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									Electric-vehicle startup has ambitious vision for growth
Charlotte Business Journal - by John Downey
Date: Thursday, October 21, 2010, 5:21pm EDT




         It would be easy to call Brooks Agnew just a man with a dream. But he‟s a man with a dream
and a working electric car.
         He‟d like to be a man with an electric-vehicle production plant. For that, he needs about $12
million.
         One of his working models, the Everest light truck, is tooling around Charlotte now as a delivery
truck for Amelie‟s, a restaurant and bakery in NoDa.
         “I‟d buy the truck today if I could,” says Bill Lamb, owner of Amelie‟s. He figures he‟s saving
an average of $25 per day just on fuel and operating costs.
         Lamb would like to open Amelie‟s in several locations – he now has two – and the light electric
truck would be the ideal delivery truck for each. The truck‟s price tag is $25,000.
         Agnew, a longtime consultant on Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing projects, has experience in
the automotive and manufacturing sectors. Now he is attempting to get his Vision Motor Cars, Inc. off
the ground. Robin Lamb, Bill Lamb‟s wife, is a small investor in the company and is working with
Agnew.




       Brooks Agnew envisions a production plant for his electric truck, called the Everest. But he
     acknowledges his Vision Motor Cars Inc. needs substantial funding to make that happen.
         Plans call for a pilot assembly plant to pu the Everest in production either in Concord or in
Kentucky, where Agnew has succeeded in getting some tax incentives from State and local governments.
         “We can be up and running with a plant producing vehicles in four to six months,” he says. His
business would grow to 68 employees from the current six, he says. And the plant would be able to
assemble 4,000 trucks per month, in large part because electric vehicles require about a third as many
parts as their gasoline counterparts.
         But there are a lot of “ifs” to that optimistic timetable. The most immediate need is for $2.5
million to finance crash testing for the vehicle. Then to get a pilot plant that could produce the trucks and
begin to fill orders, Agnew would need about $9.5 million more.
         Some industry observers say Agnew has a steep mountain to climb. John Dabels, founder of EV
Power Systems of Fort Mill, sees little chance for a small business to establish an electric-vehicle
production company. EV Power designs components for electric and hybrid vehicles, and Dabels worked
on General Motors‟ abandoned EV-1 electric vehicle project in the 1990s.
         The problem is not making a single car, he says. It is scaling it up to making thousands with
consistent quality. “The word for it would have to be at least „extremely difficult,‟” he says.
         Agnew has run into doubters before. In 2009, he says, his company spent a year and more than
$100,000 in applying for federal grants that were announced for electric-vehicle production. But after
months of effort, he says the Department of Energy told him the government wasn‟t going to give small
businesses grants for vehicle production. “We were told they would give us grants if we wanted to be a
producer for General Motors or one of the major manufacturers,: he says, “But not to produce on our
own.”
         That hasn‟t dampened his enthusiasm. In Charlotte, he is working with economic-development
officials and looking for investors. He plans to add a lightweight solar panel produced by SBM Solar in
Concord to the vehicle to extend its range to 140 miles on a charge, up from 100.
         Agnew launched Vision Motor Cars in 2007 with $1.5 million of his own money. He built six
prototypes of his electric vehicle. Three have been wrecked for crash-test information – the car is
designed with six smaller batteries instead of one large one to allow the vehicle the flexibility to absorb
the impact of an accident. Another was dismantled and crushed for demonstration purposes.
         That leaves the one at Amelie‟s and one in Williamsburg, Kentucky, which remains a potential
site for a manufacturing plant.




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