ZAP (Zero Air Pollution) has been building electric vehicles since 1994 and claims to have delivered more than 117,000 vehicles of various kinds to military, government and corporate fleets. Its Alias sports car survived the Progressive Automotive X-PRIZE Shakedown stage earlier this month and is now one of 27 vehicles contending for a share of the competition’s $10 million pot.
“In the ‘90s, no one really cared about electric vehicles,” says ZAP CEO Steve Schneider, “but now, all these years of trying practical applications are finally starting to pay off for us.”
Chevrolet is touting the Volt and Nissan is generating interest in its Leaf. “There are enough early adopters for one or two suppliers to put vehicles on the road and validate the idea, but range anxiety will continue to be an issue for some time,” Schneider says. “I don’t believe that electric vehicle technology is mature enough for the consumer market yet.”
But fleets are another story, and that’s where ZAP is concentrating its efforts. Taxi fleets in China, to be more specific. ZAP and the Holley Group, known for manufacturing electric power meters, formed a joint venture called ZAP Hangzhou that in turn is partnering with Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Co. to manufacture an electric version of Zhejiang’s A-380, a 5-door SUV.
“Taxis in China are very economical, and they are a perfect application for electric vehicles. They don’t need expensive rapid charge technology, and they are not a source of pollution no matter how long they sit and idle,” Schneider says.
“Other countries are pushing electric vehicle technology but the Chinese are further ahead than anyone else. Clean coal, electric vehicles, and the power grid are the focus of the people at the top there. The Chinese will use electric vehicles on a large basis, and as they do, the technology will be refined. We should be able to bring that refinement back to the U.S. We’re in the right place at just the right time.”