How Building Electric Vehicles for Farmers Has Changed My Life.
–Melissa Brandao, the Lady Electric
I’ve just started Rogue Rovers. We’re building semi-autonomous all terrain rovers for agriculture based in the Columbia Gorge. This is my second endeavor into the world of off-road electric vehicles I previously founded and ran Barefoot Motors. Having been away from it and then coming back to it, I consider myself one of the lucky ones–I know my true calling.
In 2006, I met Jamie Hyneman at the first Maker Faire. It was one of those meetings that helped inspire me to leave my day job. I called it Barefoot Motors the idea of making vehicles that were closer to nature. There were a lot of firsts with Barefoot. It was the first electric vehicle venture founded by a woman, me. It was the first real production electric ATV sold in the market, the Model One. (Some vehicles are still in operation). It was the first electric vehicle built for and with farmers.
Barefoot was a great name for an Ag vehicle and Jamie Hyneman was a great name for Barefoot. Jamie helped to put us on the map just by association.
He appeared in our demo videos, he wrote articles for Popular Science and did a Mythbusters episode on EV vs. gas vehicles. (we didn’t appear in the final episode but the filming was a heck of a lot of fun!)
My focus for Barefoot Motors was to make Barefoot an electric vehicle that was purpose-built and in lock step with the needs of the customers. My purpose for the company was to change the way people thought about “green”. We designed a product that wasn’t gutless and slow–showed what highest torque to weight ratio really looked like and ensured critics that cleaner products could be damned dirty work!
I spent hours in vineyards and dairies all over California and Oregon getting to know farmers, demo’ing equipment, asking questions. Two of my favorite test rides–the abandoned barn off of Old Sonoma Road in Napa at like 7am with at least 25 farmers at 30 degrees and the herd of 40 some cranberry farmers and their families near Bandon that took the electric quad one the steepest sand dunes I’ve ever seen (won’t do that again).
There was a lot of dumb luck and personal trials with Barefoot, I learned so much and in retrospect it’s amazing that we accomplished as much as we did. In early 2009 with the economic downturn, I was forced to sell my ownership in the company to one of my investors just as the Model One was going into production–that was hard. About 18 months later the new owner shuttered the company–that was hard too.
I have continued to keep in touch with a lot of the Model One owners and I will continue to support them however I can as we come online with Rogue Rovers. We are here FOR you and we would love to hear FROM you. And for that matter any of you that are interested in supporting us!
I know there are lot of you out there that probably can not believe I’d slide back into seat of ATVs and Ag tech, but those of you that know me well, know I simply couldn’t do anything else.
Rogue Rovers is not Barefoot Motors. Same Founder, new company, new team. We’re engineering vehicles that are electric but they’re a whole lot more than that. Let’s just say…Meet Rover for yourself in Fall, 2013.