Starting an EV Company with 10 People, $5 Million and Chinese Suppliers

Last Updated Jul 30, 2009 5:56 PM EDT

Can you start an EV company with 10 people and $5 million in private investor funding? Dan Russo thinks so. The 30-year veteran of auto suppliers has done just that as CEO of Green Go Tek, based in Milford, Michigan. It doesn't quite operate out of a garage, but its headquarters is 3,300 square feet, and its tech center, where pilot testing is done, is 7,500 square feet. It would fit into a back alley of GM's Tech Center.

Several of the GGT people are refugees from the defunct American Electric Vehicle Company, which produced the Kurrent a few years ago, before consumers were ready for EVs.

But GGT also has outposts in China, Italy and Mexico, and it leverages the outstanding array of Michigan-based auto talent turned loose by the recession. "We are blessed with having any kind of resource we need on the outside," Russo said. "We outsource a lot of the engineering and manufacturing, and due to the downturn there are many capable small industries and individuals within 100 miles."

Despite its tiny size, GGT wants to be a "full-line" car company, and, although it has only been in business since September, is indeed fielding a varied product line, including small cars, work trucks, minivans and more. The catch here--and there had to be one--is that many of the company vehicles are low-speed vehicles (LSVs), meaning not only that they're speed-limited to 25 mph but that they can escape many of the expensive and onerous federal testing that highway-capable vehicles go through.

The tiny 1,100-pound Cozmo has three doors, two seats and a 65-mile range, Russo said. Like many emerging EVs, its body is built in China (suppliers include LBC, Wuling and others) and shipped to the U.S., where the electric drivetrain is installed. "We have an office and design studio in Shanghai, so we can control quality at the source," Russo said. You can't take the Cozmo on the highway, but prices begin at $17,900 (plus $2,500 if you want air).

The company also has the E-Dyne, which comes in both mini-truck and minivan versions. "The bed is larger than the Ford F-150," Russo boasts. Some larger trucks are also available, as well as 9-18-passenger transporters sold to resorts in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

A lucrative market for GGT is electric conversions of highway-capable commercial vehicles, including so far a Dodge Dakota, Ford Transit and Chevy Colorado (how did the Mini Cooper get in there)? Russo says he's had interest in fleet conversions from several cities, including New York, Chicago and Pasadena. Since hanging out its shingle on July 15, the company has taken orders for 20 Cozmos, 39 trucks and, from Puerto Rico, six of the resort-oriented people transporters. It's a start.