Electrovaya’s Maya-300 low-speed electric vehicle should be available in about September or October, Edmond Lam, a research scientist for the company, said at a conference this week.

The Toronto-based lithium-ion battery company in January announced it was launching the neighborhood vehicle, which it said would top out at 25 or 35 miles per hour, depending on regulations in different states, and would have the ability to drive up to 120 miles on a single charge (see Green Car Congress post). ExxonMobil is marketing the vehicle, which uses a battery separator film developed by the oil company.

At the Alternative Fuels & Vehicles conference in Las Vegas this week, Lam said the company would bring two-door, four-door and flatbed-truck versions of the vehicle to the market in as little as four months.

And at the conference's Electrovaya booth, Daniel MacDonald of CleanCities.com, an Electrovaya partner that sells, rents and leases green fleet vehicles, said the company could begin sales as soon as mid-July.

The company is targeting the fleet market and also hopes mainstream urban consumers will buy it as the second or third car in a household, Lam said.

“Forty-two percent of North American households have a third car,” he said.

Electrovaya, which is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the “EFL” ticker symbol, expects to produce thousands of Mayas per year once it reaches full production, CleanCities.com President Luis MacDonald said at the expo Monday evening.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time to ramp up to that, but initially, it’s going to be high-volume orders from fleets,” he said.

Luis MacDonald said the company hopes to sell the Maya on par with the average price for government fleet cars, which go for between $20,000 and $25,000.

“It’s economically feasible; it’s going to save owners fuel and maintenance,” Luis MacDonald said. “It’s saving cost and making an environmental statement.”

Daniel MacDonald said the goal is to decrease the price below $20,000 per vehicle.

Electrovaya, which has developed a lithium-ion battery technology that contains manganese, also provides batteries for laptops, military applications and gardening products, such as lawnmowers.

But it has been working hard to get its batteries into automobiles.

As one example, the company has converted hybrids, including the Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape, as part of a research and development contract with the state of New York, according to Luis MacDonald.

Electrovaya is one of several companies participating in the project, which began about two years ago, to test different lithium-ion technologies for plug-in hybrids, he said.

“We’re trying to improve on what [the industry] did before on hybrid vehicles,” Lam said.

Electrovaya also is in the process of opening a U.S. branch, called Electrovaya USA, with the first location – expected to handle both sales and production targeted at government sales –in upstate New York, Luis MacDonald said.

“Because Electrovaya USA is going to be opening in New York, we hope to get some NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) participation, and our understanding is the state of New York is looking to place some fleet orders,” he said. “So there should be some volume from government fleets.”

Additionally, the company is considering giving itself “a presence” on the West Coast, possibly in the San Francisco Bay Area, he said.

In the last few years, Electrovaya has teamed up for a number of electric-vehicle projects, partnering with Statoil Hydro in the United Kingdom, the Tata Group in India, Miljobil Grenland in Norway, Purolator Courier in Canada and SatCon Technology Corp. in Boston.

Last week, the company announced a partnership to develop electric pickup-truck and SUV batteries for Phoenix Motorcars (see Clean Break post).

It also is developing 600-volt batteries for “very large vehicles” under a partnership with Raser Technologies. FEV Engine Technologies is integrating the project, which combines the battery with a Symetreon electric motor from Raser for plug-in hybrids.

Still, the low-speed vehicle market remains a niche for now.

Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst for Gartner, said last week that the market for niche vehicles is growing as the trend of using different vehicles for different tasks catches on, but will still remain small for some time (see Green Vehicles Rev Up with $80M).

Companies are jockeying for a leadership position, Koslowski said, adding that he expects to see merger and acquisition activity among small green-car companies in the next three to five years.

“Not all of these companies will survive,” he said then.

While Luis MacDonald agreed that the low-speed vehicle market is small today, the federal government is considering a change in the definition of low-speed vehicles that could allow them to take advantage of alternative-vehicle credits, he said. They aren’t eligible for credits today because the credits require the ability to drive on the highway, he said.

“Once that [change] happens, the projections are a hundred thousand,” he said. “That’s the kind of volumes manufacturers can ramp up on and make a market on.”