See more of the story

There's a new kid on the zero-emissions vehicle block — and it has three wheels.

The Solo, from Canadian designer and manufacturer ElectraMeccanica, is a single-passenger all-electric vehicle with a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 80 miles per hour. It retails for $18,500, and people in a select few U.S. cities on the West Coast can see it for themselves.

The car is slightly more than 10 feet long (122 inches) and 57.5 inches wide at the front wheels — considerably smaller than a typical passenger vehicle. For example, a 2020 Honda Accord sedan is 192.2 inches long and 73.3 inches wide.

"When you're driving it, you feel like you're sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet or in a Formula 1 car," said Paul Rivera, CEO of ElectraMeccanica. "It's really cool and really different."

But a big part of the marketing strategy for the Solo is based on efficiency and practicality. The company quotes pre-pandemic statistics showing that each day, 119 million North Americans commute using personal vehicles — and 105 million of them do so all by themselves.

The Solo looks to attract early adopters looking for an option in an urban environment.

"This is a purpose-built vehicle and it fits beautifully between passenger cars on one end of the spectrum and micro-mobility [scooters, electric bikes, etc.] on the other end," Rivera said.

Powered by a 17.3-kWh battery that turns a single rear wheel, the Solo features a heated seat, Bluetooth stereo, rearview camera, power steering, power brakes and air conditioning. It has front and rear crumple zones, side-impact protection, torque-limiting stability control and a roll bar.

ElectraMeccanica is based in Vancouver, but the Solo is manufactured in China. The first production shipments of the vehicles arrived in the United States last month.

Customers can take one for a test drive, but they can't buy one off the lot. To get one, you must place an order for one that will be delivered at a later date. Ordering a Solo requires a $250 deposit, which is refundable.

Rivera would not reveal how many deposits have been made, but he said "the waiting list is pretty long" and estimated that an order placed now probably would not be delivered until "well into the middle of next year."

Technically not a car

One potential drawback: While a conventional four-wheeled electric vehicle is eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, the Solo receives no such credit. That's because it's categorized as a motorcycle by the federal government.

Ivan Drury, who looks at automotive trends as senior manager at Edmunds.com, is skeptical about the single-seater's prospects. Last year, Mercedes-Benz announced it would stop selling the all-electric Smart car, which had two seats, in North America, largely due to slow sales.

"Small doesn't sell in America," Drury said.

Rivera said he thinks the Smart car EV didn't cut it because it didn't leave enough space to carry luggage or groceries, something the Solo has addressed. In fact, ElectraMeccanica will soon come out with a fleet version of the Solo. It's the same size as the existing vehicle but the hatchback is removed to create more space for cargo.

"We think that's going to be a home run," Rivera said.