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RTEV Hunts for Mid-Class Electric Vehicle

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It’s a bit of an oxymoron, but hunters can actually be outspoken environmental stewards. And now those green Elmer Fudds can zip about the wilderness in search of game in all-electric style. Electric vehicle startup RTEV officially launched yesterday and is marketing its Ruff & Tuff brand electric vehicles to sportsmen.

RTEV says it has already sold 1,000 vehicles and is in the process of expanding its electric offerings. Wheego, the other division of RTEV, will launch a line of electric scooters and bicycles later this year. But the startup has bigger plans than small-scale electrics: It plans to debut auto-shaped, low-speed vehicles in 2009 and full-sized, full-speed electric vehicles by 2010.

While the company’s leadership has some 20 years’ worth of experience in golf carts, this seems like an extremely ambitious timeline, especially since we’ve seen so many delays from so many well-funded electric startups recently.

RTEV reinvented itself last year with CEO Mike McQuary, who could easily be No. 26 on our list of execs that ditched infotech for cleantech, as he previously served as president of Internet service providers MindSpring and EarthSpring.

McQuary thinks that his company can fill the middle-market demand between high-end EV makers like Tesla and Fisker and the low-speed golf cart electrics RTEV currently makes. But 2010 is looking like a crowded year for electric car debuts. In 2010, Tesla plans to bring out its electric sedan, the White Star, and Chevy hopes to get its Volt out the door. Meanwhile, Fisker says it plans to start delivering the Karma in 2009 and will roll out a total of four different electric models by 2011.

Of bigger concern than a crowded launch date is the short lead time the company has laid out for itself. Designing and manufacturing an electric car can take years and the process of crash-testing a full-sized vehicle is not something regulators like to rush.

With no disclosed funding we just wonder how RTEV plans to turn a golf cart and scooter business into full-fledged auto company. This is the same problem with which decade-old infamous ZAP is still dealing. We hope that come 2010 we’ll see some new electric vehicles silently cruising the streets, but unfortunately we won’t be at all surprised if several of the scheduled vehicles get pushed back…again.

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