Pros: No gas, faster than NEVs, quirky/cute styling, available now not 2012, easy parking, sharp steering radius, inexpensive to fuel, less maintenance
Cons: My Xebra is from the first production run, but I love it warts and all, it even has stripes.
I'm a die-hard EV nut, got the bug a long time ago. My problem is I never had much money or time to devote to building and developing EVs. That's why Xebra has always been just perfect for me. I've always liked ZAP's approach of electric bikes, scooters, now motorcycles, cars and trucks. And I'm proud to say I have come to own many of these since they started in 1994. It's sort of weird seeing so many people jumping on the electric bandwagon when ZAP has forged through very tough times in pioneering this market. But you have to be encouraged as an EV owner to have this growing support. I wish more people would start buying and using EVs now so it sends a stronger signal of our demand for cleaner alternatives. I think this is the only way to truly force the change from society at large.
I also love my mid-size SUV, my truck, and it tears me up inside. Why should owning something so cool be so bad? When you consider all the math between the Xebra and my truck it makes me think that our transportation choices need to get a lot smarter, including my own. Of course this same math tells me that driving my Xebra every day is costing me at least one-tenth of the operating cost of my truck. So every day I'm driving Xebra I know I'm doing the best for my own pocketbook. It's so cheap that I actually don't feel totally awful about owning my truck because it's there if I need it. Put the two of them together and it's like owning a hybrid. Although I find myself needing my truck less and less these days. Poor guy, sitting out in the driveway all alone.
I've always wanted an electric car ever since I took my first ride in one in 1991. I was hoping to get my hands on an EV1, but we all know how that turned out. That was when I decided to get a hold of some other kind of electric car. Eventually I reclaimed an abandoned conversion that had only 2500 miles on it. All it took was a new set of batteries and I was easily hitting freeways speeds, although it was difficult to get to practical ranges and after about three years I had cooked the batteries and the speed controller of the hand-built car. The great thing is that the dealership took my electric car as a trade-in and I came to own one of the first, and one of the only striped Xebras.
I drive my Xebra almost every day. It's certainly a step up from my ZAP bike and scooter and at under $9,999 I feel like I got a good deal as one of the first customers since their production costs rose. I use it for all the city driving I do and my truck gets left at home. The only time I ever go to the gas station anymore is to check my tires. It gets a lot of attention as I drive around, but after 2-1/2 years and 5,000 miles the novelty from people has subsided, but it's always fun to drive by families with kids who smile and point, or are they laughing?
See, I know the Xebra looks funny, which is why I love it. It looks like one of those rocket ships from the Sci Fi films of the 60s, although the Xebra stripes kind of make you think of some gaudy accessory. I found some cheap zebra-patterned blankets for the seats and I find myself looking at all sorts of Xebra accessories. I heard they stopped making Xebra stripes because it is actually an expensive and time-consuming process. I get weird comments sometimes, mostly shouted from guys in trucks!? But I've learned something about car owners that I never truly understood before. Cars are about class. Too many people look at cars as status symbols and it has created this perception of what cars should be and shouldn't. People have started reaching for better, faster, sexier cars to keep up with the joneses. It's this same greed that created the economic bubble that is bursting in the US. The same greed that supersized our meals, our stores and our cars. The same greed that made me buy my truck, shoot.
But my truck is AWESOME! I got lost on a logging road once and we went over mountains, over glaciers, through rivers. I almost wished I could have filmed a commercial. Xebra would never be able to do that. On the flipside, I hate having my truck when I'm driving around town doing errands and going back and forth to work. Finding parking, watching my fuel guage so I'm conserving fuel, feeling guilty about using 10 times the amount of precious natural resources.
Xebra has its shortcomings. The styling could be better. The construction was very rudimentary. The appointments could have been more carefully selected. The parts and components could have been upgraded. But you know what? If ZAP spent more time and money on these things I certainly don't think they would have been able to sell me a car for under $10,000.
People say the Xebra is slow, but you have to wonder about these people because that is like calling water wet. The Xebra wasn't designed to be fast—get over it. It goes 0 to 60 in, well, never, unless you're one of those maniacs who modifies his/her Xebra. Could it go faster? How much more money do you want to throw at it? Me, none. Xebra is fine the way she is. When I'm driving I make that bionic sound, n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n.
When you look at my truck, which is made by a stellar US automaker, it is bold and brash, able to traverse mountains, with GPS navigation, power everything, room for 7, there is no comparison… that is, except for the price. And I'm sorry to say that for all the money I paid for my truck and how nifty all the bells and whistles are, there is a serious underlying quality issue that I'm not going to go into, not to mention being an ICE. Sorry Charlie. The scary part is that I'll be paying off my truck forever, when my Xebra is free and cleared. The Xebra actually helps equalize things and I'm grateful for that.
Xebra has a lot more blessings. It is very fun to drive. It's like a magic carpet ride. It has never felt tippy to me because of the weight of the batteries anchoring down the center of gravity. At speeds 40 MPH and below there is no danger of tippage, and I've tried to the point of squealing the tires. This three-wheeled stance thing offers pretty amazing maneuverability. Makes me look forward to seeing how the ZAP Alias will turn out. In Xebra I can cut through traffic and parking lots better than the bigger cars around me. Xebra can pull U-turns you never dreamed were possible before.
The quality is a little chintzy, but other than a few items that were repaired under warranty, and from a first production run no less, it has run smoothly ever since. I guess I could start totaling up the money saved from all the trips to the mechanic and the oil stop I would have had to do with my truck in that 2-1/2 years. I wish I had more range so I wouldn't have to use my truck so much, but the daily range I drive is under 15 miles. I've heard they can get a lithium battery for the Xebra that will go over 100 miles and I do the math and think, "Do I really want to spend 2 hours driving a Xebra?" I could never really justify the cost either, which I think is more than I paid for the Xebra! If I truly thought about it I almost feel guilty for getting the Xebra because I've driven it to 27 miles on a charge and I never use that much range. I probably should have never gotten a truck or Xebra and just bought a Zapino, but that's another story. A Zapino wouldn't fit all my stuff and maybe Santa will bring me one some day.
Does it feel unsafe? A motorcycle class EV is not designed to hold up in a crash like my truck. But when you consider the insurance between the Xebra and my truck, does that mean my truck is 2-3 times as dangerous? Perhaps, to the other drivers. Is driving a Xebra actually safer? At slower speeds, it has seemed to me that there is much less danger of being in a collision. Of course there is a level of risk you would need to assume. But a Xebra in the hands of a good, defensive driver probably has as much chance as everyone around them of escaping an accident. Imagine what would happen if you were on one of those stupid Harleys in an accident! At least Xebra has stripes and you would have to be a total idiot not to see her coming. Of course most people who drive big trucks are total idiots, wait a minute?!
I have read so many people trashing Xebra online that I can only hope to provide some counteroffensive. It seems that with cars everyone is a critic and even I must remind myself what we are truly up against, oil. Exxon Mobile made $46 billion last year alone. No. 2 Chevron, a paltry $26 billion. Maybe they should get together and give the US a bailout? And maybe they'll buy back my truck for the price I paid for it; if ever.