Japanese-car phenomenon may be coming to North America

HW Electro is looking to the sky to power its Puzzle van into the U.S. market.

Nov 20, 2023 - 23:30
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Japanese-car phenomenon may be coming to North America

Well, it is the Land of the Rising Sun.

Humans have been seeking to harness solar power ever since the 7th Century B.C. when someone used a magnifying glass to make fire.

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Solar panels were first used to power remote pieces of electrical equipment — like rural telephone lines — and satellites in space, but their use spread as solar cells became cheaper and easier to make.

In 1955, the General Motors  (GM) - Get Free Report employee William G. Cobb constructed a solar-car prototype called the Sunmobile, a 15-inch solar-powered automobile model.

In 1976, Alan Freeman developed the first solar car that could be legally driven. The three-wheeled vehicle was powered by both sunlight and pedal.

And the race was on — literally — as Switzerland hosted the Tour de Sol in 1985, the first rally for solar-powered vehicles.

Here comes the sun-powered Stella Terra

Last month, the two-seat Stella Terra, a solar-powered car designed by students at  Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, reportedly made a 620-mile test drive across Morocco and the Sahara, according to The Guardian

The car, which runs off the energy provided by multiple solar panels on its roof, has a top speed of 90 mph (145 kph), weighs 1.2 tons, and has a range of at least 440 miles (708 km) on a sunny day.

The Dutch car company Lightyear made news in December after announcing that it had begun manufacturing the Lightyear 0, the first commercially available solar car.

And San Diego-based Aptera is working on a two-seat, three-wheeled passenger vehicle. 

The Munich-based company Sono Motors toured several American cities last year, but dropped plans for its Sion solar car program in February and filed for insolvency in May, according to EE News.

Japan's HW Electro unveils the Puzzle solar car

Now a Japanese company, HW Electro, is looking to catch some rays with the Puzzle, a small electric van recently unveiled in the U.S.

The Puzzle fits into the concept of a kei car — or van in this case — a Japanese vehicle category for the smallest highway-legal passenger cars, with restricted dimensions and engine capacity. 

“The Puzzle launch marks HW Electro’s dedication to addressing environmental challenges and creating innovative eco-friendly solutions to the commercial vehicle market," company President Hsiao Weicheng said, Electrek reported

"We are excited to officially showcase Puzzle today and we look forward to making it available in the U.S. market in 2025.”

HW Electro first entered its domestic market with the Elemo series, a line of next-generation multipurpose commercial EVs.

The Puzzle features onboard AC outlets, USB ports, wi-fi internet connectivity, and emergency tools. Roof-mounted solar panels are included to ensure functionality even during prolonged power outages. There’s also a first-aid kit and a crowbar.

HW Electro has filed for an IPO

Earlier this month, HW Electro, which was founded in 2019, filed for an IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $17.25 million in gross proceeds.

“Since the inception of our operation, we have been leveraging the customizability and adjustability of our electric light commercial vehicles to attract corporations in different industries and local governments that have varying needs from their departments in Japan,” the company said in its prospectus

“During the fiscal years ended Sept. 30, 2023, and 2022, we sold and delivered 66 and 16 electric light commercial vehicles to 15 and 11 customers, respectively," the filing said.

For the six months ended March 31, 2023, and the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2022, the company posted net losses of roughly $5.9 million and $4.7 million, respectively.

You may have to wait a while for the Puzzle, however, as commercial sales are expected to begin in 2025.

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