ElectraMeccanica SOLO EV first drive: a certified head turner everywhere you go

Electrek recently got the opportunity to test out the ElectraMeccanica SOLO EV for a few days and see what this single-passenger vessel can do. Small but speedy, the SOLO offers fun for single-rider drivers, and a picture-worthy experience for anyone you drive past.

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ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corporation and the SOLO EV

ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. ($SOLO) is an EV designer and manufacturer based in Vancouver, BC, that has been developing its three-wheeled, single-passenger EV called the SOLO since 2015.

The SOLO EV was specifically designed with commuting and deliveries in mind, as its compact size makes it perfect for urban conditions. That being said, its 100-mile range and top speed of 80 mph makes it perfectly adequate for highway travel as well – if you’re brave enough (more on that later).

Last October, ElectraMeccanica began delivering its flagship SOLO EV to customers and has continued doing so for both consumers and commercial fleets since. It will soon be followed by a Cargo version offering twice the capacity, scheduled to begin deliveries in Q2 of this year.

Since Electrek first heard about the SOLO EV in 2015, we have been keeping close tabs on ElectraMeccanica’s progress, following the automaker from setup of its US manufacturing in Mesa, Arizona, to its most recent news of testing autonomous food deliveries with the startup, Faction.

I finally got the opportunity to experience the SOLO EV myself and share a review, here’s how it went.

Initial thoughts inside and out of the SOLO EV

Even after years of seeing the ElectraMeccanica SOLO in images, videos, and even close-up views at my local mall, I was still not prepared for how unique of a vehicle it is. There are tiny aspects to its design that completely make sense for a one-seater EV, yet still feel quite foreign as you drive.

For instance, two doors. Makes complete sense from a design standpoint, as the driver can enter from either side, but it’s still an uncanny feeling compared to a standard front cabin with two seats. Which door to enter? Which to exit? These are not decisions you normally face as a driver.

Same goes for the windows – one switch on each door. In my EV, I can control all four of my windows from my driver’s seat with one hand. Rolling down the windows in the SOLO required both hands. Not an issue at all, just different.

Same goes for the seatbelt. As a US driver, I take a seat and pull my seatbelt from my left shoulder across my body, but in the SOLO, its on the right. I consistently found myself subconsciously grabbing at air over my left shoulder. Again, these are non-issues, simply divergent, yet endearing features that make this EV unique.

The SOLO takes a lot longer to start up than a traditional EV, as you have to turn the key for at least three seconds before the vehicle is truly on and ready to ride. Once that charge is primed though, you’re off to the races.

Before I got my delivery, I was hoping I would get the red exterior SOLO, and my wish came true. It’s a color that truly pops on top of an already unique looking three-wheeler, and it only adds to the SOLO’s call to be noticed as you zoom around in it.

Lastly, I know this is a small, one seat vehicle, but I was still surprised at how minimal the cargo space was. You could definitely fit a few bags of groceries in it, but space is certainly limited. I’d be interested to see how the double cargo space on the upcoming SOLO variant compares.

Driving the SOLO

When you step into the cabin of the SOLO, it’s more like a cockpit, just you and the road. Like all EVs, the instant torque of the motor provides enough oomph to get going quickly, and the SOLO’s low center of gravity and short turn radius makes it perfect for sharp, quick maneuvering.

Zipping (that’s the perfect word to describe this ride) around the South Bay of Los Angeles, there’s no shortage of electric vehicles, bikes, or golf carts. Still, everyone stopped in their tracks to watch me cruise by in the SOLO. That was easily my biggest takeaway from my time with the EV – everyone wants to take a picture of it or ask you about it, because it’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen.

I took the red SOLO up to Beverly Hills for an unrelated EV event, which required some time on the highway. Getting onto the highway and navigating past other vehicles was fairly easy, although it was strange not having a rear view mirror (your own head and seat would obstruct your view, even if you had one).

To compensate for this lack of rear sight, the SOLO is equipped with larger side view mirrors, offering wider visibility. They did just fine, but it still was a little scary making lane changes based on those mirrors alone, as you can’t see behind you or really turn over your shoulder to double check any potential blindspots.

While the SOLO can certainly hold its own at highway speeds, I was just as eager to hit the offramp to lower speeds with fewer cars around me. I was surprised to learn that the EV doesn’t have a lot of the standard safety equipment required for four wheel vehicles like airbags or anti-lock brakes.

Can it drive on the highway? Absolutely. Should you feel safe in the SOLO on the highway? That’s subjective, but I personally drove quite defensively to ensure my own safety in such a tiny vehicle and would recommend sticking to local roads.

During my four days with the SOLO EV, I drove it around (mostly locally, aside from the trip to BH) and had no issues with range. I found the 100 miles on a single charge completely adequate.

Final thoughts

Overall, I had a complete blast with the SOLO EV, and had multiple people ask me to roll down my window at stop lights to ask where they can get one for themselves. After testing the EV up and down the hills of Hermosa Beach, on the dreaded 405, and up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, I would definitely recommend the SOLO as a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV).

For one person cruising to the store or to work, its perfect, as long as you’re not hauling too much. I personally think the Cargo version of the SOLO might prove to be more useful, as it feels like an excellent zero-emissions option for food or grocery deliveries. Those vehicles usually stay pretty local and won’t need to travel on highways as much.

All in all, I am grateful for the opportunity to drive ElectraMeccanica’s SOLO EV and experience all its charm for myself, as well as all the curious pedestrians I zipped past along the way. I’m interested to see the Cargo version up close next to compare its available space.

As a cool little local commuter NEV, I say go for it, but as a highway vehicle I say – stay local. At the very least, see if there’s an ElectraMeccanica retail location or test drive event near you. The SOLO EV is absolutely worth experiencing, even if it is just a test drive to start.

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