By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
John McMillian, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Shockwave Motors, Inc., says his interest in electrically-powered vehicles began as a child in the 1950s.
“I had a pedal tractor, and my father converted it to battery power by installing an old car starter motor on it,” he says. “That created a spark in me.”
When he was 12 years old, McMillian converted a gasoline-powered go cart to one that was electrically-powered. At Everett High School in Maryville, he did his first conversion of an automobile to electric power.
After service in the U.S. Air Force, the Blount County native moved to Hamblen County, built a passive solar, earth-sheltered house in 1984, and kept it off the grid for 17 years, meeting his electricity needs through a small hydroelectric system he designed.
Get the picture? McMillian has a life-long interest in electricity and energy efficiency.
Today, he’s nearing the point when Shockwave Motors will be producing high performance, three-passenger roadsters powered by electricity. “I hope to start production next year,” McMillian says.
His start-up was one of the winners in this year’s Tennessee Veterans Business Association business plan competition. The other two were Rock Hopper ZSG and Clear Image Solutions, LLC. Each winner received $5,000 to advance its product. The award monies came from The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto and Vanquish Worldwide.
McMillian says his initial thinking was to build kit cars, but he has since gravitated to the current roadster concept. It is based on more than four years of development and testing, going through various models to find just the right approach.
“This one is just about where we want it to be,” he says. One change will be the addition of front fenders to finish the old school roadster look.
The roadster has a daily range of up to 200 miles and can be recharged in about nine hours using a standard 120-volt outlet. McMillian believes the electric roadster makes an ideal second car for the typical commuter who drives up to 100 miles. He says the owner can plug it into a typical outlet, and the roadster is ready to drive home at the end of the day with a full charge.
“There are no special chargers or infrastructure needed,” he notes proudly. “No other electric vehicle in the market today has this capability. Our roadster costs less than two cents per mile for energy costs and gets the equivalent of over 200 mile per gallon.”
Can you buy one now?
“We are not selling yet,” McMillian explains, noting that he wants to complete the fine-tuning. He needs a different set of body molds to incorporate the latest design changes and some chassis jigs.
“It’s my reputation on the line,” he says in reference to the launch timetable. “I have seen many electric car companies over the years announce firm production dates, only to see them push the dates back year after year and sometimes never produce a single vehicle for sale to the public. Only when we have the resources and I am confident we are ready to manufacture will we begin to take firm orders.”
For now, McMillian says he maintains a list of interested individuals. “No orders or money,” he says.
The vehicle requires a good deal of hand assembly – about 10 hours per roadster. McMillian says the initial offering will be one body style, in a variety of colors, with some customization possible. The roadster will sell for less than $25,000.
McMillian says initial manufacturing will be in Knoxville, but he plans small assembly factories in target markets for the expected 6,000 annual customers. The initial sites when he expands assembly will be California and the Florida/Georgia corridor.