Recently, I visited Switch Vehicles, which is near the MAKE office in Sebastopol. They have produce a three-wheel electric car, which will be sold as a kit later this year. I met the founders, Peter Oliver, Jim McGreen, and Mark Perlmutter in what was formerly a Ford dealership and now is occupied by a variety of makers, mechanics, and entrepreneurs. Their goal is to connect with makers and carve out a new DIY niche in the electric car market.

Peter, who is an engineer and programmer, began teaching a class in electric car conversions at the Santa Rosa Junior College. “It’s going to take a person 450-500 hours to do a car or truck conversion,” he explained, adding that his course was based on modifying a Chevy S-10 truck. “It’s just not practical for most people to spend that much time on a conversion,” he said. That led him to think about developing a kit, which might take 30-40 hours to build. He connected with Jim McGreen, who was the founder of ZAP, which produced electric scooters and trikes, but had the original goal of building electric cars.

Peter said that this electric car comes in under 1300 pounds and qualifies as street legal as a motorcycle. The target price for the kit is somewhere between $10-$15K. They expect to be able deliver kits in August 2012. Their goal is to “start at a rock bottom price with a bare bones model that can be upgraded when owners are ready.” For instance, a wide range of covers or shells are possible add-ons.

I had to take it for a short test drive:

Two things were really interesting to me. One was how fast it accelerated. The other was the feeling of being in an open-cockpit where you can see the wheels turning and you can see the road. I imagine it’s something like the feeling of a race car.

Here’s a driver who got the car up to speed, squealing tires and all:

Here’s another driver having some fun fishtailing on wet pavement:

We’ll be following the progress of Switch Vehicles and we hope to have them at Maker Faire this year.