A St. Joseph company has started to sell its low-speed, short-range electric car

·3 min read

ST. JOSEPH — St. Joseph-based Opus Motorcar Co. has made its nine-car test fleet available for drivers interested in owning a low-speed, short-range electric vehicle.

CEO Tom Skahen said he compares the Opus No. 3 to a street-ready golf cart. It's enclosed, with some of the bells and whistles of a full-size car: radio with Bluetooth, electric locks, a rearview camera.

So far, snowbirds have expressed the most interest as they look for a vehicle to take with them over the winter.

Skahen said Opus has a full parts inventory and is committed to servicing the vehicles. But following the test fleet, which utilizes car bodies shipped overseas that Opus then retrofits to be street-legal in the U.S., the company is leaning toward building its own cars from the ground up, he said.

The long supply chain the company relies on now is inefficient. Furthermore, building their own product allows the company to have much more control over the vehicle qualities and features.

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"All signs at this point basically point to us making our own car," Skahen said.

But this plan is contingent on funding and interest, and is likely more than a year away.

Opus Motorcar CEO Tom Skahen talks about features of an Opus No. 3 available for test drives Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022 in St. Joseph.
Opus Motorcar CEO Tom Skahen talks about features of an Opus No. 3 available for test drives Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022 in St. Joseph.

Since its founding in 2020, Opus Motorcar Co. has also made significant progress on its conversion kits, which use hub motors to convert classic Volkswagens into electric cars.

The Opus No. 3 is available in black and white for $7,500, but Opus is working with Mustang Graphics so people can get a custom wrap starting at $2,000.

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Opus Motorcar Co. has been taking a prototype to expositions and events for the past year, talking to those interested and hearing impressions from the public.

"There is a lot of skepticism ― and you know, I think fairly so," Skahen said. "It's not gonna replace your truck. It's not gonna replace your full-size sedan. But the people that get it, get it."

Whether or not this car works for where you live depends on where that is. Legality is determined city-by-city, Skahen said. Some towns, like St. Paul, Sartell and St. Joseph, classify them as golf carts and issue permits for city road use. But Opus Motorcar Co. materials say the car is primarily for off-road use, in private communities and campuses.

Those curious in discovering whether they can drive the Opus No. 3 in their town are encouraged to call their city and check their local traffic ordinances.

"What we're pursuing right now is kind of a saturation strategy," he said of their advocacy work for Opus-friendly road use rules. "Let people know this is out there. Let them see successful examples of where it's been implemented. Show that there's interest, and that people can be responsible in how they use it."

Opus Motorcar Co. was founded in 2020 by father-son team Sean and Tom Skahen. Tom Skahen said the company picked St. Joseph because Central Minnesota is home, has offered good support for the company and has untapped tech talent.

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: St. Joseph-based Opus Motorcar Co. has begun sales of its test fleet