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A Review On: Zap Electric Cars Xebra Electric Sedan

Zap Electric Cars Xebra Electric Sedan

Rated # 2 in Electric Cars
See all 6 reviews
Review Details:
Style and Comfort
Fuel Efficiency
Purchased on:
Price paid: $16,881.00
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Pros: Quiet, clean, fun to drive, never buy gas

Cons: Badly designed, poorly constructed, not very safe

Note: I'm going to begin with the negative stuff. I hope you'll keep reading to the positive stuff, because this car has both good and bad.

The Zap Xebra SD is a great idea, very poorly executed. There are multiple design flaws, such as suspension that must be replaced for the car to be usable, a charging system that can damage the batteries, extremely inaccurate odometer, speedometer, and volt meter, near-worthless windshield wiper, the motor is open to dust, dirt, road debris, and water and is mounted just over the axle where it is extremely exposed to all this, etc., etc. And the construction is so cheap that any given part is liable to be defective. The original batteries are good for about 15 miles on a charge, but can be replaced with bigger and/or more batteries.

It has only three wheels because this allows it to be licensed as a "motorcycle," thus exempting it from safety regulations, and making it possible for a small company like Zap, without the money for safety testing (which it would fail miserably in any case) to import it and sell it in the U.S. Its saving grace, from a safety standpoint, is that its top speed is around 35 mph for the stock version, and it's always safer to drive slow. Speed kills, and the Xebra doesn't go fast.

The Xebra SD is not very comfortable to sit in. (The PK is much more comfortable.) Getting in and out is awkward, and there is very little rear leg room. The front seats of the SD are uncomfortable.

Having said all that, this is the most fun car to drive I have ever owned! Because it is 100% electric, it never uses gas, and is dead-quiet when stopped, and it has no exhaust. You drive right past gas stations without ever stopping, and you fuel it by plugging it into an ordinary 110-volt electrical outlet.

It looks like it would tip over, with its three wheels, but in fact is amazingly stable. Because it is licensed as a motorcycle (not a NEV: Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) it is not subject to the 25-mph limit most states place on NEVs, and with a heavier battery pack and controller it can be "souped up" to hit 40 mph, or even 50 mph if you install larger rear tires, which effectively increase the "gear" ratio. (There are no gears. This is a one-speed vehicle.)

Hill climbing is weak, but it can climb even pretty steep hills if you have patience.

This car is an attention-getter! It is amazing how many people wave, or shout good words, and how many people will come over to look at it and ask questions when it is parked. (It helps that I had "ELECTRIC" written on it.)

It costs roughly two cents per mile to drive it where I live. (Around 1/3 kwh per mile, so you can calculate what it would cost at your electric rates.) And it is virtually maintenance-free, because it is electric, and electric motors are so simple, compared to gas engines. Unfortunately, the poor construction quality means it is not repair-free, and a number of people have reported batteries failing long before they should.

Because petroleum comes mostly from overseas, and electricity is mostly generated from domestic sources, driving electric does not contribute to our trade deficit, as driving gasoline does.

There are so few electric cars that you can buy right now, that the Xebra is just about the only game in town. A Tesla will set you back $100,000 and if you order it now you'll wait 18 months to two years to get it; ACP won't sell you a $70,000 eBox unless you live in CA; a 5-year-old used Rav4EV will set you back $60,000 if you can find one; a NEV is not allowed to go over 25 mph in most states; and although half a dozen companies or more, including GM, are promising to sell EVs "real soon," not one of them has delivered yet, after years of promising. There are some really cool videos on YouTube of prototype EVs, but none of them is actually available as I write this, and probably won't be for a year or two, and maybe longer.

But the Zap Xebra is available today, and I've been driving mine for ten months now, and for all its many flaws (and there are many, and you must be willing to put up with those if you buy a Xebra) it is my favorite car of any I've ever owned, and the most fun to drive, and the one that most puts a smile on my face every time I get in it.

Oh, and it's pronounced "Zebra."

And if you're concerned about its safety, think of it this way: It's the safest motorcycle you'll ever ride in. (And I imagine it may be the only 4-door, 4-passenger motorcycle in the world!)

I can recommend this car conditionally: If you want to make a statement against the profligate use of gasoline, or you just don't want to use gasoline because it stinks and because gas engines make a lot of noise, and if you are willing to accept the inevitable break-downs and repairs that arise out of its poor construction quality, and if you understand that the sticker price is only part of the cost because you'll have to make some modifications before it's a usable car, and if comfort is not important to you, then you'll probably love it. But if you want a car that just runs without fuss and bother, you'd probably better wait until Toyota builds an electric car. Maybe some day they will. Meanwhile I've got a smile on my face as I toodle along the streets in my three-legged clown car.


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