By Thomas Heath
Monday, May 24, 2010; 3
Terry McAuliffe is in the car business.
The former Virginia Democratic gubernatorial hopeful last week paid $20 million for Hong Kong-based EuAuto Technology, which builds an electric vehicle called the MyCar.
MyCar is for people who need wheels to run errands or tool around the neighborhood.
"It's really a second car if you live in Washington," McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe bought MyCar through his McLean-based holding company, GreenTech Automotive. GreenTech will provide MyCar with capital and access to the U.S. market.
McAuliffe said if MyCar is approved by the U.S. regulators, it could be on sale next year.
MyCar can travel 70 miles on a single charge and has a top speed of 45 miles per hour.
The MyCar is not for highway travel, and is designed to sell as a second car for families. The MyCar will be priced between $13,000 and $16,000, McAuliffe said. It will take four hours to charge.
In addition to the MyCar, GreenTech is developing four highway-ready prototypes using European technology. Three of the vehicles are hybrids and one is electric. McAuliffe said GreenTech is scouting sites in Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia for a plant where it can manufacture his product line.
Brett Smith, director of automotive analysis at the Center for Automotive Research, said electric car technology is promising, but advances will be essential before electric cars overtake sales of gas-powered automobiles.
"There is an enormous amount of interest in EVs and battery-powered vehicles, but there is a lot of development needed to make them commercially viable," Smith said. "The real challenge is developing a battery that is cost-competitive with an internal combustion engine. That has yet to happen."
McAuliffe said he discovered the MyCar in London a few months ago.
"I'm walking down this street, and I see a car pull into a charging station," he said. "I walk up to the guy, promise him I'm not a carjacker, and told him I want to drive the car. I gave him $100 to let me drive it around the block."
McAuliffe phoned his GreenTech office and told his team to start researching MyCar. The acquisition closed last week in Hong Kong.
McAuliffe said GreenTech, which he chairs, was founded last August. GreenTech is a holding company for investments in various green technologies, from wind to solar to electric vehicles like the MyCar.
The company has been in the works since 2006, but his political activities -- chairing Hilary Clinton's 2008 campaign and running for the Democratic nomination for Virginia governor in 2009 -- interrupted his plans.
"If you have good green projects, there are billions of dollars that are looking for those projects," he said.