Mission Motors -- a startup that concocted a superfast electric motorcycle last year -- is now looking at four wheels, too.
The company has formally unveiled a program (which we first mentioned in February) to sell electric drive technology to established manufacturers, according to CEO Jit Bhattacharya. Under the program, Mission will sell battery packs, motors, controllers and management software, along with other components, to other companies. The company will sell both complete drivetrain blocks as well as modular components.
But not all of the customers are motorcycle makers.
"It is a much more diverse vehicle set," he said. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, trucks and buses could all end up with Mission's technology. Two large customers have already agreed to insert Mission's technology into prototype vehicles. Bhattacharya wouldn't identify the manufacturers, but he said back in February that China could become an initial test market for lithium-ion battery powered motorcycles. Japanese manufacturers, although wielding hefty name brands, were less interested.
Besides increasing interest among consumers for electric vehicles, a driving force behind the shift in the business model and the interest among large manufacturers stems from regulations designed to boost fuel economy. In the U.S., manufacturers will now have to hit a 35.5-miles-per-gallon standard by 2016.
"It has opened up the OEMs to technology from the outside," Bhattacharya said. "Toyota working with Tesla on the electric Rav4 changed a lot of people's attitudes."
Mission, of course, isn't the only company trying this. Tesla, Ener1, EcoMotors, Achates Power, Zajac Motors, Fallbrook Technologies, Transonic Combustion, Ioxus and others are hawking batteries, software, efficient diesel engines and other technologies to vehicle makers. In the old days, a startup could spend ten years in meetings only to get nowhere with a licensing or component pact. Like the hillbillies in Deliverance, the Big Three just didn't take well to outsiders. The resistance definitely seems to have waned a bit. Not all of these companies will succeed. In fact, most will likely fail. But more hope exists now than in the past.
Mission will also continue to pursue its high-end motorcycle, the Mission One. The bike was initially expected in late 2011, but now the release date is undetermined, a switch that can probably be blamed on the economy.