An EV three-wheeler with potential

The world of all-electric vehicles seems to be in a constant state of flux as of late, evolving from quirky, eco-friendly transportation alternatives, to top-shelf luxury cars, to high-performance speed machines, and now, it looks like we’re coming full circle. Unveiled in a small corner booth at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, this is the Model Sondors, the first offering from the Sondors Electric Car Company. Sondors is best known for its popular line of electric bicycles, and currently enjoys a position as the largest electric bike manufacturer and distributor in the U.S. Now, it’s aiming at expanding into the electric car game, starting with this slick-looking three-wheeling three-seater. Simplicity is the name of the game, from the powertrain to the interior. Even the way its built and sold will be streamlined, all in the name of driving down costs to bring electric motivation to the masses.

“I believe affordable, clean transportation should be the norm, not the exception. You shouldn’t have to choose between a car you can afford and a car that’s electric. We can do better,” says the founder of Sondors Electric Car Company, Storm Sondors. So far, so good. The prototype you see here was built in just seven months, an outright blitz by industry standards, and we think it looks quite good at this early stage. But is it really?

Continue reading to learn more about Sondors three-wheel EV.

Exterior

- * Simplified three-wheeler exterior
- * Two wheels in front, one in back
- * No motorcycle license required
- * Aerodynamic efficiency a major focus
- * Teardrop shape helps cut through air
- * Available in five exterior colors

2018 Model Sondors Exterior
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Having just three wheels allows for fewer bureaucratic hoops to jump through before bringing the vehicle to market

First off, let’s discuss that three-wheeler exterior. This, along with the all-electric powertrain, is the defining feature of the Model Sondors, providing the framework to accomplish the upstart carmaker’s rather lofty goals.

So what’s the point of going with the trike format? For starters, having just three wheels allows for fewer bureaucratic hoops to jump through before bringing the vehicle to market, a vitally important characteristic for a new carmaker aiming at the budget consumer. The design also has the added benefit of reducing complexity, lowering overall weight, and increasing aerodynamic efficiency, all important things for the segment. Plus, you don’t need a motorcycle license to drive one.

2018 Model Sondors Exterior
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The Model Sondors doesn’t necessarily look like what you’d expect from an all-electric three-wheeler. Penned by unnamed Italian designers, Sondors says grand tourer cars provided the inspiration for the aesthetic.

That said, the Model Sondors doesn’t necessarily look like what you’d expect from an all-electric three-wheeler. The company went to unnamed Italian designers to create the exterior shape, and we think it looks pretty good. Sondors says grand tourer cars provided the inspiration for the aesthetic, and that much is evident from the lithe, streamlined appearance. The front end is particularly attractive, with a wide, low stance that stretches forward with smooth lines and a streamlined attitude. The headlights are set with a duo of projectors per side, extending the car’s visual breadth with thin, blade-like housings. A large, angular lower lip spoiler offsets in grey, adding sportiness, and complemented by small intakes in the hood.

Moving to the sides, we find the front wheels get a split multi-spoke design finished in a lighter grey, offering another nice splash of aggression. The roofline curves rearwards in a coupe-like fashion, while prominent side skirts match the front lip in their appearance.

2018 Model Sondors Exterior
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In the rear, the fenders join up to form a teardrop shape, revealing a prominent rake to the stance.

Finally, in the rear, the fenders join up to form a teardrop shape to the thing. Back here, the car’s prominent rake is evident, leaning forward at a steep angle. Minimalistic, slender taillights illuminate the rear end.

It definitely looks quite aerodynamic, with few frills and extraneous pieces to muck it up, and we hope the aesthetic doesn’t change much by the time it reaches production. Of course, that front lip looks like it might mess with the airflow and create a bit of unnecessary drag, but we think it looks good all the same. When the Model Sondors does finally roll off the production line, customers will have up to five exterior colors to choose from.

Interior

- * Two seats in front, one in the rear
- * Simplified dash with large block shapes
- * All-digital instrumentation behind the steering wheel
- * Surprisingly spacious
- * Lots of contrast stitching
- * Flat-bottom steering wheel

2018 Model Sondors Interior
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Climb into the cabin, and you’ll find three seats for passengers, with two in front and one in back

Climb into the cabin, and you’ll find three seats for passengers, with two in front and one in back. Once again, simplicity and clean design pervade throughout, with a dash that looks almost like something out of a Lotus Elise in terms of its minimalism. A quartet of air vents lines the dash with a rounded shape and propeller-like directional fins. Solid shapes are used for the door panels and dead pedal, with the black spaces are offset by large patches of red and contrast stitching. The steering wheel is also decked-out in red contrast stitching, and gets a flat bottom and glossy black center section. The seats are draped in hide and look to offer decent lateral support. The single seat in back is placed towards the middle/rear of the car.

Although we weren’t offered a chance to sit in it, it looks as though the Model Sondors has a surprisingly spacious cabin for such a tiny vehicle. Thanks to the relatively compact packaging of its all-electric drivetrain, there’s no center tunnel to deal with, opening up legroom considerably for all passengers. There’s even a pair of windows in back to keep it feeling airy when stuffed into that rear seat.

2018 Model Sondors Interior
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Although we weren’t offered a chance to sit in it, it looks as though the Model Sondors has a surprisingly spacious cabin for such a tiny vehicle.

The whole thing felt surprisingly well put together as well, and Sondors promises all the standard convenience features you’d expect from a modern vehicle. These include a push button starter, air conditioning, a heater, an AM/FM stereo, power windows, power locks, and inputs for your smartphone or music device. There’s also a digital gauge readout behind the steering wheel, and Sondors says it’ll offer optional luxury features like leather upholstery for a little more outaly.

As you might expect, don’t expect much in terms of practicality, as there’s pretty much no space for storage purposes. That said, Sondors says it might add a storage spot in the front (commonly referred to as a “frunk” in the EV world) some time in the future.

As for the safety side of things, Sondors says its first model will come with airbags, a passenger safety cell, and seat belts, plus a strict consideration for crash standards. “Our intent is to meet and exceed automotive safety standards,” the company says.

Finally, Sondors has aspirations to one day offer autonomous drive features, although tech like that is most likely a quite a ways off in the future. However, if autonomous systems really kick off in the next 5 years and become much cheaper, offered at the right price point for a budget-oriented EV like the Model Sondors, that could change. And indeed, a car like this would be well-suited to robot chauffeurism.

Drivetrain

- * Rear in-hub motor system
- * Lithium-ion battery pack
- * Multiple range options, between 75 and 200 miles per charge
- * 0 to 60 mph between 8 and 5 seconds depending on the battery
- * Might be a lot of fun in the corners

2018 Model Sondors Exterior
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The Model Sondors has single-wheel all-electric drive, with the rear tire making its move by way of an in-hub motor system and lithium-ion battery pack

To make it go, the Model Sondors has single-wheel all-electric drive, with the rear tire making its move by way of an in-hub motor system and lithium-ion battery pack. Meanwhile, the two front wheels turn and provide the majority of braking force. Specs are understandably light at this early stage, but we do know Sondors intends to offer a variety of powertrain options and range possibilities, starting with 75 miles per charge. Customers willing to spend a bit more will have a shot at 150 miles and 200 miles in the options list.

Acceleration will be greatly affected by the battery pack you choose, ranging between 8 seconds at the slow end and 5 seconds at the fast end. Not bad for a plucky little EV three-wheeler. Charge times will vary quite a bit as well, with both 110-volt and 240-volt options on the table. No word on DC quick charger options at this time.

Acceleration will be greatly affected by the battery pack you choose, ranging between 8 seconds at the slow end and 5 seconds at the fast end. Not bad for a plucky little EV three-wheeler

How does it handle? That’s a good question. The tri-pod platform can be an absolute riot if properly executed, as evidenced by examples like the Polaris Slingshot, Morgan Three-Wheeler, and Campagna T-Rex, but it depends on how aggressive Sondors wants to get with this supposedly commute-oriented first offering. We do know the Model Sondors will come with standards like ABS and traction control, and that with its low center of gravity and instant torque at a single rear wheel, it has the potential to be quite interesting in the corners.

Finally, there are disc brakes in front by the look of it. No word on regenerative capabilities yet.

Prices

2018 Model Sondors Exterior
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Sondors says it isn’t taking pre-orders just yet, as it doesn’t want to “oversell and under-deliver.

Financially speaking, Sondors is in a surprisingly good spot right now. The start-up went through a round of crowd funding last January and raised an impressive $1 million in just 30 days, money that fueled the creation of the prototype you see here. Now, Sondors hopes to ramp up with a second round of crowd funding, aiming to raise another $2 million for pre-production, with the ultimate goal being $20 million for tooling and a full-blown production Model Sondors.

However, Sondors says it isn’t taking pre-orders just yet, as it doesn’t want to “oversell and under-deliver,” which honestly seems like a jab at pretty much every other start-up EV producer out there. And it’s a bold move, to boot.

When it does eventually go on sale, the asking price will start around $10,000. Production numbers are hazy, but Sondors says between 60,000 and 100,000 units annually would make sense – ambitious numbers, if you ask us.

When it does eventually go on sale, the asking price will start around $10,000.

Additionally, Sondors will partner up with various worldwide manufacturing companies, rather than go through the money-intensive process of creating manufacturing facilities on its own. The first run of Model Sondors will be produced in Italy.

Ultimately, this all gets back to the underlying philosophy driving the company – “Additionally, we intend to design, develop, and source materials and components from some of the best manufacturers around the globe. This will allow us to not only have access to proven technologies but we will also be able to pass on supply chain warranties to the end customer,” Sondors says.

When the final production model is ready to roll, customers will be able to buy theirs online, including picking out each of their preferred options, and have it delivered straight to their front door. The point of this, of course, is to cut out the dealer middleman, thus lowering overall cost for the buyer.

Finally, Sondors says it hopes to begin putting together production vehicles by April of 2019.

Competitors

Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive High Resolution Exterior
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While there are a plethora of differences between the Model Sondors and the Electric Fortwo, at the heart of it, they both fly under the same philosophy – all-electric transportation that’s accessible to as many people as possible. Smart’s take adds a wheel, but deletes a seat, with just two passengers finding accommodation in the cabin. Range is also a bit low at 70 to 80 miles per charge, while price is more than double that of the Sondors at $23,800. Still, you can go out and buy a Smart right now, which is much more than you can say for the Sondors. The question is – where will Smart be when the Model Sondors finally hits the production line?

Read our full review on the 2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive

Conclusion

2018 Model Sondors Exterior
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At the end of the day, Sondors is taking an undeniably bold and aggressive path.

Truth be told, history tells us the odds of success are most definitely not in Sondors’ favor. However, this first prototype is looking mighty impressive all the same. Indeed, even the company is relishing in its own successes. “We were told that it costs hundreds of millions to do what I did for a million dollars,” says the founder of Sondors Electric Car Company, Storm Sondors.

At the end of the day, Sondors is taking an undeniably bold and aggressive path. The company aspires to change the way cars are purchased, manufactured, and delivered, and that’s no simple task, no matter how you look at it.

Still, the company does have a few advantages to play. For one, it’s a leader in the electric bike industry, and there are sure to be many lessons learned there that apply to the business of making cars as well. The crowd funding angels also seem to be in the company’s corner, driving development without resorting to grandiose promises like some of the other EV startups. Sondors’ “electric for everyone” motto also looks overseas, and as demand increases for affordable personal transportation options, and various countries ban internal combustion altogether, the time might be right for a trike like the Model Sondors.

Still, the company does have a few advantages to play.

Our only real issue is with safety, which might be a bit questionable considering the car’s size and lightweight approach to moving about. That said, we’ll reserve final judgment until we see the crash test results for ourselves.

Here’s the thing though. Let’s consider another startup when weighing the odds of success for Model Sondors – Elio Motors, a company that should serve as a cautionary tale for potential Sondors fans. Established in 2009, Elio sought to offer a highly efficient three-wheeler dubbed the P4, tagging it with specs like 84 mpg on the highway and pricing set at about $7,500. However, in the 8 years since it launched, Elio Motors has repeatedly pushed back the delivery date for its first model time and again, with the latest estimate putting delivery at 2019, a full decade after it was initially founded and seven years after its initial speculative delivery date. Granted, there are several glaringly obvious differences between Sondors and Elio, but the point is this – building cars is hard. Does Sondors have what it takes to prove the naysayers wrong? We’ll find out eventually.

  • Leave it
    • * Still just a trike with a roof
    • * Safety could be an issue
    • * Just a prototype for now

References

2017 Los Angeles Auto Show – Visitor's Guide
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Read more 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show news.

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