In March of 2008, WIRED magazine ran a scathing article about ZAP motor company. The article detailed the numerous shady management moves and undelivered promises made by the company. For example, ZAP promised to become a dealer of Smart cars and Obvio gasoline/ethanol flex-fuel vehicles, but failed on both fronts. It's certainly a fair criticism to say that ZAP has a history of making grandiose promises and failing to live up to them.
On the other hand, the company has a pretty impressive list of products currently available. They offer
- electric bicycle kits
- low-speed electric scooters
- the Zapino electric moped
- electric all-terrain vehicles
- an electric outboard motor for boats
- the recharge-it-all line of battery rechargers and universal battery backup systems
- a number of variations of the Xebra electric car, including a sedan, truck, and even the Xero which has solar panels to allow for trickle charging of the battery.
Among these products, my personal experience is that the recharge-it-all is a very good and useful device to have, the Zapino is a good quality moped, and while the Xebra doesn't have great range (20-25 miles per charge unless you upgrade the battery), it does have a top speed of 35-40 mph, which makes it more popular than neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) with a top speed of 25 mph. The Xebra is also used by several large companies, including Domino's, UPS, and El Pollo Loco.
Overall you have to admit, although ZAP hasn't delivered on its most promising and ambitious vehicles, that is an impressive product line.
On top of that, ZAP recently broke ground on an electric car factory in Kentucky. The prototype highway-speed ZAP Alias has been proposed for production at the plant, which will have an initial capacity of producing 300 vehicles per day starting in late 2009, which is roughly when ZAP plans to begin manufacturing the Alias. So not only is ZAP bringing jobs to the United States to build electric cars here (eliminating concerns about the quality of Chinese-made EVs), but they're one big step closer to making production of a ZAP highway-speed relatively affordable (expected to cost $32,500) electric car a reality.
Considering all these facts, criticisms of ZAP's management and failures to deliver their most highly-touted vehicles are certainly warranted. However, it's important to give ZAP credit for their accomplishments as well. Their product line is quite impressive, and willingness to manufacture electric cars in the United States is a promising sign. It will be very telling if ZAP is able to deliver on its promises regarding the Alias.
How do you guys feel about ZAP?