It's the EMC3 Commuter, a ragtop two-seater that's a cross between a motorcycle and a car and claims to get a whopping 60-plus miles to the gallon. If Michael Plumhoff has his way, Marylanders will be able to test-drive and buy these babies in a couple months.
Plumhoff, of Finksburg, is the Maryland, Delaware and DC rep for the ECO Motor Co., a Seattle family-run outfit that developed the little commuter vehicle and unveiled it there last year. Now the company is aiming to expand to the East Coast, and Plumhoff is scouring the region looking to find dealers willing to sell them.
The teardrop-shaped EMC3 Commuter is big enough to seat two 6-footers, yet small enough to fit in tight parking spaces, according to the company's Web pitch. With a 10-gallon fuel tank, it has a 600-mile range, and its cycle-like features mean it can be driven solo in carpool lanes that allow motorcycles, the company says. Besides its gas-sipping 3-cylinder engine, the vehicle also sports a modest sticker price - $13,995 for a manual transmission, $14,995 for automatic.
The EMC3 Commuter is a more affordable green car than some of the hybrids and electrics now on the market or in development, contends Plumhoff. Its nearest competitor is the Smart car, another diminutive two-seater that also runs on a 1-liter, 3-cylinder engine and gets 33/41 miles per gallon, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's 2009 rating.
For those who wonder about the ride and comfort in a three-wheeler, Plumhoff points out the EMC3 can do 75 miles per hour, and has all the creature comforts of a car, plus safety features like driver and passenger airbags, side-impact door beams and a steel rollbar.
For now, at least, the Smart car has the edge in the economy commuter market around here, because there's a dealer in Annapolis and a few more in the Washington area. Plumhoff hopes to get an EMC3 to show prospective dealers and customers by next month. Until then, he'll drive his Honda Civic hybrid.