CorbinMotors is planning an electric-vehicle plant in Daytona Beach.
By Chuck Day
The city renowned for gas-guzzling race cars will begin churning out a new electric car next year. The three-wheeled Sparrow, 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, weighs 1,350 pounds, carries one passenger and costs just under $15,000. Maximum speed: 70 mph. Maximum range before recharging: 60 miles at top speed.
CorbinMotors, headquartered in Hollister, Calif., plans to break ground on its second plant, a 110,000-sq.-ft. facility a stone's throw from the Daytona International Speedway, by October. Tom Corbin, who helped create the vehicle and co-founded the company with his father, is hoping to have the plant, designed to produce 50,000 cars a year, up and running in time for Bike Week next March. The timetable hinges on completing the design of Sparrow II, a new model earmarked for Daytona.
Initially, CorbinMotors will hire between 80 to 100. Ultimately, the company, which is working with Daytona Community College to develop an employee-training program, anticipates a payroll of 250 to 300. "This certainly is a great motor-sports town," says Corbin, "so it's an ideal place to introduce an important new transportation form."
The company has already sold 160 of the 350 vehicles it's produced and has orders for 3,000 more. Sparrow enjoyed a publicity bonanza in April when Jay Leno talked about the car on The Tonight Show after he took one for a test drive.
The Daytona plant, like the car itself, will be unorthodox. "We see it almost as a tourist attraction," says Corbin. Besides the manufacturing area, there will be a visitors center to house exhibits detailing the energy and environmental benefits of electric vehicles, a restaurant and ultimately a research and development center.
"We want to provide a long-term look at how we use resources but also show how this complex will contribute to the community," says Anthony Luzi, president of CorbinMotors Daytona. "This will be a role-model, earth-friendly plant," he says. The material used to build the car will be "100% recyclable and 70% biodegradable."
What about the vehicle's marketability? Corbin and Luzi say 87% of commuters travel 18 miles or less to work daily and 93% of them travel alone.
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