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Amped-up Hot Rods

Blue Ash company offers electric vehicles

By Chris Charlson · April 13th, 2010 · News

Amp Electric Vehicles (AMP) plans to generate a serious buzz around town by producing 100-percent electric production cars. They reconfigure three standard vehicles — Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Skye and Chevy Equinox — to get up to 150 miles from a single charge and hope to produce up to 1,000 cars per year, operating at the former Range Rover dealership in Blue Ash.

The process began three years ago with extensive research and development to create a 100-percent electric drivetrain and battery system, says chief sales officer J.D. Staley. The first vehicles rolled off the line in February.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Staley says the company converts existing solidly engineered vehicles to 100-percent electric by replacing the combustion engine. The initial platform included two vehicles, the Solstice and the Skye, both of which are no longer being produced by General Motors.

“We had no idea in their infinite wisdom that GM was going to discontinue the product line completely,” Staley says. “Our long-term objective has always been to be in multiple platforms, and (GM’s decision) kind of accelerated that process.”

AMP chose the 2010 Chevy Equinox as its newest vehicle because of its larger size and popularity in the current market, Staley says. He says the AMP Equinox will be the largest 100-percent electric vehicle on the road, with its SUV design ideal for families with children or sports enthusiasts looking to carry equipment.

With a full charge, the AMP has a range of 120-150 miles depending on driving habits, Staley says. The car takes about eight hours to fully charge from a standard 110v outlet and about four hours from a 220v outlet.

While the AMP is priced higher than most traditional cars ($50,000 for a new Equinox and $25,000 for a converted Skye or Solstice), Staley says the initial cost is eventually offset by gasoline savings and lack of traditional maintenance.

“You’re looking at one third or less the expense of owning a combustion vehicle,” he says.

“It’s between $3 and $5 a day if you’re fully charging it. Most Americans don’t drive more than 40 miles per day, so you could get several days worth of driving out of our vehicle.”

Opponents might say AMP is simply trading combustion fuel emissions for increased coal burning emissions, but Staley claims that’s not so. The amount of coal used to generate the electricity used in AMP vehicles produces less than 50 percent of the emissions than a traditional combustion car, he says.

“So even in the worst scenario with coal producing electricity, we’re still producing a lot less emissions,” he says.

As far as competition goes, AMP’s vehicle is one of just two 100-percent electric highway-capable cars currently on the road — the other is the Tesla, priced around $130,000, which could explain why more than 500 customers have already expressed interest in ownership, says AMP co-founder Mick Kowitz.

With the facility able to convert around 1,000 cars per year, initial interest bodes well for the fledgling company. Kowitz says the dealership will sell and service cars all around the country from their current location, then eventually expand to other cities as demand increases.

He obviously believes in the product, as he owns the company’s first production vehicle, a sleek jet-black Skye convertible.

“We’ve really built a strong product and I respect it,” Kowitz says. “Strong enough that I’m willing to take my kids for rides in my car.”

Kowitz says he and co-founder Steven Burns started the company with hopes of helping the environment and future generations. He says witnessing the atrocities from war because of oil, particularly in the Middle East, should be enough for anyone to want to free themselves from dependency on foreign oil. He says if businesses and consumers don’t push for change, it will never happen.

“So we’re a company that’s pushing, and from a buyer perspective I’m a buyer that’s pushing,” Kowtiz says. “As a buyer I want to make a statement: “Hey, I want to be green, I want to save my grandchildren, I want to save my family, I want to do this.”

Environmentally-minded businesses like AMP will play a major role in Ohio’s economic growth, says Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. He claims Ohio’s historic industrial strengths in agriculture and manufacturing give the state a competitive edge over others. The state is targeting investment in those sectors and creating an environment where talented, highly-skilled innovators have the tools they need to lead Ohio into the 21st century economy.

“For example, the research, development and innovation at or university system of Ohio institutions are fueling the green economy and will continue to play a larger role in Ohio’s economic progress,” Strickland said at AMP’s grand opening in February.

Besides being impressed with the sporty appearance of the first production vehicle, the converted Saturn Skye, Strickland said he found the car extremely quiet.

“From the outside you could hardly tell the car was running,” he said. “But as far as performance is concerned, it handled like a sports car. I enjoyed my first lap around the AMP facility so much I decided to go for a second pass.”

AMP ELECTRIC VEHICLES: 4540 Alpine Ave., Blue Ash, www.ampelectricvehicles.com
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