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Investors, dealers zapped by Zap?
April 8, 2008 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Wired, which famously included the Tesla Roadster in its annual roundup of vaporware, takes on another electric car firm. Over the years, ZAP has taken millions from investors and dealers eager to see the company's line of green cars hit the road. But that line has never materialized. Of nearly a dozen groundbreaking eco-vehicles ZAP has promised in public announcements and on its Web site, only the Xebra and its sibling, a truck version, have ever made it to market.

Zap, and its Zap Girls!, chalk it up(PDF) to Big Oil and Big Auto. But Forbes wondered the same thing last year.

Also, just like Tesla, Zap, OTC Bulletin Board, ticker ZAAP, says it has a supercar design relationship with Lotus.
But, according to the Wired article, "A Lotus Engineering official confirms that Lotus made a deal with ZAP allowing the Santa Rosa firm to use Lotus' gas-powered APX prototype as a physical model for a new car, but that was all."
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! (27 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
That "chalk it up" link is the most embarrassing PR piece I've read in... well, days, anyway. They couldn't have written a more cred-shredding document if they'd set out to.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:51 AM on April 8, 2008


Discussed previously
posted by humanfont at 10:56 AM on April 8, 2008


I know that plenty of regular people have built electric cars themselves. I'm continually surprised there isn't a massive open-sourcey project on the web telling people exactly how to do it.

1) Obtain junker.
2) Remove non-mechanical innards.
3) Purchase motors A, B and C and batteries X, Y and Z.
4) ???
5) ENIVIRONMENT!!!
posted by DU at 10:57 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Money quote:

"Gary Starr and Steve Schneider have likely done more damage to the EV industry than Detroit and the Japanese combined," Scheder-Bieschin says. "And the failure of this industry to thrive has affected everything from global warming to the war on terror. How do you put a price on that?"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:01 AM on April 8, 2008


I've seen Zap Xebra cars in Portland. They're pretty nice, and they're pretty much the most common electric car I've seen.

George_Spiggott writes "That 'chalk it up' link is the most embarrassing PR piece I've read in... well, days, anyway. They couldn't have written a more cred-shredding document if they'd set out to."

They're a Chinese company, I give them a pass. Their auto export market is probably where the Japanese were at in the 70s. Pretty ballsy to put themselves in the same league as Tesla and Copernicus, but come on, it's a PR piece. They're playing up the conspiracy aspect with oil companies, but I've long held that oil prices are a dance with price elasticity. Oil prices are largely inelastic, but at some point when prices are high enough, demand will diminish. Whenever that happens, the prices go down just before people are ready to suck it up and take the switching cost. The oil prices are always as high as possible, but predictably swoop low enough to undercut a viable substitute.
posted by mullingitover at 11:11 AM on April 8, 2008


Wait, they're not Chinese. Who the hell let the engineers write the marketing materials?
posted by mullingitover at 11:12 AM on April 8, 2008


I'm sure it's a very nice golf cart, but until someone starts making an electric car that's at least equal to an internal combustion powered car, I'm not going to be very interested.
posted by Relay at 11:15 AM on April 8, 2008


The Truth About Cars' recent review of the 2008 Zap Xebra was pretty telling.
posted by saladin at 11:16 AM on April 8, 2008


an electric car that's at least equal to an internal combustion powered car

IC cars are overpowered. Just get me an electric car that can get me to work and back in a reasonable amount of time (and without requiring my employer to have an outlet in the parking lot).
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on April 8, 2008


I've seen Zap Xebra cars in Portland. They're pretty nice....

Are you fucking kidding me? They're garbage. No AC, hand-cranked windows, that great golfcart road-feel, fiberglass body, 6.7 horsepower motor, less than 20 mile range. I'm shocked they're street legal. They shouldn't be.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:38 AM on April 8, 2008


I've seen Zap Xebra cars in Portland. They're pretty nice....

Problem is a car is meant to be used, not just seen. They might look nice from afar, but how do they drive? Well, according to the review linked above...


Flat-out and level, the speedometer eventually finds an unsteady waver between thirty-two and thirty-four. A moderate hill quickly drops “speed” into the teens. Every bump, crack and pothole becomes an obstacle to avoid or regret. The motor whines like a hairdryer about to expire (the salesman admits the sedan is even noisier). I have no desire to check the actual range of this motorized wheelbarrow/hair-shirt. Which way is back to the convention center? Why does my xB suddenly feel like a Bentley?

A Xebra owners’ on-line forum reveals a consensus on range: 15 to 17 miles. And there are tales of endless woes of terrible build quality and material defects.


Yeah, I don't really want to pay for the privilege of driving a crappy car with performance on par with a golf cart.

Call me once I can get to work and back in a respectable amount of time and without feeling like a slight crosswind will tear the car's body from around me.
posted by splice at 11:52 AM on April 8, 2008


I'm shocked they're street legal. They shouldn't be.

We need to keep the streets safe for ultra-heavy, gas-guzzling speedsters.
posted by DU at 11:59 AM on April 8, 2008


We need to keep the streets safe for ultra-heavy, gas-guzzling speedsters.

That's almost what I meant. Good job at almost understanding my point! Next time maybe you could try a little harder, and you'll make it all the way!
posted by mr_roboto at 12:02 PM on April 8, 2008


I know that plenty of regular people have built electric cars themselves.

So You Want to Build an Electric Car.
A $672 Electric Car.
Build Your Own Electric Car.
Build an EV.
posted by Floydd at 12:06 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Right, exactly. All those guides put together and with a community and a forum and everything. Basically, I want to download an .iso file that I burn to a CD and then pop into my car stereo which converts the entire thing to be emissions free.

Also maybe a pony.
posted by DU at 12:16 PM on April 8, 2008


I'm shocked they're street legal. They shouldn't be.

We need to keep the streets safe for ultra-heavy, gas-guzzling speedsters.
posted by DU at 1:59 PM on April 8


We need to keep the streets safe for ultra-heavy, gas-guzzling speedsters.

That's almost what I meant. Good job at almost understanding my point! Next time maybe you could try a little harder, and you'll make it all the way!
posted by mr_roboto at 2:02 PM on April 8


Actually that whole bit is quite funny. And, speaking as a cyclist, I would definitely feel safer on the road if there were more cars that weighed less than your average Buick.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 12:27 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


In case it hasn't been mentioned elsewhere, the Tesla is officially NOT vaporware. It turns out that it's really hard to design and manufacture a car. The magazine "Automobile" has a road test in their March issue. They're impressed. Full production began in March. I want one.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 12:33 PM on April 8, 2008


I don't know, Carmody, though Elon Musk got his Tesla Roadster, I'll reserve judgment until I see actual customers get theirs.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:02 PM on April 8, 2008


And, speaking as a cyclist, I would definitely feel safer on the road if there were more cars that weighed less than your average Buick.

I'd actually be a lot happier if cars were flimsy, fragile and with really poor acceleration. And not just as a cyclist/motorcyclist either. I'd drive one. And I'd be very hard to persuade that the result would be less safe overall than what we have now.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:03 PM on April 8, 2008


Floydd, this is my favorite homebuilt EV.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:05 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


hand-cranked windows....

Really? This is a big problem for you? Really? What's next, complaints about the cup holders?

Ours is a very very spoiled culture.
posted by rokusan at 1:24 PM on April 8, 2008


Really? This is a big problem for you? Really

Huge. Simply huge.

Seriously, though. That thing's a clunky fiberclass golf cart. The fit and finish are the first things that hit you though, and they're definitely not "nice".
posted by mr_roboto at 1:46 PM on April 8, 2008


I need a device to get around the region for photography. Cycling is decent transportation but leaves one whipped and whiff if you're in any kind of hurry. I can't kit out a usable electric bicycle for less than two grand -- something that would get me at least 50km at 20-30 klicks before a recharge. (And that's if I build it myself.) More and more it looks like a small gas scooter will be my friend... and yet I resist: I really don't want to use fossil fuel, but it's bar-none the best energy density storage we have. Batteries are years away from being able to do what we need. Maybe I could get a horse...

I guess I don't have a point to make. But I would like some cheese with my whine. Locally produced, please!
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:56 PM on April 8, 2008


I feel sorry for ZAP, from the article it seems like the executives hate their own company (which isn't rare). I've driven one of the three wheeled contraptions.
But I'm looking forward to what Tesla will do.
Youtube videos: Engineer interview, Being driven. Hopefully they can set their sights on and deliver at the lower end of the market soon.
posted by peppito at 5:48 PM on April 8, 2008


Huh. I just saw one of those three-wheeled Zap cars today, and I thought "What the fuck?"
posted by mrgrimm at 6:27 PM on April 8, 2008


Batteries are years away from being able to do what we need.

If by years you mean forever, then yes. I doubt that physics is going to allow us a chemical battery much denser (or cheaper) than what we have now, but perhaps we'll get lucky with some other, as yet undiscovered, mechanism.
posted by cytherea at 11:17 PM on April 8, 2008


cytherea : I doubt that physics is going to allow us a chemical battery much denser (or cheaper) than what we have now, but perhaps we'll get lucky with some other, as yet undiscovered, mechanism.

This guy is doing some interesting work on that.
posted by Drexen at 2:54 AM on April 9, 2008


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