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Green Car: 2000 Corbin Sparrow

Classics  /   /  By Bradley Berman

The Corbin Sparrow is a single-passenger, three-wheeled, pure-electric people mover. Only 300 of these wonderfully funky vehicles were produced, from 1992 to 2002. This one up for auction on eBay is Number 140. It’s even more unique—if that’s possible— because its owner has tricked it out with a custom metallic dark gray paint job, chrome rims, tinted windows, LED tail lights, and a two-tone gray and black seat with red piping.

As originally produced, the fiberglass Corbin Sparrow featured an array of day-glow color options—such as lilac, teal, magenta, and aqua.

What’s the genesis of this vehicle? Well, have you ever considered that a gas-powered vehicle uses nearly all its energy just to carry its own weight down the road? Experts estimate that less than 10 percent of the fuel’s power is used to move the passengers.

As the legend goes (and is told on, Mike Corbin stood on an overpass in Los Angeles in 1989, and observed a sea of solo-traveling drivers surrounded by tons of metal, stuck in morning rush-hour traffic. He thought there must be a better way. Mike and his son Tom — well-established makers of motorcycle seats in Hollister, Calif. — became determined to invent a much more efficient commuter vehicle. Seven years later, the first Sparrow debuted at the San Francisco Auto Show.

The “personal electric vehicle” features two wheels in the front and one in the back. According to the seller, it has a top speed of 75 miles per hour. It uses thirteen 12-volt, lead-acid batteries that can be charged through a standard 110-volt outlet. The batteries for this specific model were purchased in 2009. According to the seller, “the batteries are currently out of the car so I can charge them individually, but I’m happy to put them back into the car.” (Technically, the Sparrow is considered a motorcycle.) Expect around 30 miles of range on single charge, which takes six to eight hours.

Several Sparrows were featured in the 2002 movie, Austin Powers: Goldmember. But in March 2003, mechanical and electric problems with a number of Sparrow units unfortunately caused Corbin Motors to cease operations. The company was briefly resurrected in 2004 by Myers Motors, which renamed the vehicle as the NmG (which stands for “No More Gas.”) Myers Motors continues today to work to commercialize funky highway-capable all-electric personal vehicles.

This Y2K Corbin Sparrow, with 5,000 miles of use, is a piece of automotive history—but vehicles like the Sparrow might also lead the way to a new future for transportation. The idea of an efficient personal electric people mover has been promoted by major automakers, which in recent years have unveiled innovative models such as the Renault Twizy and General Motors’s PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) vehicle.

Watch the bidding for this 2000 Corbin Sparrow

About the Author

Bradley Berman is a leading writer and researcher about electric cars and green transportation. He regularly contributes driving reviews and technology articles to The New York Times, Fortune, MIT Technology Review, Popular Mechanics, and other publications.

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  1. Javier Rivera November 5, 2012 at 2:11 pm Reply

    Fine now show me the intteriors

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