Stanford students debut their electric car

June 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Many know about Telsa's plan to manufacture its all-electric sedan at the old NUMMI facility in Fremont, but on Friday there is a launch party on the Stanford University campus for a different kind of electric vehicle.

Meet Stanford University's latest entrepreneurs. To drive home the point of their master's thesis, they created what they hope will be a new trend in all-electric travel.

"The point of view is why are people driving 4,000 to 6,000 pound internal combustion cars to the grocery store?" asked John Stanfield, a product design graduate student.

The design team's open-air solution went from paper to prototype in just 10 weeks. It is the "W.E.N.G."

"The name of the car is W.E.N.G. and it stands for Where Everyone Needs to Go," says David Goligorsky, a product design student.

And so of course ABC7 needed to go on a test drive. We asked what makes this invention so different from the utility like golf cart.

"It's really about the experience and the designer image is what we bring to the electric vehicle. [It's about] the cool factor, that's right," says Karen Shakespear, a product design student.

As for the more tangible, technical stuff, the motors are in the rear wheels, the battery pack is under the floor board and the steering mechanism is a joystick and throttle.

"The steer-by-wire system is very unique. It's a little inspired by Mario Kart," said Brian Ng, a product design student.

If you don't know the Mario Kart video games, no worries, you know about the W.E.N.G. and so does Eric O'Brien of Light Speed Venture Partners. He thinks the W.E.N.G. could be a hit at under $10,000.

"I think it's good looking. It's practical, it's potentially at a price point that could be very attractive, so we're very excited about it," says O'Brien.

The prototype goes about 20 miles on one charge. The student envision a production model having a range of about 50 miles.

The students are also considering a build your own W.E.N.G. website that allows for custom features, colors and a sky high eco-attitude.

"We have this kind of like flat frame where it's just like a magic carpet that flies around the street," says Andrew Murphy, a product design student.

At 35 mph, flying may be a bit of a stretch, but with the wind in their hair and venture capitalist money in the bank, these grad students are ready to wing it.


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