My Wild eVette
By Bill Moore
I knew something was different about Tom Sine's electric three-wheeler when I saw the huge rear tires. This is not, I said to myself, your run-of-the-mill-and-dangerously-unstable electric tricycle. But how it was different eluded me.
The eVette, which is a play on his wife Yvette's name as much as on electric Vette, isn't Tom Sine's first EV. He's built others, gradually evolving towards the current design, which boasts capabilities not normally found in your average, garden variety EV, if there is such a thing.
And the Ferrari fiberglass kit body? Purely for show. The secret of the car, which sports "drive-by-wire" controls, is buried deep underneath. In eVette's case, its attraction really is more than skin deep.
"It really isn't like any other tricycle you've ever seen," Sine told me. He started by explaining that the front wheel is essentially just a caster. It doesn't steer the vehicle nor does it provide traction. It's simply there to provide balance. In fact, so little of the weight of the vehicle is on the front wheel that Sine reassured me that if it ran over your foot, it wouldn't do any damage. All traction, braking and steering is through the two large rear wheels that are differentially-controlled, 9-inch, brushed DC electric motors, one per wheel.
Why take this approach? Safety and stability are important factors for Sine, who said that he understands the dangers inherent in the conventional three-wheeled vehicle design, which can flip over in a turn. Instead, his drive-by-wire, joystick steering of the two large rear wheels provides, what one reporter wrote as "gut-wrenching" turns.
"We can turn so fast and so quick that you would not believe it…. I can do maneuvers that no four wheel car can possibly do," including 360 degree spins in one second and the ability -- if he's feeling really "frisky" to make it spin like a top.
While the eVette does have a pair of left and right brake pedals on the floor, Sine explained that braking can also be done through the central joystick control.
Because of its unusual design and drive system, the car can be easily upgraded to more power, including installing as many as 30 12-volt batteries and the possibility of swapping the 9-inch motors for 11 or even a new 13-inch motor slated to be released soon.
Sine has funded development of the vehicle out of his own modest resources and explained that to take the project any further, say into limited production, he needs outside investors.
"We've gone about as far as we can go. We've made the vehicle. It exists. It's not on the drawing board, it's in my front yard. You can see it anytime. We certainly want a manufacturer to get on board. We'd like to make a lot of these guys."
He estimates that if he could build them in lots of 100, he is confident that he could build them for $25,000 apiece. His current prototype is licensed in Florida as a motorcycle, he noted. How they would be classified by NHTSA is an unknown at the moment.
"I guess they'd have to make some new laws for us," Sine responded when asked about whether or not a potential owner would have to have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver's license.
Sine is more than happy to show his creation to interested electric car enthusiasts in Florida. He can be reached through both email and telephone, which are on he and his wife's one-page web site at ElectricEVette.Com.
Be sure to listen to our entire 23-minute dialog by using the MP3 players at the right, or by downloading the file to your computer hard drive for playback on your favorite MP3 device. This interview will also be available through EV World's Apple iTune's podcast service.