Brian Bliss, sales, Phoenix Motorcars


We have two vehicles, our SUV and SUT, being outfitted for the Santa Monica car show. The wheels are off. We're real excited on  to have them on the road.  Outside we have ten vehicles which are being tested for certifications to be sure they're road-ready.  They are stock colors right now, white cars with black tires, for fleet applications we're taking orders for, for next year.. 


You see it's a very different body style, very rounded, different from anything else out there. Notice on the front the Phoenix logo.  We're going through different certifications so that they are all road-ready by the first of the year.


Ingrid Lobet: What car body are they made with?


Brian Bliss: We are having the cars imported from Korea and we are putting in the batteries and the drive shafts from UQM.  We haven't said which company we're getting the bodies from.  The batteries are coming in from Altairnano.  They are a lithium ion type battery, but they have removed the carbon so it becomes a lithium titanate.  You don't have to worry about the overheating like earlier lithium ion were known to do.  We import the bodies and the rest is all from America.


Ingrid Lobet:  Would knowledgeable buyers recognize this body?


Brian Bliss: They'll recognize that it is a truck but they won't know it as a truck in the US.  It's similar in size a Chevy Colorado, very roomy, efficient, rounder, edgier, futuristic looking . A very nice looking vehicle and the interest with the looks has been atronomical.


Ingrid Lobet: It has a rounded style with these slanted headlights.


Brian Bliss: It's for 5 passengers in the cab with truck bed of four and a half feet.  You can get it covered or non-covered.  We'll sell it for fleets or with retail upgrades. For fleets most people want plain jane white vehicles. But we have the nicer version with chrome wheels, covers, leather interior, a lot of flexibility. But getting into production next year we want to make sure there is the best usage with fleet applications.


For the SUV on the front you see the body style looks very similar to the truck. You see the difference on the back end, where it slants off.  To me the best comparison is a Honda CRV. But the capabilities of course are much bigger and they are zero emission.


And of course you see there is no tailpipe. When you're on the road driving these around, the feel is very similar to a gas vehicle.  And everyone notices you have immediate torque, takeoff is a lot quicker.


Ingrid Lobet: Where will the battery pack be?


Brain Bliss: The batteries will straddle the drive shaft underneath the vehicle. You won't be able to see them when you lift the hood. They'll be foam-packed under there. You can see that where the engine normally takes up all the compartment in the front, here you see just the UQM motor,  leaving a lot of it open.


Ingrid Lobet: So all the battery power you need for an SUV that might be carrying five people fits in between the wheels, without taking any of vehicle's storage space?


Brain Bliss: That's right.


Ingrid Lobet: What goes in here under the hood in this space above the motor?


Brian Bliss: When we go to shows, we rack-mount the batteries under the hood so people can see them, but that is just for shows. We want to feature the batteries there because that is what is making this possible. But normally the battery will be completely underneath, you won't be seeing any of them.


The rest here will be empty. You look at a normal gas engine and all the hoses and everything you don't have any of that.  We're really only filling up half the space up front.


Ingrid Lobet: You are focusing on fleets first, why? Is it related to the time it takes to recharge?


Brian: We are looking at fleet applications because think our vehicles number one are perfect for them.  It takes 6-7 hours to charge on a regular 220 outlet, which is what you plug your dryer into at home.


Ingrid Lobet: But it's not what you have in your driveway.


Brian Bliss: It's not what you have in your driveway, but you usually have the dryer in your garage, and individuals should be able to put in one of those 220 outlets the pretty easily.


For fleets though, using a 10-minute charger, an external charger we can set up for you, will allow you to charge up to 95% capacity, in less than ten minutes.


Ingrid Lobet: What kind of power do you have to supply to that charger?


Brian Bliss:  It is substantial, we are looking into it, but these batteries CAN take the heat, they can take the charge.


We've proven it and demonstrated it, we will be doing it again with Edison at the first of January, the first of the year.  They are running the 130 miles you run on these batteries. They would be able to charge it up in the normal time that they would be gassing up.


Ingrid Lobet: But that wouldn't be available at a residence. They'll be doing overnight charging, basically.


Brian Bliss: It makes more sense for them to do that. And we are working with Altairnano to increase the amount of drivetime you have from the 100-130 range to the 200-250 if we install more batteries and have a different type of battery that we have in the works right now.


Our vision is that down the road you can have a selection of a gas pump or an electric pump, so you can do that quick charge and be back on the road. .


One thing we hear time and time again as we go to the shows is these aren't small cars. These are full size cars, comparable to any car you see on the road today. The EV1, I mean it was a wonderful car for that time, but a little two-seater with no capacity to put any additional room for storage didn't make it feasible. Anything you are used to doing today, you can do with these vehicles, provided you are not going cross country.


Ingrid Lobet: Electric car enthusiast have mostly given up

 on battery electric cars and moved on to plug-in hybrids. Why did Phoenix decide to stick with the battery vehicle?


Brain Bliss: Because it is a true zero-emissions vehicle. The battery technology wasn't quite where it needed to be. Hybrids are a good alternative, but they're not a true zero-emission vehicle. Our vehicles can finally have the distance people want.  And now we have the capability of a quick charge with an external charger is drawing a lot of people in, and the size, the fact that these things are large and robust.


And they are large, they're robust and can have a lot of storage, so we are focusing at true replacements, looking at advances in zero-emissions vehicles, instead of coming up with a hybrid alternative.


Ingrid Lobet: Now as I understand it there's some kind of peculiarity in California law that makes your business plan possible? Isn't the ZEV mandate gone?


Brian Bliss: The fact that ZEV credits are still around the for next couple of years definitely make it possible for us to sell these, get the credits we need, pursue that aspect. But bottom line these vehicles will be on the road. But those laws will be gone in three years, we're trying to utilize those laws to get us down into mass production so that we don't have to rely on those anymore, we can cut the cost points down to roll these across the United States.




Brian Bliss: I'm having no problems setting appointments, as soon as they hear about it, people are interested, to talk about how they can get this to be part of their fleets.


We're looking at letters of intent or purchase orders, saying if you can meet these specs, we are interested. From there we go to a delivery date. Letters of intent, purchase orders are being accepted.


I just started this job, but I feel here I'm less of a salesman, and more of an order-taker because I'm going out there telling them "this is what it does," and they are telling me "we want this many."


The question is can we meet the demand. We're looking at 500 vehicles in California next year. The question is can we supply them in time?