By on July 28, 2009

Even frugal cars need to be desirable. Most electric vehicles are anything but. Right now, EVs are slow, ugly, cheap, and not good to drive. In contrast, the Tazzari Zero from Imola, Italy, wants to be a “wanna have”: great to drive, good to sit in and easy on the eyes. Here’s the data: cast-aluminum, glued frame, central motor, RWD, low center of gravity, Li-Ion Fe batteries. A two-seater that is a bit longer, but lower than a Smart. Weighing just 545 kg (1202 lb), 150 N·m of torque and 15 kW engine power would seem to go a long way. The top speed is 56 mph and it has a range of 88 miles. Gorgeous looks (if you ask me), with a dose of NSU TT attain the right balance of aggressive and cute.


Tazzari (an aluminum foundry) developed the car in cooperation with Bologna University, which supplied the battery management system. Their aim was to make a minicar that drives like a sports car. Videos indicate you can toss it around like a Mini from the 1960s. Tazzari’s guys, when you ask them, can’t stop talking about their priorities: “sport, fun, ecology” (in that order?) Others have called it a “mini-Tesla”, which hopefully applies to the driving experience and not to the price (which at €20K looks reasonable but not cheap).

If this Italian company keeps all its promises, it looks like a car I’d like to have. In any case, I look forward to driving it, which should be possible when it is introduced at the Italian Auto Show in December. We’ll keep you posted.

I had the opportunity to speak with Guy Mannino, a personable ex-Pirelli manager who will be importing the Zero to the US next year. Crash tests are expensive so for the initial year or so, the Zero will be sold in the US as a NEV (neighborhood electric vehicle). That means a maximum speed limit of 35 mph, depending on your location. Guy said that the Tazzari would thus occupy “a niche within a niche.” Who, one might ask, would want to drive a sporty car that is limited to 35 mph? Neighborhood hoons may apply. (Or, alternatively, guys handy with a laptop, to circumvent the electronic speed limiter?)

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17 Comments on “Tazzari Zero: Can an Urban EV Be Sexy?...”


  • avatar
    mwood10

    Does it come with a roof or body panels?

  • avatar

    Yes. And it looks like a blast to drive. But isn’t E20K equivalent to $40k? Might as well have an elise for that and not worry about the range, or having to come in out of the rain.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    It whines louder than a school teacher on Labor Day.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “It whines louder than a school teacher on Labor Day.” Oh, yeah.

    These guys can forget it; the performance numbers just aren’t there, particularly for an American market. And I wouldn’t say it’s gorgeous. Cute, maybe, in a Smart car way.

    It looks like a college science project that kind of works, with a long way to go to make it street-legal.

    And how can any EV call itself “Zero” with a straight face, since all EVs pollute at the power plant?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Martin,

    In almost all states in the US, NEVs are limited to 25mph, not 35. There is a move to make some exceptions, but the NEV route currently is very limiting.

  • avatar
    T2

    No offence but is Bologna University pronounced Baloney ?
    Anyway as a one time member of Starbucks U. I would like to make a comment or two.

    First exactly what is meant by the term “15Kw motor” within this context ?

    The quoted figures usually pertain to the steady state continuous power in a 40 degree C ambient. That said, it’s quite possible for this motor to have a 30-second rating of 45Kw with a corresponding 300% increase in torque – a typical reality of electric powertrains. So, what is it ?

    Of course the real limiting factor here is not the motor power at all but the battery power that the battery is most happy to supply before it overheats and explodes. Incidentally the same criterion applies to the motor. If you’re running around and you find your indicated motor temperature shows cold to warm then someone has either overspec’d the motor for the job OR simply that you’re not driving fast enough.

    Remembering the Baruth creed that there are no slow cars, just slow drivers. The Baruth driver amongst us, therefore, will seek out that sweet spot, that point of Harmony where the motor current is perilously close to burning up the stator winding insulation erstwhile our aware driver seemingly knows to hold off a tad to prevent the motor from actually bursting into flames. Think of it as man’s Quest to get nature into perfect balance, without the need to go out and harm an ecologist, that is.

    Let’s get back to that 15kw because I have another burning question. Let’s agree that 15Kw is the continuous power, but at what road speed ?

    Electric motors are connected to the wheels by a fixed ratio gear. Power is generally proportional to speed with max power being attained at full speed.
    That’s how electronic drives work in industry but that simple philosophy is not good enough for an automobile powertrain with just a single reducer gear. You need that 15Kw much earlier than 75mph or whatever. In the Prius full 50kw of power arrives at 20mph, for GM’s EV1 the 102Kw arrives around 42mph. Of course the lower the road speed the better. The lower you go the larger the motor frame size has to be and perhaps the higher the current capability of the electronics needed. Fortunately however, none of this adversely effects the power draw from the battery.

    In fact when designers were forced to drop the two ratio gearbox from the Tesla and revert back to a single reducer, not surprisingly this is exactly what they did.

    The second thing I have to question is the casual way that some auto journalists -none here of course – toss around motor torque figures.

    Manufacturers should provide details of overall gear ratio and tire diameter, else knowledge of electric motor torque is somewhat meaningless.

    T2

  • avatar
    AG

    Oh! So THAT’S how people hurt them selves fooling around with golf carts!

  • avatar
    Wolven

    Wow… a 40,000 dollar, sporty, coal powered golf cart. Yep, I bet them babies will be just FLYIN’ off the car lot…

    By the way, has anybody calculated out the “fuel” costmile of an EV where you’re paying 10 cents per Kw?

    I’m suspecting that these EVs are like dresses at Macys… ON SALE FOR 50 PERCENT OFF (and STILL 3 times what the same dress costs at Wallmart).

  • avatar
    charly

    Euro 20k inc. tax so it is $25k not $40k

    It is 10 cents per kWh not kW.

    Gasoline is 36.6 kWh per gallon so 36.6 cents but electricity is more efficient so a good guestimate is 10 cent for the equivalent gas use.

    ps. Mid engined is what you want in a gas sports car because that is the heaviest part of the car. In an electric sports car the thing to look for is 4 independent electric engine

  • avatar
    Wolven

    You missed a decimal position… That would be 36.6 kWh x $.10 = $3.66 per gallon of gas equivalent. Hooahh, we’re savin’ money now… :)

    • 0 avatar
      barmen

      not sure how you did your math, but my Zenn (NEV) cost me less than $10 a month and I drive it about 200 miles a week to and from work! That is the FACT !!!!

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @David Holzman :
    Yes. And it looks like a blast to drive. But isn’t E20K equivalent to $40k? Might as well have an elise for that

    A Lotus Elise starts at about €45K.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    T2, it’s pronounced ba-LOAN-ya

    And NEVs are limited to 25mph top speeds and can only travel on roads with speed limits up to 35 mph in most places.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    T2, thanks for your engaging comments — indeed there is a big difference between kWsustainable and kWpeak. I’ll keep your questions in mind next time I interview the maker of an EV.

  • avatar
    charly

    I never make a mistake ;)

    But realistic it will be $1,-

  • avatar
    charly

    @Martin

    kWpeak is the interesting one. It decides how fast the car can accelerate and maximum drain of the battery. kWsustainable is the maximum speed but there are other issues with Vmax so it is probably electronically limited before kWsustainable plays up

  • avatar
    barmen

    I am a member of a local EV club and would love to buy this Tazzari. Does anybody knows if they are available for sale n California? Who sales them? I saw it in Barrett-Jackson show in LA and was amazed, they did not let me drive it though. If it drives like as it looks, WOW. I have Zenn and if you use it as a second vehicle, EV is the best way to travel for short distances. Cheap to operate, have not have any problems, but its ugly :). Never the less, I get more dates and attention in my EV than many of my friends that drive Exotic cars. Can’t go faster than 40 mph (had governor removed) but got pulled over 3 times. Cops wanted to know what kind of car and how it drives. :)
    $25K is a bit expensive but it will worth, especially if you own your own club promotion bzns, like I do. Can’t get this positive attention and perception of being responsible from driving a regular car. Got to be EV :)


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