Micah Toll, mechanical engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh, believes that electric vehicles, much like computers in the late 1970's, are poised to explode in popularity.
"We think we're right at the beginning of when the electrical vehicle market is really going to open up," Toll says. "It's like where computers were in the late 70's; we're just starting to open people's minds."
Toll, a senior, is the founder and CEO of Pulse Motors, a start-up launched in 2011 that designs and produces a two-wheeled electric vehicle called the Personal Electric Vehicle Zero, or PEV0 (pronounced pee-voh). Pulse Motors was also founded by two of Tolls' friends and classmates, Thorin Tobiassen, who graduated from Pittsburgh in December 2011, and Max Pless, a junior that will graduate in 2013.
The PEV0 is essentially an efficient electric motor bike. It can drive over 100 miles on just $0.25 of electricity (about 30 times more than a Toyota Prius). The bike also charges from any standard 110 volt outlet with its onboard charger, making it extremely convenient for the end-user. It's also completely street-legal and does not require a license or registration in all 50 states, and can travel at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. When it's fully charged, it can go about a 30 to 45 miles.
Right now, the design, production, and sales of the PEV0 are limited to Pittsburgh. In fact, Pulse leases PEV0s to Pittsgburgh college students on a monthly or semester basis for around a dollar a day. But Toll has plans to expand the business internationally within the next few years.
"Our goal is to expand quickly because we really want to capture this market," he says.
So far, the funding has come almost exclusively from the founders' personal savings, plus a small amount of grant money and entrepreneurship contest prize money. The company makes a small amount of revenue from sponsorships of the PEV0's by local companies and organizations seeking to promote their sustainable image. The company has not disclosed revenues, but is seeking about $100,000 in a first round of seed funding via angel investors for their next generation of vehicle.
By 2013, Toll plans to open the company's first research and development center in Israel, because of the country's significant electric car infrastructure (there are thousands of charging stations throughout Israel). Plus, Toll says, Isreal is the ideal place for Pulse Motors to expand because electric vehicles are already culturally accepted.
"By taking technology that is normally considered too expensive or limiting and using our own innovations and business model to make it affordable and convenient, we think we can open the door for everybody and make mass electric vehicle adoption a reality," Toll says.