samsung batteries it will be the hottest vehicle on the market. It will ignite the electric car market.

  • avatar
    stuki

    When money is being printed up and handed, no strings attached, to anyone located in an approved zipcode; what the (once were) “market” rewards, is not boring old engineering. But rather cheesy feelgood stories. By tanned guys with ponytails who surf expensive beaches. For post wall women who “made their money” in the “divorce market.” Compared to this latest round in America’s descent into a no holds barred banana republic, Divine Interventures was positively down to earth.

  • avatar
    fred

    So, what’s the story 6 months down the road? Elio has “sharply curtailed operations” due to lack of funding. Sondors got the $1M, and has started on the prototype.

    While both guys appear to be pretty flakey in their own ways, Sondors is far more likely to make it to production.

    One million is high for a prototype. Sondors actually projected to be able to build the prototype for significantly less. It is not logical to use Elio’s incompetence (and dishonest) as a reason to believe that Sondors will not get far more bang for the buck.

    I didn’t put any cash into either of their pockets, but I strongly believe that we will see real prototypes from Sondors before we will from Elio. Yeah, I know about the E-series, but those are only slightly improved junk over the P-series show cars. Real prototypes = real tests, real numbers, real drives.

    Let’s check back in 6 more months. My prediction? Elio finally folds officially. Sondors has 2-3 iterations of prototypes undergoing testing.

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