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Skeptics Doubt We'll See ZAP's $30K Electric Sports Car in 2009

By Chuck Squatriglia
<http://www.wired.com/services/feedback/letterstoeditor> Email 02.01.08 |
5:00 PM 
 <http://www.wired.com/cars/coolwheels/news/2008/02/zap# 
 <http://www.wired.com/cars/coolwheels/news/2008/02/zap# 
ZAP plans to begin building the Alias, a three-wheeled electric sports car,
in mid-2009. The company says the car will have 320 horsepower and do
zero-to-60 in 5.7 seconds. Price: $30,000. 
Image: ZAP 

A California company known for its funky, electric commuter cars says it
will break into the high-performance market with a 320-horsepower,
three-wheeled sports car by 2009. 

Industry insiders wonder what these people have been smoking.

ZAP <http://www.zapworld.com/>  says it will begin producing the Alias
<http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars/zap-alias>  by the
middle of next year, a timeline that many say is exceedingly optimistic --
if not impossible -- given that the company only recently invited suppliers
to design components for the $30,000 car.

"Right now ... it takes GM and Toyota three to five years, all told, to go
from a clean sheet to vehicles selling on showroom floors," said Aaron
Bragman, an auto-industry analyst  <http://www.globalinsight.com/> with
Global Insight who worked for nearly a decade as a salesman for a parts
supplier and a buyer for an automaker. "And this is with staffs of trained
engineers, processes, plants and suppliers already in place." 

Nevertheless, ZAP -- a company whose previous
<http://www.forbes.com/entrepreneurs/forbes/2007/0618/050.html> well-hyped
project has yet to reach the showroom floor -- said it can meet that
deadline.

"Looking at our initial project-development plan and our discussion with a
number of key engineering and technology partners, I believe we can go into
production by the second quarter of 2009," said Albert Lam, former CEO of
Lotus Engineering <http://www.grouplotus.com/eng/>  and chairman of the
joint venture developing the Alias.

ZAP hopes to follow the path blazed by Tesla Motors, which is showing that
"sports  <http://www.teslamotors.com/> car" and "electric vehicle" are not
mutually exclusive, while also underscoring the challenges that come with
building a car almost from scratch.

The company, based in Santa Rosa, California, has been building electric
scooters and commuter cars since 1994. Its electric
<http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars/xebra-sedan>
commuter Xebra tops out at about 35 mph and has a claimed range of 40 miles.
Beyond the challenge of designing a car with a top speed and range almost
four times that of the Xebra, the biggest hurdle will be getting the
components to build it. All of the major automakers are aggressively
pursuing hybrids, creating a race for motors, batteries and other parts that
ZAP may not win.

"If you were a technology supplier, which option would you follow: the
high-risk, unproven customer who has ambitions of selling 15,000 units ...
or the multinational corporation that is vying for top automaker in the
world by volume and wants to start a long-term investment in the technology
for global models?" Bragman asked. 

ZAP says it is developing the Alias with help from Lotus Engineering and
China Youngman Automotive  <http://www.young-man.cn/eng/index1.asp> Group,
which Lam said would build the car. Despite that, ZAP almost certainly won't
meet its 2009 deadline, Bragman said. 

That's not to say ZAP can't get the Alias on the road. Tesla has proven that
a small company can break into the market, but it's taken it five years and
tens of millions of dollars to do it -- and Lotus did a lot of the chassis
development. 

On paper, the Alias looks like fun. Plans call for two in-wheel motors that
provide 320 horsepower and a top speed approaching 120 mph. ZAP says the
Alias will do zero-to-60 in 5.7 seconds. In-wheel motors could increase
sprung weight and impair handling, so it remains to be seen how ZAP will
address that. 

ZAP is considering motors from "a few" Chinese suppliers, said spokesman
Alex Campbell, who noted that ZAP has used such motors in its Zappy 3
<http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-scooters> scooters for
five years. It is testing lithium-ion batteries with proprietary management
systems and a range of 150 miles. Campbell said a Xebra with a lithium
battery recently went 153 miles on a single charge. 

The most distinctive thing about the Alias is its single rear wheel, which
is suspended on a swing arm much like a motorcycle. Campbell said
three-wheelers are classified as motorcycles and do not require expensive
federal crash-safety tests. 

"This would allow us to get a freeway-capable EV to market faster, for less
money," he said. "Three-wheeled vehicles are also fairly uncommon in the
U.S. marketplace and will give us some market differentiation." 

The idea for the Alias was hatched last year when ZAP and Lotus started
developing the ZAP-X
<http://www.zapworld.com/electric-vehicles/electric-cars/zap-x> crossover
utility vehicle, which ZAP promises to launch later this year.

 
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Comments (22)


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Posted by: acampbell3

44 days ago1 Point

Wired gave ZAP an award in the 90s for its electric scooters. Why does it
earn skepticism today for its electric cars?

Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_3')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_4')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_5')> 

Posted by: elgrau

47 days ago1 Point
fityxxpayeevk: Try Buick or other "Old"smobile's...I hear they are coming
out with seat bottom airbags to protect your adult diapered ass in case you
go over a speed bump too fast...meanwhile, leave these newer, more exciting
choices to real men whos... <javascript:void(0);> 
Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_6')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_7')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_8')> 

Posted by: fityxxpayeevkl

47 days ago1 Point

"In-wheel motors could increase sprung weight and impair handling, so it
remains to be seen how ZAP will address that."

Should read "could increase unsprung weight"

There, fixed that for ya.

JP

Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_9')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_10')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_11')> 

Posted by: tschicky

48 days ago1 Point
Critics are a funny bunch - why would you compare the practises of companies
that are failing and not making profits (GM, Dodge, ect.) to another company
that is trying to do something different. If this could be realized within
14-20 months it woul... <javascript:void(0);> 
Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_12')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_13')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_14')> 

Posted by: fityxxpayeevkl

48 days ago1 Point

Pass. I want a car not an electric bike that has no safety features.

Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_15')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_16')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_17')> 

Posted by: acampbell3

48 days ago1 Point
Correction: A stock Xebra electric sedan can travel up to 40 MPH and has a
range of 25 miles per charge. The truck can get optional larger batteries
for 40% more range. Range can vary, some Xebra customers have reported more
than 60 miles on a cha... <javascript:void(0);> 
Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_18')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_19')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_20')> 

Posted by: CountersTrike

48 days ago1 Point
I question Zaps customer dealiing. In 2005 - I was thrilled with the E-Pod
being imported by Zap: a 3-wheel Aerorider velomobile. That was showed
throughout CA., Zap did not sell one, about 4 months later after constant
e-mails, I recieived 1 repl... <javascript:void(0);> 
Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_21')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_22')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_23')> 

Posted by: acampbell3

48 days ago1 Point

I got to ride in the Aerorider. It was cool, but expensive and the market
was limited. At the time, ZAP was selling smart cars as part of its auto
dealer marketing and it wasn't a high priority.

Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_24')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_25')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_26')> 

Posted by: greengestalt

48 days ago1 Point
Bleah... First, we need Methane. Heat organic compost from pig sh-t to
newspapers, extract methane, use ash in fertilizer or just dump back on the
lawn you mowed to get it. Second, look in MAKE magazine. People have been
making electric cars for ... <javascript:void(0);> 
Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_27')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_28')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_29')> 

Posted by: CommonSense

49 days ago1 Point

Who wants to have to wear a helmet (and make all passengers wear a helmet)
in your slick, new "sportscar"??

Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_30')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_31')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_32')> 

Posted by: acampbell3

48 days ago1 Point

You won't need a helmet when driving this. Ask any Xebra owner.

Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_33')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_34')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_35')> 

Posted by: CommonSense

48 days ago1 Point
It's not a matter of "need" as much of a matter of government requirements
in most states. If the 'car' is classified as a motorcycle, you must follow
laws that apply to motorcycles or risk the possibility of a ticket for not
following the laws. If... <javascript:void(0);> 
Permalink <javascript:doUserAction('perma_36')> 
 <javascript:doUserAction('vote_37')>  <javascript:doUserAction('vote_38')> 

Posted by: acampbell3

47 days ago1 Point

Only a few states have this issue. The majority don't require helmets. I
drive a Xebra in California and they don't make me wear a helmet. What state
are you in?



Skeptics Doubt We'll See ZAP's $30K Electric Sports Car in 2009

By Chuck Squatriglia Email 02.01.08 | 5:00 PM 
ZAP plans to begin building the Alias, a three-wheeled electric sports car, in mid-2009. The company says the car will have 320 horsepower and do zero-to-60 in 5.7 seconds. Price: $30,000. 
Image: ZAP 

A California company known for its funky, electric commuter cars says it will break into the high-performance market with a 320-horsepower, three-wheeled sports car by 2009. 

Industry insiders wonder what these people have been smoking.

ZAP says it will begin producing the Alias by the middle of next year, a timeline that many say is exceedingly optimistic -- if not impossible -- given that the company only recently invited suppliers to design components for the $30,000 car.

"Right now ... it takes GM and Toyota three to five years, all told, to go from a clean sheet to vehicles selling on showroom floors," said Aaron Bragman, an auto-industry analyst with Global Insight who worked for nearly a decade as a salesman for a parts supplier and a buyer for an automaker. "And this is with staffs of trained engineers, processes, plants and suppliers already in place." 

Nevertheless, ZAP -- a company whose previous well-hyped project has yet to reach the showroom floor -- said it can meet that deadline.

"Looking at our initial project-development plan and our discussion with a number of key engineering and technology partners, I believe we can go into production by the second quarter of 2009," said Albert Lam, former CEO of Lotus Engineering and chairman of the joint venture developing the Alias.

ZAP hopes to follow the path blazed by Tesla Motors, which is showing that "sports car" and "electric vehicle" are not mutually exclusive, while also underscoring the challenges that come with building a car almost from scratch.

The company, based in Santa Rosa, California, has been building electric scooters and commuter cars since 1994. Its electric commuter Xebra tops out at about 35 mph and has a claimed range of 40 miles. Beyond the challenge of designing a car with a top speed and range almost four times that of the Xebra, the biggest hurdle will be getting the components to build it. All of the major automakers are aggressively pursuing hybrids, creating a race for motors, batteries and other parts that ZAP may not win.

"If you were a technology supplier, which option would you follow: the high-risk, unproven customer who has ambitions of selling 15,000 units ... or the multinational corporation that is vying for top automaker in the world by volume and wants to start a long-term investment in the technology for global models?" Bragman asked. 

ZAP says it is developing the Alias with help from Lotus Engineering and China Youngman Automotive Group, which Lam said would build the car. Despite that, ZAP almost certainly won't meet its 2009 deadline, Bragman said. 

That's not to say ZAP can't get the Alias on the road. Tesla has proven that a small company can break into the market, but it's taken it five years and tens of millions of dollars to do it -- and Lotus did a lot of the chassis development. 

On paper, the Alias looks like fun. Plans call for two in-wheel motors that provide 320 horsepower and a top speed approaching 120 mph. ZAP says the Alias will do zero-to-60 in 5.7 seconds. In-wheel motors could increase sprung weight and impair handling, so it remains to be seen how ZAP will address that. 

ZAP is considering motors from "a few" Chinese suppliers, said spokesman Alex Campbell, who noted that ZAP has used such motors in its Zappy 3 scooters for five years. It is testing lithium-ion batteries with proprietary management systems and a range of 150 miles. Campbell said a Xebra with a lithium battery recently went 153 miles on a single charge. 

The most distinctive thing about the Alias is its single rear wheel, which is suspended on a swing arm much like a motorcycle. Campbell said three-wheelers are classified as motorcycles and do not require expensive federal crash-safety tests. 

"This would allow us to get a freeway-capable EV to market faster, for less money," he said. "Three-wheeled vehicles are also fairly uncommon in the U.S. marketplace and will give us some market differentiation." 

The idea for the Alias was hatched last year when ZAP and Lotus started developing the ZAP-X crossover utility vehicle, which ZAP promises to launch later this year.

Related Topics: 

Planet Earth

Comments (22)

Posted by: acampbell3

44 days ago1 Point

Wired gave ZAP an award in the 90s for its electric scooters. Why does it earn skepticism today for its electric cars?

Posted by: elgrau

47 days ago1 Point
fityxxpayeevk: Try Buick or other "Old"smobile's...I hear they are coming out with seat bottom airbags to protect your adult diapered ass in case you go over a speed bump too fast...meanwhile, leave these newer, more exciting choices to real men whos...

Posted by: fityxxpayeevkl

47 days ago1 Point

"In-wheel motors could increase sprung weight and impair handling, so it remains to be seen how ZAP will address that."

Should read "could increase unsprung weight"

There, fixed that for ya.

JP

Posted by: tschicky

48 days ago1 Point
Critics are a funny bunch - why would you compare the practises of companies that are failing and not making profits (GM, Dodge, ect.) to another company that is trying to do something different. If this could be realized within 14-20 months it woul...

Posted by: fityxxpayeevkl

48 days ago1 Point

Pass. I want a car not an electric bike that has no safety features.

Posted by: acampbell3

48 days ago1 Point
Correction: A stock Xebra electric sedan can travel up to 40 MPH and has a range of 25 miles per charge. The truck can get optional larger batteries for 40% more range. Range can vary, some Xebra customers have reported more than 60 miles on a cha...

Posted by: CountersTrike

48 days ago1 Point
I question Zaps customer dealiing. In 2005 - I was thrilled with the E-Pod being imported by Zap: a 3-wheel Aerorider velomobile. That was showed throughout CA., Zap did not sell one, about 4 months later after constant e-mails, I recieived 1 repl...

Posted by: acampbell3

48 days ago1 Point

I got to ride in the Aerorider. It was cool, but expensive and the market was limited. At the time, ZAP was selling smart cars as part of its auto dealer marketing and it wasn't a high priority.

Posted by: greengestalt

48 days ago1 Point
Bleah... First, we need Methane. Heat organic compost from pig sh-t to newspapers, extract methane, use ash in fertilizer or just dump back on the lawn you mowed to get it. Second, look in MAKE magazine. People have been making electric cars for ...

Posted by: CommonSense

49 days ago1 Point

Who wants to have to wear a helmet (and make all passengers wear a helmet) in your slick, new "sportscar"??

Posted by: acampbell3

48 days ago1 Point

You won't need a helmet when driving this. Ask any Xebra owner.

Posted by: CommonSense

48 days ago1 Point
It's not a matter of "need" as much of a matter of government requirements in most states. If the 'car' is classified as a motorcycle, you must follow laws that apply to motorcycles or risk the possibility of a ticket for not following the laws. If...

Posted by: acampbell3

47 days ago1 Point

Only a few states have this issue. The majority don't require helmets. I drive a Xebra in California and they don't make me wear a helmet. What state are you in?