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This tiny, all-electric Wheego Whip minicar is destined for U.S. shores this May, beating out a gaggle of other electric cars that might not even make it here by the end of 2010. The $19K plug-in Whip goes 50 miles per charge with a 60 mph top speed, and judging from the performance of its prototype in the video after the jump, its acceleration and speed appear to be sufficiently sprightly for American roads.

The catch? It’ll be limited to a poky 35 mph until the U.S. government checks its crashworthiness, and will be designated a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) until it gets its U.S. mommy’s approval. That might not happen until, alas, the seemingly magic date for electro-cars: 2010.

Built by Shuanghuan Automobile in China, the Whip’s body will be familiar to Chinese drivers — it’s known as an E-Noble in its native land. It’s hard to believe this car will be available for sale in 50 dealers three months from now. Given the sorry shape of the U.S. auto industry, this microcar might whip a few car companies into shape.

ATLANTA, Feb. 17 /PRNewswire/ — WHEEGO ELECTRIC CARS, a division of RTEV, Inc., one of the first companies to deliver a full line of recreational and street electric LSVs (Low Speed Vehicles), today announced the official launch of its U.S. car dealer network.

“In today’s difficult automotive market, more and more car dealers are looking for additions and alternatives to the traditional brands to maintain and grow their dealership business,” said Jeff Boyd, president of Wheego. “Electric vehicle adoption, fueled by volatile gas prices, increasing environmental awareness, and technological advancements puts the electric vehicle industry on the cusp of major growth as consumers are increasingly making more green-conscious buying decisions. Progressive car dealers are realizing this, and we’re receiving applications from a variety of dealers who also have other car lines such as Honda, Toyota, Chevrolet, Saturn, and Suzuki, and want to expand their product line-up and catch the wave of the emerging electric vehicle movement. No one wants to get left behind. We will launch our first car, the Wheego Whip in May with a target of 50 U.S. car dealerships appointed by then,” added Boyd. “These will be a combination of traditional car dealers as well as a new type of dealer who exclusively sells electric vehicles and combines several manufacturers such ZENN, ZAP, and MILES in one dealership.”

The first dealer test drives of the Wheego Whip were conducted in Ontario, CA in December, and there was unanimous praise for the car. Dave Kauffman, who is the Electric Car Specialist for EnVironmental Motors of Glendale, CA commented, “The Wheego [Whip] has great lines for a small car, and the nicest fit and finish I have seen yet in a production Electric Car. My driving experience was — I could not drive it enough. It is just like driving a conventional car except for the LSV speed limitation. The Wheego that I drove was 100 percent ready for the customer.”

“We have the best affordable electric car in the world,” said RTEV CEO Mike McQuary. “While I’m obviously biased, the feedback from the experts at our premier showing and test drive validated my belief. The assumption that electric cars are impractical for everyday transportation needs goes away once you see and test-drive the Wheego Whip. Instead the light bulb goes on, and people start to envision how this car can fit into their everyday life. Our Wheego cars will fill a middle market demand at the right time, and with a national dealer network to provide service and support. I think this is a great opportunity for progressive thinking car dealers to get in on the ground floor.”

Dealers can get information and applications at www.wheego.net or by emailing Jeff Boyd at jboyd@rtev.net .