When you live in a city renown for being the home of two golf car manufacturers and one of the most prestigious tournaments in the golfing world, you'd expect someone like Mike Tomberlin to have more than a passing interest in low speed electric vehicles.
But awareness is one thing, deciding to make a business out of it is another kettle of fish altogether. Based in Augusta, Georgia, the Tomberlin Group decided some three years ago to carve out a niche for itself in the still emerging LSEV marketplace, first by introducing a more traditional golf car-like neighborhood electric vehicle called the Emerge. A second model called the Anvil is just now going into production and though it also falls into the NEV category, from its appearance, it might be even better suited for rough country roads and back trails than quiet suburban streets.
"We're really all about delivering a neat operator experience with our vehicles," Tomberlin explained to EV World. In his words, they zeroed in on the NEV segment in 2005 and spend all of 2006 engineering the vehicles in Minnesota. Since Tomberlin had already an established distribution system for its scooter and ATV lines, the company devoted 2007 to building out its EV dealership chain beginning with its more traditional looking Emerge. Although it closely resembles a golf car, it does meet all the safety standards set down by the federal government for LSVs: wipers, lights, seat belts, safety glass windshield, top speed of 25 mph.
The more aggressive-looking Anvil, pictured above, is just now being debuted at various trade shows, most recently in New Orleans. The design has evolved some since the original concept vehicle appeared. While it too complies with federal LSV safety standards as spelled out in FMVSS 500, Tomberlin explained that he is a firm supporter of the concept of Medium Speed Electric Vehicles, whose top speed is raised to 35 mph, allowing them to more safely operate on city streets. A number of states have passed legislation that would permit MSEVs to operate on their streets. However, the federal highway safety agency that oversees these matters has been reluctant to amend its rules, which prevents most manufacturers from increasing the performance of their vehicles. Tomberlin is in the same situation, but is also prepared to upgrade the 72-volt, AC-powered Anvil to any future MSEV standards. He does, however, believe that short wheelbase vehicles like the 48-volt Emerge should only be allowed to do 25 mph.
Because Tomberlin Group is privately held, financial data need not be disclosed, but Mike did announce that he is very pleased with the sales of the Emerge, whose starting price is comparable to GEM vehicles in the same class. He also assures EV World that his firm is NOT applying for federal loans or grants.
The complete interview with Mike Tomberlin is 27 minutes in length. You can listen to it using either of the two MP3 players above or by downloading it to your computer for playback on your favorite MP3 device.