Critics of the current administration have pointed to the impending bankruptcy of Fisker Automotive and the recent suspension of operations at taxi maker Vehicle Production Group as examples of why the government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in it’s zeal to promote alternative energy. The DoE effort under which those two companies received financing is the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, ATVM. Putting aside political ideologies, contrary to the image given by the apparent failure of Fisker and VPG, the ATVM program actually has a pretty decent track record when it comes to picking winners and losers.
A fight between two makers of cheap Chinese delivery vans will spill over to America – in more ways than one. China’s Jonway is a small carmaker from Zhejiang Province. Usually known for cheap pickup trucks, Jonway launched the Wuxing onto China’s small van segment. That segment is ruled by Wuling, the company that has a joint venture with GM. Jonway is also ruled by an American company: Californian ZAP bought 51 percent of Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Co. Ltd. in 2011. (Read More…)
One of the earliest iterations of the “Low Speed Vehicle Today, World EV Domination Tomorrow” business model to emerge at the dawn of the electric car era was ZAP. But after being exposed on numerous occasions for its poor product quality, vaporware hype and stock manipulation (most infamously in this Wired story), ZAP disappeared from the EV scene in the US (the company’s official (read: sanitized) history can be found here). Last we heard, ZAP was hyping a venture with the Korean optics firm Samyang, but it seems the firm has spending the last year or so putting down roots in the Chinese market. Having merged with Jonway, the Chinese maker of scooters, ATVs and a CUV that looks suspiciously like the Toyota RAV4, ZAP came back to the US for the Automotive X-Prize, which it contested in a ZAP Alias, the three-wheeled, $38k vehicle that has not been produced in volume although the company is still accepting deposits for it. The Alias failed to finish in the X-Prize, but ZAP says that revenue from Jonway is funding the vehicle’s continued development (including a four-wheeled version)… which was supposed to debut way back in 2009.
Now Consumer Reports says the firm is focusing on selling electric RAV4 knockoffs produced by Jonway as it continues to work on the Alias. But the firm seems to have burnt too many bridges in the US, as it says it will focus on selling the EVs in China and other world markets… despite the fact that developing market EV sales are going nowhere. But ZAP has left something of a legacy in the US: Senator Mitch McConnell, a critic of government loans for Solyndra, apparently pushed for a quarter-billion dollar federal loan to ZAP, opening him to charges of hypocrisy. Now, as ever, ZAP remains a fascinating fixture at the margins of the EV scene. And though it’s an interesting company to watch, it’s best when viewed from a safe distance…
Does Tesla’s S-1 SEC filing leave you worried about the state of EV startups? The great thing about the seamy underbelly of the EV industry is that there’s always a shadier prospect out there to make even marginal cases like Tesla look good. Our perennial favorite in the EV vapor game is ZAP, the erstwhile maker of the Xebra EV (interestingly, the Xebra still shows up on ZAP’s webpage). Zap’s latest play in its never-ending quest for press-release fodder: a tie-up with (get this) a South Korean optics company, best known for its camera lenses and closed circuit TV security systems. Because sometimes you have to cross an ocean to find a sucker big enough to say things like:
Samyang decided to partner with ZAP because of its extensive industry knowledge in electric vehicle production and the breadth and maturity of its current line of electric vehicles