We’re all experts on EVs now, and can chuckle about the challenges EV makers had before large lithium-ion batteries made cars like the Leaf, Volt and Tesla (relatively) possible, although still not cheap. Lead acid battery-powered EVs are quickly becoming anachronisms, but during that long wait, there was a never-ending stream of lead-acid EVs: conversions, little city cars, Zaps, etc. Given the very low energy density and high weight of lead-acid batteries, finding the (relative) sweet spot between vehicle weight, performance and cost was the challenge. The locally-built Nevco Gizmo hit it about as well or better than any of them. That still didn’t keep it from finding itself on the ash-heap of EV history.
As with all EVs, the trick is to keep them as light as possible to maximize their batteries’ limited capacity. The Gizmo, conceived in 1993, was designed to carry on passenger on urban trips, totaling 40 miles or less, at speeds up to 40 mph. As we know all-too well from the Volt, the vast majority of Americans’ daily driving regime fall under the 40 mile per day limit. Obviously, with its top speed of forty, the Gizmo is non-freeway compatible. Frankly, the Gizmo reflects its Eugenian heritage: perfect for scooting around a not-so-big town where one can very easily avoid the freeway, and staying dry doing it.
With an empty weight of 340 lbs, the Gizmo’s 48 volt golf-cart batteries almost double that. And of course, they’re subject to the usual degradation. Earlier versions used the lighter AGM sealed-type batteries, but they were fragile if not kept topped up and charged just so. Too many folks fried their packs; the bane of lead-acid EVs. Later versions went to heavier but tougher golf-cart batteries: eight six-volters.
The Gizmo appeared in the late nineties here with a fairly decent sized-splash; lots of news coverage and the usual EV hype and optimism, especially given that it was locally produced. I’m not sure when the plug was finally pulled, a few years back. Maybe when Nissan announced the Leaf? Their web site is still live, if you’d like to peruse it.
The final base price shown on the site was $12,000. Given that a new Mitsubishi i goes for $22k here (after tax credits), it’s easy to see why it failed. If it were priced at about $5-7k, it might have found a small but sustainable niche. Maybe manufacturing in China? But Nevco was determined to build them here.
Which leads me to the efforts of another Eugene outfit trying to do almost the same thing: Arcimoto. It also has lead-acids, although li-ions will be optional. And top speed is supposedly a freeway-compatible 65mph. Price: TBD. But given its greater complexity and speed, it’s bound to butt right up into Mitsubishi i and Leaf territory. Prospects for success: about the same as the Nevco Gizmo.
i hate to say it ..but another reason why ev,s havent taken off apart from a limited range ,cost and weight..is they like this ev looks like a joke.a dweebs car,the car is an emotive thing it represents power status sex..this ev looks ludicras..people would point and stare laugh,throw rocks at you,lol
You might be surprised to know that the status and sexiness of cars depends very much on the particular social setting. I’ve heard several folks swear by EVs as date bait. And the inverse applies to big and powerful cars in certain locations. Or at least with certain groups. It all depends on whom you’re trying to impress, and where they are, and what impresses them.
And then of course there’s the fact that some folks don’t give a f#&* about what other folks think, or accumulating more power status and sex. Count me in that category; I’ve got plenty already! That comes about a bit easier with age, among other things.
Date bait with one seat?
Lap. Why do you think there’s no steering wheel?
Haha good point!
No room your legs sit between the two sticks that you steer with no room for a steering wheel and no room for you to turn it
As someone who has lived for some time in towns on the West Coast Hippie Belt I’ll second Paul on this one. Something like this, or a cool bicycle will have more social appeal in an Arcata, Eugene or Santa Rosa or Santa Cruz that a brand new ‘Stang or STI.
I have a 2003 I’m looking for $400 located in Salt Lake City 801-900-7024
“the car is an emotive thing it represents power status sex”
300,000 Camry buyers per year probably think differently…
I own one it was apiece of crap can’t register as a motorcycle so I made it into a scooter
James I would love to see how you retrofitted gas scooter drivetrain to the Gizmo! Got any more pics?
I put a scooter engine on the rear which is a CVT transmission 1 wheel drive water cooled so I added a heater made it into a convertible 50cc motor Connecticut doesn’t require registration been driving it for five years minimal thinking about going back to the electric
I recently purchased a 1997 Gizmo and I want to convert it to a gas engine, but my question is, how did you get it to go on reverse?
It has a reverse switch…make sure you fully engage and completely disengage so as not to fry out the switch…
There is no reverse. I have a trap door in the bottom I open up and it’s called Flintstone reverse. You put your feet out and push it back. But if you ever lose brakes. Don’t ever attempt to put your feet out to stop yourself you will get sucked under it. Sorry for the late post but yes I even still have it. I am the actual talk of the Town or city or wherever I go.
Sorry I never got back to you all I did was take the back half of a scooter frame with the motor on it weld a bit of frame. Rewire the whole thing now you got a gas engine on the back that’s a CVT transmission I can hit speeds of 52 it weighs 210 lb I can go about 80 miles on one tank and it’s also a convertible now I get more looks then a Lamborghini I know drive it in Florida I got offers for 7000 but I’m still driving it today
I can’t believe there is not a word about the most interesting feature of this “car”: the tank commander control layout. How’s it work? Two sticks each with a hand lever, one cable on hydraulic, and a bunch of buttons. I’m guessing independent braking systems front and rear, but what about the two levers?
Yeah! I would love to drive this thing just for this feature! I’ll bet it’s a completely different driving experience.
Two levers are For steering and a throttle that goes to a box which controls the throttle positioning calibration other than that there really isn’t much to the Gizmo 7 horsepower D&D electric motor 3 phase you can run it on 24 volt 48 volts or 72 volts the steering you just pulled the sticks back to your left or right as you would pull one toward you and the other one would go towards the windshield and nice things turn on a dime you’re not careful you can roll it I never rolled mine but I got it up on two wheels and also didn’t have a rear brake at one time had to slam on the brakes and it didn’t end oh flipped over nose first no damage to the scooter very strong nose cone
Mr Weise if your out if possible could you get ahold of me? I’m interested in finding out how you converted your electric Gizmo to gas.
My email is email@example.com if you’re still looking for questions on it. I know it’s been a while lol I didn’t even know this even existed. I still have the scooter I put a linhai 260cc CVT scooter engine I was going to do a 500cc quad engine automatic with reverse but I never got around to it. I still drive it to this day. It is my most prized possession. No other scooter on the planet looks like mine well at least that’s what people tell me. It is a conversation starter at almost every street light.
I think the only thing that would have made this something one could live with would have been a lawnmower size engine with a generator. Have seen enough to know that a design like that can hit over 55 and with a generator have unlimited range. There are affordable electric start engines all over ebay including some low hp diesels. That with about 6, 12 volt batteries is all one would need. I picked 36 volts as enough to haul a couple folks around and know that the configuration I was familiar with pulled over 30 mph in second gear.
LOL,maybe i was hard on this little ev,lol and in a differant world people woudnt care wot a car looks like i mean this car is with better technoligy the future of cars ..but people see cars as an extention of themselves we wont to be admired we wont people to think were ,winners,powerfull ,sexy strong..and that shows in the cars we drive ie you had the alec issigonis austin 1800 when it came out in 64 one of the worlds most advanced cars..BUT..it didnt sell well becouse it looked ungainely..it didnt look sexy..the guy in the street bought a ford zodiac,vauxhall cresta rover 2000..becouse they looked sexy and cool..and that is wot people want to be seen as..thats what …sells.
I’m slowly coming around to the idea of EVs and Hybrids. There are a few novelty electrics floating around my area like these but they’re not my kind of car.
I used to be in the “ruination of society and environment” camp when it came to electrics/Hybrids but they’re really starting to click with me. If they could make something about the size of my Xterra with part time 4wd I’d really jump on one!
It’s far easier to do 4wd electrically, just add a second motor/controller and diff to the other axle. It’s a lot less weight than a transfer case and driveshaft, and just as efficient as 2wd. Easy to proportion power split electronically. I’m surprised we haven’t seen that yet, it’s something to look forward to.
PS: I did find this Dacia FWD Hybrid fitted out with electric drive on its rear wheels.
In the photo you can clearly see the rear motor and axle setup.
Not three wheeler, but in the ’70s, one of the EE professors was messing with a hybrid of sorts, using (IIRC) a Honda 350 twin in a Vega chassis. Don’t know much about the project (I was working on semiconductors), but it looked kind of cool. One of the other professors brought his home-brew EV, a converted Renault. Some kind of small sedan, but he removed as much “extra” sheet metal as he could–most of the trunk and engine compartment. Looked like a French version of a NASA Moon buggy.
Looking at that thing brings back memories of living with my buddy/employer’s Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar back in the mid-70’s. I have a feeling it’s even less civilized than the S-V. At least that one had a regular steering wheel and two pedals that performed the expected function.
Somehow I just knew thered be a Eugene built 3wheeler during the week it seems like that sorta place. Electric Mobility scooters are big here its flat and I often see elderly people zipping about on them most are not roadable however and must remain on the foot paths your find looks like one step up from those.
About 20 years (and lots of pounds) ago, I rode a lot of miles on a bicycle. My back was killing me, and I tried a tadpole design trike like this one, but pedal powered. There were a couple of makes around, but both used the tiller arrangement. You save a bunch of space without a steering wheel and box setup and it’s fairly agile. It’s also a lot easier to get in and out of the seat without the wheel.
The downside is that a garage shop can screw up the steering geometry big time. The one I bought had the wheel contact outside the king-pin axis, and the trike was a bitch to steer. Oh yeah, rough roads are hard on the body, especially when the front wheels catch a rut.
I can’t help seeing this parked backwards on the shoulder with a ‘YOUR SPEED’ readout on it. Must be the wheels…
Two auto startups in Eugene! And here we (OK, just I) worry about the impossibility of a new auto company in America, or that young people aren’t interested in automobiles or entrepreneurship anymore. You may laugh at these, but people were also laughing at Durant’s ideas once.
When I saw the picture of this, I thought of two things:
1. “Meter maid” mobile
2. Some type of golf course or agricultural equipment.
Are you sure this isn’t just a Can-Am with a body shell?
Mark Murphy, who started Nevco and designed the Gizmo, moved on to develop the Bug-E, which is available now.
It’s a light three-wheeled motorcycle-licensed town car in the ‘tadpole’ configuration (two in front) like the Gizmo and the Morgan. Tadpoles handle much better than ‘deltas’ like the wretched Zap. Plus you can drive the rear wheel without a differential. Why anyone would build a three-wheeler any other way is beyond me.
Rather than ugly messy side curtains like the Gizmo, Bug-E has a fairing more like a recumbent bike, only bigger, and hinged at the front for entry and exit. No pretense of being indoors, but the fairing keeps you dry. (Its rear canopy section is removed in the photo.)
With a simple 48v lead-acid system it weighs 400 pounds, and costs $5-6K, depending on whether you put it together or get one assembled. Mark says it goes 20 miles at 40 mph, 30 at 30 and 40 at 20. Some builders have used a Lithium BLDC drive train for much higher range and speed.
I was very attracted to the Bug-E, learned all about it and nearly bought one. But I commute from one side of metro Portland to the other every day, and not using freeways would cost me another hour. Plus I’m not 100% comfortable with its safety in big city traffic – I was going to add a roll cage and harness. In the end I decided to stick with a real car and got the Miata, to be electrified later. In a smaller town the Bug-E would be pretty attractive.
Mark says, “This class of vehicle falls handily between the Bicycle and the Buick.”
Appears to be a lot of room for innovating transportation vehicles in that gray area between motor scooter and 4-wheeled automobile. As long as consumers understand (and government entities allow) the safety trade-offs, there’s room for everybody to make out. Back down in Orange County, a friend owned a 4-seater GEM. I thought at the time it was only 4 small doors short of being a very successful vehicle. California has done a good job of passing the ‘NEV’ (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) classification that makes these vehicle OK to use around town.
I’m starting to think that down the road, I may have one of these in my garage instead of 2 ‘regular’ vehicles.
From the first time I saw a Gizmo, five years ago, I wanted one. Two years ago, I found one for sale here in Portland and purchased it. I love it. The Nevco Gizmo is a great in town little vehicle. To me it looks like a cartoon car out of Rodger Rabbit. I’ve thought about the BugE but I like the looks of the Gizmo much better.
John Grout here. I don’t know if this email will reach someone. I own a Gizmo in Portland and am getting ready to sell it. I was looking on line to see if any had sold in recent years and saw your post. I’m not sure where to price it. If you have any thoughts or know of anyone who might be interested in buying one please let me know.
is it running and how much do you want for it?
Yes, it runs very well. I want $2500.
If I remember correctly didn’t Oregon pull all the registrations on these because they were unsafe and believe you me.if you don’t know how to drive this thing it is unsafe .very dangerous in the Wind I have one myself traded a motorcycle for it I love my Gizmo but I made it into a gas scooter because in Connecticut they said they didn’t go fast enough to be registered
How did you convert it to a scooter? I have a 1997 and the motor went out.
From the first time I saw a Gizmo, five years back, I wanted one. Two years ago, I found one for sale here in Portland and purchased it. I love it. The Nevco Gizmo is a great in town little vehicle. To me it looks like a cartoon car out of Rodger Rabbit. I’ve thought about the BugE but I like the looks of the Gizmo much better.