Wheego Wip Test Drive
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Wheego Whip Test drive
by Noel Adams
October 3, 2009
While attending the Santa Monica Alternative Fuel Vehicle Expo I had the chance to do a test drive of the Wheego Whip NEV. The car was being show by Marc Korchin who runs Green Motors, an electric car dealership based in Berkley, CA who has just become a Wheego Vehicles dealer.
The Wheego Wip is based on the Chinese built Nobel so I was expecting the usual Chinese build quality but this car seemed to be quite well constructed. Fit and finish appeared to be quite good, better than you would see in many American cars thirty years ago. The car, which looks a lot like a Smart fortwo, seat two people and also has a surprising amount of room in the rear, enough to carry a weeks supply of groceries for a family of four.
When I got in the car Marc had me turn the key two clicks and the car sprang to life. The seats were quite comfortable and are adjustable not just sliding back and forth but it also has wheels that you can turn to raise the front and back of the seat, and of course the seat back can be reclined to suit the driver's taste. Another interesting feature was the rear view mirror which was triangular in shape but did seem to give quite a good view to the rear when driving.
The car had three gages, a fuel gage with a needle that moves through green, yellow and red to show the state of charge of the batteries. The first thing I noticed was that the fuel gage was already into the yellow. There is also a standard speedometer that reads a lot higher than the 25mph top speed for a NEV. The final gage is an economy meter that is designed to help you drive in a more fuel efficient manner. There are three lights on this gage and the object is to try and keep all three lights lit.
The shift is a small round knob set in the same place you would expect to find a shifter on most conventional cars. Marc showed me the trick with this shifter, there is a collar below the knob that needs to be lifted to move the lever. Lift the collar and move the shift from the center where it is in neutral toward the rear of the car and the car goes into reverse. I backed out of the parking space gingerly since there was a lot of activity in the area. For me visibility to the rear wasn't that good but would probably be better for someone taller.
Once out of the parking space I lifted the collar again and pushed the shift all the way forward and the car went into drive. I moved slowly to the parking lot exit and finally turned right onto Main Street. I pressed on the accelerator and the car moved forward quickly and was soon up to its maximum speed of 25mph. The steering felt good and solid but wasn't hard to use. It actually felt a lot like the steering on my wife's Toyota Echo, nice and firm. The car was easy to drive, the steering was responsive and the car obviously has a good turning radius.
As I approached Colorado Ave I lifted my foot off the accelerator and felt regen kick in. The car doesn't have heavy regen like you get on some EVs and it seems to be well integrated into the system. The brakes felt nice and firm and the power assist works well. I never got the impression that the car wasn't going to stop like I do when first driving some NEVs.
The ride was another surprise. NEVs often give a very harsh ride since they are often under-sprung for the weight of the batteries. Wheego has obviously given the ride quite a bit of attention since the car rides smoothly even with two adults on board. The streets around Santa Monica aren't the smoothest in the world but the Wheego Wip handeled them without any jarring. I would say the ride was as good as most sub compact cars.
Driving up Colorado I was quickly back up to 25mph and the car seemed like it wanted to go much faster. The car would quickly get up to 25mph then stay at that speed. There was no pull back from the regen braking, it just doesn't go any faster although it is obvious that it could; this car would be a very good candidate for a medium speed vehicle in those states that already have MSV laws in place.
I drove the car up to 14th street then turned right and drove as far as Pico Blvd. By this time the needle on the fuel gage was getting close to the red zone. Even with the low state of charge on the batteries I didn't notice any sort of reduction in performance although Marc said that once you hit the red you had better be pretty close to an electric outlet.
Fortunately Pico is mostly down hill from 14th street back to Main street so I was able to let the car coast along using regen to push a little bit of juice back into the batteries. When we arrived back at the Civic Center Marc said that the car needed to be charged so I drove the car around to a generator that had been placed in the parking lot to allow the demo cars to charge up. When I pulled in next to the generator I parked next to a Smart fortwo so I had a good chance to compare the two vehicles. When you see them side by side the Wheego Whip is noticeably larger than the Smart in both length and width and it is a shade taller too.
Apart from the poor visibility I had backing up, I really liked the drive on the Wheego Whip. I liked the ride quality, the way that the power brakes and power steering felt and I also liked the way that the regenerative brakes were implemented. The Wheego whip will make an excellent car for those that need a NEV or MSV to get around town or run to the market.