EVs, like me after the holidays, have a tendency to bloat at the slightest provocation, which is why I can’t fit into those size 34 jeans. The big issue for electric cars is heavy batteries force cars to grow in size to accommodate them. Of course, the heavier the load, the more power is needed to keep going, forcing you into a vicious cycle. Even a small city car like the original Smart has, in its latest electric version, grown into a grotesque parody of its predecessor. Which is why there’s a lot of hope riding on truly small EVs, like Squad Mobility’s solar-powered car that’s designed not to grow too big to fit inside a city.
The company was founded by Chris Klok and Robert Hoevers, who met while working on the Lightyear solar car. Klok was chief vehicle engineer of that project, while Hoevers was previously involved with NIO’s Formula E team. But they left Lightyear to help develop a small, solar-powered car that would offer affordable and clean mobility for dense cities. And while it’s just got a few prototypes to show off, like the one here at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, it’s expecting to begin production in 2025. Even better, many of its existing pre-order customers are based in the US, given the need for a car like this in those communities that exclusively rely on golf carts to get around.
The Solar City car has a 250Wp panel in its roof, which is designed to generate enough power for a few short trips each day. The company says that, in Las Vegas, you could expect to travel for around 13 miles purely from the energy collected from the panel. (You can plug it in to an outlet if you really need to.) With a kerb weight of 794 pounds, it’s light and efficient enough to get you around short distances without much stress. Of course, the speed is limited — and you’ll only get around 25mph out of the 4kW motor, but if you live in a big city and just need to get to work, or pick up some groceries, that’s probably all you need.
You might expect the car to be poky, but the high roofline and low floor means it’s surprisingly comfortable. The prototype here has some quirks — like acceleration and brake pedals that are a bit too close to the seat — which will be eliminated in the production version. There’s even a rear load space big enough for a suitcase or a couple of decently-sized bags, and the prominent tires mean you could even tackle rough terrain in short doses. The fact it measures just 6.6 feet long means you can park it sideways and it’ll take up the same amount of room as most cars, too.
We’re still a year out from seeing the production model of this car, but there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful. The company expects the retail price to be $6,250 excluding sales tax, making it ideal as a city runaround or second (or third) car. That said, the figure does exclude the cost of the doors which, like AC, count as an optional extra.
We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.