Wheego Eyes $5M on Home Stretch to Full-Speed Electric Car

Wheego Electric Cars launched its first model, a low-speed electric two-seater dubbed the Whip, last year. But the tiny 5-person startup aims to start selling a battery powered car capable of highway speeds within a few months. And according to a recent filing with regulators, Wheego plans to sell up to $5 million in equity to make a final dash to production of the full-speed model.

Wheego CEO and Chairman Michael McQuary (former president of MindSpring, and later EarthLink following the companies’ merger), told us today he expects Wheego to become profitable within the first year of launching the full-speed model, at a run rate of 2,000 cars per year. He told us today that the $5 million in funding would go toward final tooling and production of the so-called Wheego LiFe (after the battery chemistry: lithium iron phosphate), which is now “undergoing final crash testing.”

The currently available Whip is limited to 25-35 MPH, and sells for around $19,000 (before federal and state incentives). It’s built with a chassis based on Noble platform from China’s Shuanghaun Auto , and runs on a lead-acid battery that gives the car about 40 miles of range on a full charge. As a low-speed or neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), the Whip faces less rigorous safety testing than the upcoming model designed for highway driving.

But the LiFe will go up to 65 MPH and have a range of around 100 miles per charge, according to Wheego. Assembled in Ontario, Calif., the car will use battery packs from Flux Power, a Vista, Calif. company led by Aptera co-founder Chris Anthony (Flux uses battery cells from a variety of suppliers). McQuary says the LiFe will go for around $32,500 before incentives and “should be on the road in mid-summer.”

That price tag could make the LiFe a tough sell, given that Nissan plans to offer quite a bit more car and brand recognition for about the same cost. The 5-seat Nissan LEAF sedan, scheduled to roll out in late 2010, will go for $32,780 before incentives.

Launched in June 2009 as a spin-off from recreational vehicle maker Ruff & Tuff Electric Vehicles (RTEV), Wheego filed to raise $2.5 million in equity financing a few months later. The company plans to take an increasingly rare approach among electric car startups looking to set up and scale up manufacturing: bypassing Uncle Sam. McQuary told us today Wheego does not have any applications for federal funds in the works. Rather, he said, “We are privately funding everything.”

Here’s a video by Wheego showing the LiFe in action:

Images courtesy of Wheego

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