(not) the Sparrow Reborn

The twisted tale of the Electra Meccanica SOLO begins in a motorcycle seat maker’s shop in Hollister, California circa 1996.

How does Canadian-based Electra Meccanica share history with one of America’s EV pioneers? It starts with a custom motorcycle saddle.
seat
If you’ve ever owned a motorcycle, you might have heard of Mike Corbin. Mike’s been making custom motorcycle saddles since the late 60’s designed to replace those often uncomfortable seats supplied by manufacturers. But in the mid 90’s this former electrician was inspired to create a small, three-wheeled electric car called the Sparrow.
greenie
GM had just launched the EV1 and interest in the adorable little Sparrow spiked so rapidly that Corbin Motors couldn’t keep up with demand. After producing 289 or more Sparrows, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2003. (That’s a simplified version of the story. For more detail, you can read this excellent 2012 Wired Magazine article.)

Enter Myers Motors.

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Google “Corbin Sparrow” and in addition to Corbin Motors you’ll also find Myers Motors – and that’s where things start getting sticky. The Wikipedia article on the topic states “The Myers Motors NmG (formerly the Corbin Sparrow) is a single-passenger, three-wheeled, battery electric vehicle designed specifically for commuting and city driving. It was initially produced by Corbin Motors and now by Myers Motors.”

Apparently, Myers Motors had purchased the Corbin Sparrow assets. However, according to Inside EVs, Mike Corbin retained rights to the Sparrow brand name as well as many of the design rights. Maybe that’s why the current Myers Motors website is about crowd funding a new vehicle, rather than purchasing one of their Sparrow-clone vehicles – “NmG” (for No More Gas) – no longer in production (NLiP).

So who is Jerry Kroll and why is he sitting on this Sparrow?

jerry

According to a Digital Journal article, Jerry was involved with Mike Corbin back in the day trying to bring Sparrow’s into Canada. Now, he’s a founding partner of Electra Mechanica. Jerry was photographed sitting on a Sparrow because Electra Meccanica had acquired not only a Corbin Sparrow, but a bunch of NmGs (Sparrows) from Myers Motors. Originally, it looked like they were going to be making new, improved Sparrows in Canada. The Digital Journal article said as much. That’s their photo of Jerry & his Electra Meccanica-badged Sparrow. When I first visited the original Electra Meccanica website some time ago, I saw really cool photoshopped images of Sparrows running around Vancouver B.C. – which is why I first anticipated I’d be writing an article about “the Sparrow reborn.

But things seem to have changed.

em

Now, Electra Meccanica is making a totally new 3-wheeled personal electric vehicle – the Solo. Carbon fiber, instead of steel tubing and fiberglass. Sleek and modern, instead of funky and fun. Perhaps this is because Mike Corbin, who retains those funky and fun design rights, is developing the Sparrow 2, which still preserves the adorable, cartoon-like look of the original Sparrow. Corbin is scheduled to release the Sparrow 2 sometime soon.

So if and when they are available for purchase, which EV do you want? Of the three, Electra Meccanica appears to be the most likely to enter the market.

But who knows?

The story seems to be continually evolving. According to Inside EVs Mike and Jerry are in touch: (they) “just received word from Corbin Motors: ‘Jerry Kroll, of Electra Meccanica (Canadian Sparrow) and Mike Corbin are starting to talk about working together for Sparrow.’”

Sparrow reborn? Your guess is as good as mine.

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2 thoughts on “(not) the Sparrow Reborn

  1. More information and real conversation about this vehicle. I’m looking forward to the Sept. 9th launch of the Electra Meccanica Solo in Vancouver BC. I’m in line for mine in 2017 in the U.S. and I was impressed with the company and the vehicle.I launched http://www.soloowners.net It’s an informative forum for Solo enthusiasts and future owners. I look forward to being a part of this beneficial community. Please stop by, make yourself at home and let’s talk Solo.Together we’ll be taking back the road.

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