By on October 22, 2011

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…

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3 Comments on “ZAP Still Alive, Alias Still Coming (Or Not)...”

  • avatar

    There used to be a place down the street from me in Venice, CA selling them. They looked like garbage to me then. And of course, building a 3 wheeled “car” for the green market is an old cop out tried by various companies in the past. You see inm most states, even though to your customers ait looks like a car, 3 wheels is a motorcycle and therefor has to meet no safety standards at all for crash worthyness.

  • avatar

    Too bad about Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy; he should know better.

    To think that ZAP is/was a candidate to receive US government/taxpayer largess… this actually makes the Volt look like a good investment by comparison.

  • avatar

    As someone who’s had the “privilege” of driving a Zap, all I can say is kill it with fire, and soon. Scary handling, slow as a snail, quality control that would embarrass Malaise-Era GM. We were forbidden to drive it in the rain because you couldn’t see out of it. After about 4 years, ours is dead. Thankfully.

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