In the early days of the automobile, people were starting car companies left and right. Some succeeded, and others failed, but the ones that succeeded became household names. In the past few years, Tesla has managed to do something similar, but it’s going to be a while before Tesla can build cars in any serious volume. And despite what it may look like, Tesla isn’t the only startup car company out there.
Some, like Lyons, have yet to actually build a functioning prototype, and others are clearly scams, but there are several that have made major strides towards becoming established companies. They may not be well known, but they’re out there. Here are seven startup car companies that you may not know of.
1. Lightning Car Company
Based in England, the Lightning Car Company is eight years into the production of an electric sports car called the Lightning GT. Originally set to begin deliveries in 2009, the Lightning GT’s delivery date has been continually pushed back. If the company can bring it to production, the GT is an incredibly attractive car that would look perfectly at home sitting next to a Tesla Model S.
Like with most startups, there’s still a good chance that Lightning will go bankrupt before it can begin producing cars, but it appears for now that the company is legitimately trying to produce a quality vehicle and isn’t running an elaborate scam.
2. Venturi Automobiles
Originally founded in the 1980s, Venturi filed for bankruptcy in 2000 and was subsequently bought by an investor who wanted to build electric cars. In 2009, Venturi bought a motorcycle company called Voxan, allowing it to sell electric motorcycles as well. The first car sold by Venturi was the Fetish, a two-seat electric sports car that earned the distinction of being the first production electric sports car.
There are a number of other vehicles available, and if you’re willing to wait, an electric motorcycle called the Wattman is promised to eventually be coming. You’re probably going to have to wait quite a while, though. While a number of Venturis have been built and delivered, the Wattman has yet to receive a final production date.
3. Lit Motors
If it can actually go into production, Lit Motors has a pretty cool concept on its hands. The C-1 AEV is an enclosed motorcycle that uses gyroscopes to make it self-stabilizing. A recently posted video shows a prototype performing some pretty impressive maneuvers, but even a fully functioning prototype is a long way from a production vehicle. Originally slated to begin delivery in 2014, the C-1 has been delayed, but if it can make it to production, especially at its estimated price of $24,000, it would be one seriously cool little vehicle.
4. Wheego Electric Cars
Wheego was formed in 2009 in Atlanta, and its first car was a small two-seater electric car called the Wheego Whip. The Whip is based on China’s Shijiazhuang Noble and is considered a low-speed vehicle in the United States, limited to a top speed of 25 miles per hour.
Wheego’s second car is the LiFe, and with a top speed of 65 miles per hour, it’s actually legal to drive on highways. Starting around $32,000 before tax credits, the LiFe also doubles the Whip’s range, going approximately 100 miles on a single charge.
5. Rimac Automobili
Based in Croatia, Rimac produces a single vehicle, an electric car called the Concept One. The specs sheet looks unbelievable, but believe it or not, at least eight of them have been delivered to customers. The Concept One makes more than 1,000 horsepower, can hit 60 miles per hour in under three seconds, and has a starting price of nearly $1 million.
Despite being started in its founder’s garage, the most surprising thing about the Rimac Concept One may be that it actually exists. Anyone can say they intend to build a 1,000-horsepower electric supercar, but delivering it to multiple customers is a serious accomplishment.
6. W Motors
Slightly more extreme than the Rimac Concept One is the Lykan HyperSport, the first car built by W Motors. With a limited run of seven units, the Lykan HyperSport won’t be challenging the Toyota Camry for production volume, but then again, there are only a handful of people in the world who would spend $3.4 million on a car, so building many more probably wouldn’t make much sense.
A slightly less wild and less expensive followup called the Lykan SuperSport is expected to come with more power and three times the production volume. Even if it’s less expensive than the HyperSport, you can still expect it to cost more than most people will earn in a lifetime.
7. Li-ion Motors
Started in 2000, Li-ion Motors is still surprisingly unknown. One of the winners of the Automotive X Prize, a contest aimed at developing new, extremely efficient vehicles, Li-ion Motors has produced a wide variety of vehicles and done a large number of electric conversions for existing vehicles. But the future of Li-ion Motors is a little more vague. A few years after winning the Automotive X Prize, it has been largely silent.
Its Inzinio electric super car had a lot of potential, but like most startups, Li-ion appears to have made some huge steps forward, only to fail. Starting a car company, especially in the United States, takes a lot of money, and while Elon Musk has succeeded, there are many people who have had great ideas only to ultimately have to face the reality that they won’t make it.