GIZMO TEST DRIVE
Michael Perry test drove the Gizmo and sent EV Finder his impressions of this vehicle.
Gizmo is an unusual vehicle... but so is Eugene and so is Oregon.
Oregon "pulled the plug" on a number of former NEV drivers a few years back. Previous to this, a number of drivers were able to license road legal "golf carts". Some were electric, some were gas, but all were limited to around 30MPH. This worked fine for many, as they liked the simple vehicles. (Oregon DMV recalled their registrations. If communities so choose, they can make these legal w/in their jurisdiction, per ODOT.)
Downtown Eugene, Gizmo's home, is mostly 25MPH. I understand 13 Gizmos run around town, and a couple are regulars on the streets. The road to Springfield (sister city) is 40MPH and 50 is recommended for the one stretch of hill. The Gizmo can easily make this short drive, though I understand it slows to 20-25 on the return trip, where it should be doing 50. (There's a moderate hill here. I made the trip in my '79 electric Free-way. I did take on a "safety" charge before returning, as range was limited to 15 "safe" miles at that time.)
Needless to say, I've gawked at these little vehicles, and had an opportunity to test drive one in production. All I can say is that it's like nothing else you've ever driven.
The entire front of the car lifts up for entry... not just the door, but the entire body. You back in, sit down, and pull the canopy back down firmly. The early models had a "hole" in front of your feet where you could watch the road rush past, but the new models have a rubber mat that you can fold over this opening. It makes winter driving less 'windy'.
Your first impression is that you are in a light weight mockup from a sci-fi stage. The dash is close by, but feels feet away, as there's no steering wheel. You reach down and turn on the 'ignition' and the dash comes alive. Fasten your shoulder harness and you are ready to launch this "Buck Rogers" vehicle.
Once the key is on, all the controls are literally at your fingertips. Place your arms by your sides and lift your hands towards your keyboard. That is the placement of the "joysticks" on this little car. Brakes are operated by MC type levers, the throttle and all other controls are in the 2 joystick controls. Pull back on one and push on the other and this rig makes what feels like a very short turn. (Actual turning radius is short, but feels shorter as you are almost sitting on the front axle.) Flip the switch to forward, squeeze the trigger, and away you go.
Acceleration isn't going to throw you back in the seat, but it's not bad. It feels quick, but then look down... oops, only going 23MPH. If you've ever operated an electric wheel chair, that's much the same feeling... wide open to the world. The difference is you are safely enclosed in a well built fiberglass cage.
There were 3 cars under various stages of completion, and this car is well built. The body is built like a quality hot tub of thick fiberglass. No surprise there. I understand one of the quality hot tub/boat makers build these bodies. The frame is well designed and the welds are well made, at least on the unit I saw. For ease of construction, the components are built as units, then assembled. This should be nice should it ever be necessary to get to the main drive components.
The battery box is a major design improvement on the new models. It is accessible by removing the left side of the car. (Yes, the sides come off quite easily... maybe too easily???) This makes it possible to lift in the battery component as a unit. This also makes it easier to try out different battery configurations. When I was there, they were outfitting a car with sealed batteries (ala phone equipment). This makes maintenance of these units nearly unnecessary. Need more range? Slide out the tray and wire in parallel batteries... or replace with different units. That's the theory, any way, and their pricing system indicated they will go far on this option plan.
The drawbacks... every design has them. 40MPH and 40 miles range. Well, actually 25 miles range on the stock batteries... up to an estimated 55 on some battery options, if I recall correctly. I don't believe any EV's range is even close to what the mfg claims, and getting 40 out of this rig might be a long-range stretch. I did 30 and it was as fast as I felt like going. (The car rode and handled fine at this speed... it still felt too open. That feeling soon goes away as one gains confidence in their vehicle.) I do feel that this car will have a range well within most folk's needs, if you have the budget to upgrade to the bigger battery packs. An hour's cruising range is usually far enough for such a small vehicle. (BTW, this car uses 48V and an ADC89 motor. I have wondered what 72V and an ADC91 might do for its performance.)
This model had a modified steering system. The owner wanted the car to turn quicker (less arm motion) than the stock car. For my touch, the controls were a bit too sensitive. That's another reason I didn't go over 30. While the car was only "zigging" a couple inches left or right, being between the wheels made it feel "worse." The new wheels are white spoked metal (ala boat trailer) units, instead of the more expensive plastic white spoked models with the skinny tires. I understand this helped accentuate this sure footedness.
The car's turning radius was short, but it is wider than I would have expected for so short a car. Then again, for a 3 wheeler, this is a safety feature.
The last inconvenience is a comfort feature. The hatch on the new models is electrically operated. I came to a stop, shut down, then hit the hatch release button. Click and nothing. I was trapped inside the car until the manager let me out. I understand they are supposed to have an emergency release inside... so make sure yours has one. If this one had it, I never found where it was located. It's rather embarrassing to cruise around the mall asking someone to let you out of your car.
I had an opportunity to go back and drive a later model of the Gizmo... one with the standard steering. I wish I could have done so, but I don't think it would have been fair to them or myself. Things had changed at work (layoffs on the horizon) so I would not have had the money to spare on a new car. That has changed, somewhat. If things go well, I may be shopping for a new EV this spring/summer. The Gizmo will get another look, if they are still for sale