I met Tedd McHenry circa 1980 at Ontario Hydro. He is a likeable and smart Mechanical Engineer. He was also a fellow Formula Ford club racer. He was 4th in CASC-Ontaro Region, in 1983, in his trusty Hawke DL11. He then moved to F2000, in a PRS. Locally, Tedd ski-raced at the Caledon Ski Club. After leaving Hydro, he joined the Royal CDN Air Force. He became a Tudor (Snowbird’s jet aircraft) Flight Instructor, and also flew search and rescue in de Havilland Twin Otters. After the Air Force, he headed to Vancouver, BC, and returned to work in the private sector. We lost touch, but re-connected a few years ago. Currently, he works at Electra Meccanica Vehicles (EMV), in New Westminster, BC. The company was founded 60 years ago in Italy. They built sportscars. In 1975, the company moved to Los Angeles. They moved again, this time in 1981, to Vancouver. In 2018, EMV began trading on NASDAQ. Today, they specialize in electric commuter cars and sports cars.
Tedd is married, and has grandchildren. In his leisure time, he rides a touring motorcycle, sails his boat, and still skis. Up until a few years ago, he was still club racing an Ontario-built XPIT Formula 4 (3/4 Litre), at Mission Raceway Park.
I recently interviewed Tedd by telephone.
LB: What is your primary responsibility?
TM: I’m responsible for managing EMV’s testing program. We do basically three kinds of tests: R&D tests, which are aimed at developing new designs and improving the car’s performance and capabilities; verification and validation tests, which tell us whether the as-built cars meet our specifications; and certification tests, which demonstrate that the cars meet the requirements of the standards and regulations that apply in whatever jurisdiction the cars will be sold in.
LB: What other tasks due you perform?
TM: In some cases, I do actual driving in the tests. For example, a lot of the developmental tests involve on-road evaluation. Other tests I might drive in would be basic handling tests (such as a slalom course) or braking tests. But for the more advanced sorts of tests we hire an independent lab with professional test drivers and a proper test facility.
Being a small company, each EMV employee wears multiple hats. Even though I’m not a design engineer at EMV, I often get involved in design decisions. My background in racing has given me experience in vehicle dynamics and chassis development that’s often helpful in analyzing handling issues and proposing design solutions. …Page 2
LB: How many employees are there?
TM: Roughly 65 employees.
LB: Describe EMV’s target market?
TM: Right now, there are two key markets, the market for the Solo and the market for the eRoadster.
The Solo is designed to be a commuter car. According to 2016 data published by the Brookings Institution, 85 percent of commuters in the U.S. travel by car and over 75 percent of those commuters drive alone, usually in a vehicle that can carry four or more people. Everybody knows that’s not very efficient but up until now there haven’t been a lot of alternatives. Many of these commuters are part of a family that has more than one car, but only one of those cars needs to be able to carry the whole family. So, a key kind of customer for the Solo would be a couple that needs two cars so they can both drive to work but only need one of those cars to hold the whole family. The Solo is a great second car for such a family because it’s very cheap to operate compared to a combustion-engined multi-seater. It’s also nimble and fun to drive even in commute-to-work traffic. Personally, I hate driving to work, but I hate it a lot less when I get to take a Solo.
The eRoadster is a classic sports car. It’s an electrified version of the Intermeccanica Speedster, which many car enthusiasts are already familiar with. I’m more involved in the Solo project but I’ve driven the eRoadster and I absolutely love it! It gives you the feel, the romance, and the fun of a classic, open-air sports car, but with a crazy smooth, near-silent electric drivetrain. The target market for the eRoadster is basically the same as for the original, piston-engined Speedster: A driving enthusiast who wants the romance and excitement of a vintage sports car but in a new, modern, more affordable package. And the eRoadster has all the benefits of an electric car to go along with that.
How many models do you produce?
In 2020 we have the Solo and the eRoadster, and we’re taking orders on both right now. We’re also in the early stages of development of the Tofino which, unlike the eRoadster, is a modern sports car. But the company’s focus for 2020 is the Solo.
LB: How many units do you build annually?
TM: We built 50 of the first-generation Solos at our plant in New Westminster. This wasn’t a full-scale production line but more of a test-the-market concept. Full scale production of the Solo begins in 2020 in Chongqing, China, with the first dealership already open in Los Angeles. I can’t share the production forecast with you but it will be a much bigger number than the preliminary run in New Westminster was. …Page 3
The eRoadster is still under development, with a couple of early production models being assembled and tested right now. This is a hand-made sports car, just as the Intermeccanica Speedster was, built on the same production line. So, numbers will be relatively modest by comparison with the Solo.
LB: Are there dealers in ON?
TM: Not now. The first target market for the Solo is California for 2020. We do plan to expand into other markets.
LB: What is the biggest hurdle is selling your cars?
TM: I’m not a marketing guy, so I’m probably not the best person to ask about sales challenges. But, from my perspective as Engineering Testing Manager, the Solo is the most complex product in the most demanding market that I’ve ever worked on. Developing an innovative vehicle requires a lot of engineering which, as you can image, can be a real challenge for a small company like EMV. We’re fortunate to be working with excellent development partners with decades of experience in automotive engineering. The hurdle is that there are so many things we have to get right. It can be daunting, at times. But I’ve never been more excited about the products I work on.
LB: MSRP for the Solo is $18,500 USD.
Thank you, Tedd!
Written by Larry Barnett & Tedd McHenry
Photos supplied by Geremy Testar & Tedd McHenry