Zap-X - Lotus Designed All-Electric Sports Car
May 2, 2007 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Zap! is releasing their next electric car and it looks g-r-e-a-t As an electric car enthusiast and a big fan of the Tesla Roadster, I was excited to see more companies entering the sort of mainstream electric car market, even though we don't know when these will come out or what their MSRP will be like, though I'm sure it'll be pretty comparable to the Tesla's beefy $90k tag.
posted by lesseffective (30 comments total)
I don't care what it takes, that tesla is going to be my next car.
posted by phaedon at 9:21 PM on May 2, 2007

Is this vapourware?
posted by wilful at 9:39 PM on May 2, 2007

one of the most advanced electric cars ever developed...[with] on-board carputer: Windows XP

Hee. Oxymoron.

(and "carputer" is a very silly word)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:39 PM on May 2, 2007

error, does not carpute.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:51 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I suspect this is a penny stock scam. It's an OTC listed company; not on any major exchange. They claim they can recharge in 9 minutes, and the car meets every spec people want from an electric car. They promise to have cars shipping any day now, but so far they just have a mockup, that doesn't actually drive in the video they show. Anyone can pay Lotus design to mock up a car for them. Given their total market cap of 50 million, you'd think that if all their tech worked like they said, that maybe a real car company would buy them and take the thing to market. If they really had a crossover SUV like vehicle that sat 5 passengers, recharged in 10 minutes, went 350 miles, and could be produced for under $40k, someone would have bought them.
posted by humanfont at 9:57 PM on May 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yeah, nothing they've got looks real, except the Xero, which looks like they stuck an ordinary lead-acid battery system in some oddball Tatra or some other former Eastern Bloc body. I know guys here in town who could build one of those from scratch in under a week if you supplied the body and running gear.

There are a million tip-offs that it's bullshit (lithium battery, "biodegradable non-explosive"??) But mostly it's the huge collection of quantum technological leaps what they're shown to be able to do to what they claim they'll be shipping in no time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:16 PM on May 2, 2007

Zap is located in my hometown, they're legit in terms of a) they actually do exist and b) i see their scooters all over town. They have several small car models in their storefront and I see them tooling around town sometimes, but they're not street legal or something so they don't actually sell the cars. It's weird. And I'm still not clear on the concept of a car manufacturer which makes cars that it cannot sell.
posted by nerdcore at 10:30 PM on May 2, 2007

So the 'advanced batteries' are stored in the rear passenger's foot? I get it, they're Flintstones cars.
posted by IronLizard at 11:00 PM on May 2, 2007

Tesla's also talking about building a more traditional sedan. I've always thought that company has more credibility since they seem to have legitimate money behind them, but who knows?

It isn't terribly surprising to see the major manufacturers shy away from battery technology. Nobody wants to be first to make a huge investment in such a risky proposition, especially considering the financial trouble automakers are in today.

And you can't forget, the buying public is fickle. If gas prices go down, sales of gas models go up. Look at what happened to hybrids over the past year. Gas prices went down, and they had to slap incentives on the Prius to move them. It will be interesting to see the market reaction now that gas prices are hovering around $3 in the US again.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:58 AM on May 3, 2007

This is ridiculous. So, somehow, this magical company found a way around every trade-off in EVs? They lost me at 350 miles on a 10-minute charge...
posted by spiderskull at 2:02 AM on May 3, 2007

Speed: 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds with top speed of 155 mph; Mileage & Range: 350 miles per charge; about 1 cent per mile; rapid 10 minute re-charge; 9,000 life cycles

I. Don't. Think. So.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:12 AM on May 3, 2007

Zap has been trading off of their promise to import and convert grey market Smart ForTwos for the past, what, six years? I believe they sold a grand total of two, but every few months for this entire time I would get emails saying, "Any day now!"

So, yeah. Zap may have a web site and some scooters, but I don't think there are any actual products coming out of that company. Check one conversation about Zap here.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:21 AM on May 3, 2007

Their logo alone suggests this isn't a "real" company.

Assuming this thing is as efficient as the Tesla roadster claims it's going to be, it will probably consume about 220 watts per mile. To go 350 miles, it will need to store 77 kilowatt-hours of juice on board.

To charge that in 10 minutes under ideal conditions, using your 240 volt power supply at the house? You'd need to charge it at a rate of 462 kilowatts per hour, or 1925 amps. I'm not an expert, but I'm not sure you can provide that much power at 240 volts without something melting.
posted by maxwelton at 2:58 AM on May 3, 2007

To charge that in 10 minutes under ideal conditions, using your 240 volt power supply at the house?

It's true, there have been some advances with lithium-based batteries lately. As you should easily be able to find out searching the web. I'm pretty sure none of them are claiming you can charge in 10 minutes with a normal 240V household plug. ZAP is to be using ABAT batteries, but there are a couple of other companies as well making similar claims of greatly improved performance for their new batteries; Altair is probably the most well-known. Phoenix is another EV-maker plans to use them. Also, for those who immediately assume that anything they've never heard of is a "penny stock scam" or the like, Toshiba.

It'll still probably be a while before these are really ready for the mainstream. I just bought a new car; by the time it's worn out, I expect my next one will be a hybrid able to go on batteries alone 90% of the time.
posted by sfenders at 4:18 AM on May 3, 2007

Electric cars don't exist (except for the wealthy). Battery technology is not here yet. Sure, you can buy a Telsa, but don't complain when 4 or 5 years later after 40,000 miles you need to lay out another $20,000 for new batteries. It doesn't take much to stack a few thousand laptop batteries in the trunk of a car, that is not en engineering marvel, it's poor design and good marketing.
posted by stbalbach at 4:26 AM on May 3, 2007

I still don't get the Tesla thing. Remind me again why putting a $50,000 electric motor and batteries and adding hundreds of pounds to a Lotus Elise is a "breakthrough"?
posted by centerpunch at 5:02 AM on May 3, 2007

That Tesla is teh HAWT!! (Great name for a car too.)
posted by Skygazer at 6:02 AM on May 3, 2007

Well, electric drive does have advantages for a sports car application. For one, you have max torque at 0rpms. Just BAM!! Power. Right. Now. Secondly, designers have a lot more flexibility in where to place the weight. Ideally, you want the weight balanced between all four tires, you want it down low for a lower center of gravity, and you want it towards the center for low polar moment of inertia. Being able to place the batteries wherever weight is most desireable (err, least undesirable?) is a huge positive. Indeed, much of the build process of a race car is getting the weight where you want it.

You could even do some dynamic weight-shifting stuff, kinda like traction control -- slide the batteries to the rear for launch or braking, for example. Or use them to balance the varying load of different drivers & passengers. (Okay, the added weight of such a system would surely outweigh the benefits, but it sounds like something Mitsubishi would do...)

I expect that within 20 years electric drive will be the Way To Go. The big, big negative is that modern batteries are heavy. That will change.
posted by LordSludge at 6:57 AM on May 3, 2007

I am so ready to buy an electric car, but I won't be buying one from a company called "Zap!" That seems like asking for trouble.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 7:23 AM on May 3, 2007

I was intrigued, especially when I found there was a dealer in the NW.

From the Current Inventory section of you can see 2 actual Zap Xebras.

Both of those little around-towners are a far cry from the Zap-X, but the company does have actual products.
posted by Revvy at 7:32 AM on May 3, 2007

Sure, you can buy a Telsa, but don't complain when 4 or 5 years later after 40,000 miles you need to lay out another $20,000 for new batteries.

All I can ever think when I see a decent-looking electric car is, "Zero torque curve". The cost doesn't even enter into it.
posted by yerfatma at 8:20 AM on May 3, 2007

(Looks at picture) - 'Nano Solar Cells'? What, they've perfected nanotechnology as well? I guess that explains a lot.
posted by Orb2069 at 9:11 AM on May 3, 2007

I'd no sooner drive a car made by a company called Zap! than I'd eat at a restaurant called Burp!
posted by dobbs at 9:14 AM on May 3, 2007

sfenders, it doesn't matter what type of batteries, you simply cannot move that much current in that short a time through the connections you have available at your house. If there's an engineer in the house, can you confirm that?
posted by maxwelton at 9:57 AM on May 3, 2007

The big, big negative is that modern batteries are heavy. That will change.

This is the problem that I see. All contemporary battery development that I know of is for small consumer electronics, like cell phones. I don't know of anyone doing large commercial battery design.

Which is too bad because it would behoove both solar power and electric vehicle.

But I don't work in that industry so maybe it is there and I haven't seen it.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 10:07 AM on May 3, 2007

I am in the market for a car and have been researching AFV. It's really painful that there aren't more auto companies trying to make vehicles that don't run on gasoline alone, the options are so limited and the demand is only growing as awareness does.

This ZAP car is total vaporware at the moment from what I have read. Lotus agreed to help them with the design but as of yet have not delivered anything other then drawings-- no actual models or anything that could be turned into a functional vehicle.

They're asking for a $25k deposit on a car projected to cost between $60k-$75k with a projected delivery date of 24 months (and they don't have plans or any machinery built yet). I think that's pretty suspect.
posted by cell divide at 10:13 AM on May 3, 2007

The best way to estimate the charge current is to go from the $0.01/mile claim, about 1/10th of a kilowatt hour per mile, or 35kWh per charge. 35kWh at 240V is 146 Amp hours. To do that in 10 minutes would require 875 Amps, which is more than double the capacity of 0000 gauge wire.

Household electrical service pretty much maxes out at 400 Amps, for McMansions. 100 Amp, and even 60 Amp services are still very common, with most average newish homes somewhere in between (for the whole house - turn off the lights to charge the car?!?!).

The real issue, at that kind of current, is demand billing. My initial assumption was that demand billing doesn't apply, I just assumed a typical household rate ($0.10/kWh). For a commercial facility, drawing 1000A, even once in a month, would cost about $3,000 (at $12.75/kW, see link).
posted by Chuckles at 10:59 AM on May 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're right to be skeptical. I owned a little stock in Zap for years until late last year, when it was pretty clear that they'll say anything to get their numbers up...including boldly claiming in a series of press releases that US car dealers have placed $1 billion in advance orders with them for Mercedes Benz Smart Cars. Only to have MB respond with "we don't think so."

Zap's numbers have been rock-bottom (with no fluctuation) ever since. They'd love for the Lotus deal to see the light of day, but spaced out over ten years or so, when there have been enough ups and downs to make every insider happy.

At the end of the day, I love their mission. If only it were real. Apart from zippy scooters and golf-cart-sized carlets, it's not.
posted by diastematic at 11:24 AM on May 3, 2007

APX lightweight aluminum architecture

No way would I buy an aluminum car.
posted by Doohickie at 6:37 PM on May 3, 2007

I'd no sooner drive a car made by a company called Zap! than I'd eat at a restaurant called Burp!

On the other hand, I'd totally eat at a restaurant called Burp!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:52 PM on May 3, 2007

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