We enter an historic time with real, mainstream electric cars poised to come to market. Still, there seems to be a great deal of confusion and controversy around them, which is one reason why we like the new documentary premiering in Hollywood on December 14, “What is the Electric Car?” but not the only reason.
NEW! – Slide Show from Premiere
We really like “What is the Electric Car?” because our very own Ginny is one of the stars of the film. Yes, THE Virginia (Ginny) Scales-Medeiros, mother of two, entrepreneur, inventor, auto maven and electric car proponent extraordinaire.
The story of how Ginny earned a role in the documentary “What is the Electric Car?” is somewhat ironic. Ginny is perhaps the most outgoing, gregarious person we work with, and the perfect person to help represent ZAP for its Detroit Auto Show debut. 2010 was the very first year that Detroit’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) hosted a display dedicated to electric cars called “Electric Avenue.” ZAP was invited to display its Alias electric car in Detroit as part of the lead-up to the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE.
Now, working an auto show is tough, but Detroit is a doozy, running for two weeks. We were confident in Ginny though, and naturally she came out a champ, fielding inquiries for ZAP, helping make valuable connections and introducing ZAP to Motor City. It was during the show that we met up with Scott duPont, Cam MacGregor, and Ken Grant, producers from the documentary “What is the Electric Car?” walking around the show gathering material for the up-coming film. He came by the X PRIZE booth and arranged an interview with ZAP executive Eric Peterson who also appears in the documentary. He gave them a quick update on the company and the ZAP Alias and they were off to meet with other electric car experts and we thought that was the end of it.
Little did we know, the producers were on a quest to find “real electric car owners.” There were a host of people representing electric cars at the Detroit Auto Show, but only a very few who actually owned one and used it on a daily basis. Leave it to Ginny to find this out, not on the show floor, but during the complimentary continental breakfast at the Holiday Inn, Detroit.
According to Ginny, she remembers walking out of the elevator still wearing her pajamas and feeling embarrassed when she noticed Scott duPont wearing his usual smart, show-biz attire. She was eating breakfast and it was somewhat busy, but she overheard duPont saying he was looking for someone who actually drives an electric car, and being Ginny, she spoke up immediately.
“I drive an electric car,” she interjected.
You probably had to be there, but she laughs when she remembers the look the producers gave her.
“They looked at me in my pajamas like I just got out of bed with this expression, as if to say, ‘Yeah, right.’ They must have thought I was one of those groupies who will say anything to get a part in a movie.”
“You mean you’ve driven one?” duPont asked.
“‘No, I have nothing else but an electric car.’ I could tell they were skeptical at first. But I told them my whole story.”
Ginny told the producers all about how she started driving an electric car. She was just winding down from promoting her own product and was offered a job by ZAP’s CEO Steve Schneider who had worked with her in the past and had known her for over 20 years. In 2007, she started checking out the Xebra truck and tried a lease on one from ZAP. She was also driving a Mercedes S Class, but quickly realized she could save a lot of money by driving electric while meeting 95% of her daily driving, putting 600-800 miles per month in it. She also checked out PG&E’s E-9 Meter Program for electric car owners, which helps her get a discount on her utility bill. One of the perks of having the E-9 meter is that she is charged a lower rate during off peak hours and she estimates saving $100 or more a month on her overall utility bill. Subtract that from her lease and insurance, she estimates the Xebra is only costing her about $20 a month with the savings from the E-9 program. The insurance is so much less because the Xebra is classified as a low-speed motorcycle. She realized she could rent a gas car if she needed to take an extended trip, but even if she rented a car three times a month, it was still cheaper than the Mercedes, which she estimates was costing about $1,000 a month.
“This has become my main message to people about switching to an electric car,” says Ginny. “It’s fun helping people learn about electric cars and I also educate businesses when I drive around Santa Rosa and ask to plug in. People say, ‘How much is that going to cost me?’ When I reply, ‘Maybe 15 cents,’ they do a double-take, but when I show them how my old Mercedes was costing me $1,000 per month and a ZAP Xebra only $20 a month, they really start to get it. Also, I tell people that they don’t have to wait for electric cars; there are many affordable electric vehicles already on the market. That’s my main message.”
At this point, duPont was probably realizing that he had found what he was looking for, and an even rarer breed at that, someone that only drove an electric car. He asked for photos and video of Ginny with her electric car. He asked if he could see copies of her PG&E utility bill and information about the E-9 meter. He asked if he came to visit, would she show him her electric car.
Recently we learned that Ginny has a prominent role in the film, which includes some 50 electric car owners with their stories. With the film due to premier in Hollywood next week, Ginny is excited that she will be appearing, partly from a personal standpoint in educating people about electric transportation, but also because it helps ZAP.
“I’m proud to be a part of ZAP. I love living a simple, healthy lifestyle and ZAP has helped me accomplish this. I love being an entrepreneur, educating people about a better way to drive and making a difference for society. Working for ZAP let’s me do all that, and drive electric cars. It’s fun!”
One of our employees, Jeff Gettys, caught the preview screening last month and said it was great. The rest of us are looking forward to seeing it, not to mention Ginny, who is planning on attending the Hollywood Premier on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at the Historic Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian at 6712 Hollywood Blvd. Ginny hasn’t stopped there. Now, she is talking to the producers about holding a showing of “What is the Electric Car?” in ZAP’s home town of Santa Rosa. Stay tuned, and please support the wonderful makers of the documentary by visiting the Official Website at http://www.whatistheelectriccar.com/ for ticket and DVD sales.
And don’t forget. If you use Facebook, you can enter to win a 100% electric car that will be given away December 14 simply when you ‘Like’ the Fan Page for “What is the electric car?”
ZAP Jonway Co-CEO Steve Schneider was interviewed by AutoSohu at 2010 Global Automotive Forum. In the video he is asked about Chinese policies towards alternative fueled vehicles and said that electric vehicles would be favored because of their potential to reduce carbon emissions.
The Zap Alias won the on-line poll for the most attractive car, but this car is far more than just a pretty face. An efficient and quick three-wheeled side-by-side, this electric vehicle carries a 32 kWh advanced lithium-ion phosphate battery made by one of the largest BEV manufacturers in the US, yet it still weighed in at a modest 2733 pounds. This car showed innovation in both its design and execution, yielding excellent performance and efficiency. Class: Alternative Side by Side No. of wheels: Three Passengers: Two Drive type: Battery electric, front-wheel-drive Battery type: 32 kwh, lithium-ion Charging: 110v or 220v Thankz for the great video, XPRIZE! Watch more videos at the XPRIZE Foundation YouTube Channel.
See More on ZAP Alias Electric Car Blog:
A video production team from Earth2Tech Media’s Green Overdrive came out to ZAP on Monday to test drive our latest vehicles and meet ZAP Alias XPRIZE driver Al Unser Junior. Katie Fehrenbacher and Chris Albrecht also caught up with ZAP CEO Steve Schneider and Founder Gary Starr.
Fehrenbacher acknowledged that ZAP is one of the oldest electric vehicle companies out there and asked Starr about ZAP’s initial approach. Starr said ZAP started in 1994 by focusing on affordable electric vehicles, introducing electric bicycles, scooters, ATVs, trucks, then eventually cars. During the segment Fehrenbacher has some fun on ZAP’s smallest EV, the wheel motor driven ZAPPY3 electric scooter.
ZAP also presented its new project with China’s Jonway Auto, an all electric SUV project launched a year ago. Fehrenbacher brought up ZAP’s recent acquisition agreement to acquire a majority share in Jonway Auto with the right to acquire the rest by next year. They went for a drive at freeway speeds in the ZAP Jonway all electric A380, a test drive eerily reminiscent of a video taken in December 2009. Fehrenbacher asked how fast the electric SUV goes and ZAP engineer Joe Rajakaruna pointed out that they have never focused on top speeds, because for ZAP’s target market the focus is to comfortably travel freeway speeds, and indeed at minute 2:30 in the video Fehrenbacher estimates they easily reach 60 MPH. The ZAP Jonway electric A380 is the official electric vehicle of the U.S. Pavilion at the World Fair in Shanghai.
Later Fehrenbacher caught up with CEO Steve Schneider, touching on media reports critical of ZAP’s “failures” in delivering electric vehicles, a question that completely ignores the fact that ZAP has delivered over 117,000 of a broad range of electric vehicles from bikes, to scooters, to trucks.
Q: Katie Fehrenbacher: You talk a little bit about being misconstrued as a marketing company and a little bit about some of ZAP’s failures – SS: Mis-categorized — in being able to scale up manufacturing wise and I think there’s been a variety of dates missed on commercial productions that’s been widely reported…”
A: Steve Schneider: And I don’t think if you looked at any other auto manufacturer that is introducing a vehicle, that the dates that we targeted, (and we’re not a manufacturer; we had the contracts but we had third parties to deal with besides ourselves, but I don’t think you could come up with a manufacturer that hasn’t come out with a product that has missed their target date and had control of their manufacturing), we never had control of our manufacturing, so we always gave the target dates that our contract manufacturers had given to us. And so, because of those things and missing those target dates, we focused very heavily in the last 18 months to have our own manufacturing capacity so that we can control that. We still might miss a target date like everyone else, but at least we’re in control of it, we were not in control of it before.
Despite the inquiry on ZAP’s ability to deliver electric vehicles, there is no mention in Green Overdrive’s video of its most popular EV currently, the ZAP XL electric truck. ZAP recently sold a small fleet of electric trucks to the City of Riverside. Likewise, there was no mention of ZAP’s engineering contract with the U.S. Postal Service to convert one of its Long Life Vehicles to run on electricity. Obviously there is much more going on at ZAP than you can cover in a 5 minute video. You can watch a 30 minute tour of ZAP by Steve Schneider on YouTube that covers the XL truck and USPS contract.
Finally, Fehrenbacher interviewed Al Unser Jr., two-time winner of the Indy 500 and co-driver for the ZAP Alias team entered in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE.
Katie Fehrenbacher: So you’re doing this partly for environmental reasons, becoming a do-gooder after a lifetime of driving race cars.
Al Unser Jr.: I’m doing this mainly to develop the automobile in the area of alternative fuels and getting away from the addiction to the petroleum products.
KF: What do you think of it compared to a gas based car?
AU: I loved it , the major difference first and foremost is how quiet it is; there’s just no sound coming out of it. And it’s instant power, I noticed that the torque is very high on it, when you drive the car, it drives just like a regular car, except again for how quiet it is, it’s just super quiet.
KF: You think that’s a good thing, you don’t miss the big, booming engines?
AU: Not at all.
Learn more about the ZAP Alias Team entered in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE on their Team Blog.
See more at Earth2Tech’s Green Overdrive.
Clips from a recent tour of the factory for the Jonway A380 SUV. Jonway Automobile of Sanmen, China is subject of a recent business agreement for majority acquisition, 51%, by ZAP electric vehicles of California. For details on the transaction, click the link below:
KGO Television News reporter Heather Ishimaru visited ZAP last week from the San Francisco ABC affiliate to learn more about its project in China to supply electric taxis to the fleet market. ZAP has partnered with Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Co. Ltd. to start pilot assembly of A380 SUVs with ZAP’s proprietary drivetrain at a new facility in Hangzhou. Chairwoman Priscilla Lu spoke to KGO as well as new Chief Operating Officer David Jones. The ZAP Alias, which is competing in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, also appears.
For the complete article, visit KGO ABC News – San Francisco:
SANTA ROSA, CA (KGO) — A Santa Rosa electric car company is set to marry its tech know-how with China’s emerging industrial power. The goal is to break into the car market in China, which is expected to become the biggest in the world. ZAP car, or the Zero Air Pollution car, just signed a deal to mass produce its SUV taxi.
The ZAP car and all-electric SUV sits in Zap’s Santa Rosa showroom. Right now, only a handful of them exist, but ZAP Chairman Priscilla Lu hopes that someday soon there will be thousands of them rolling through the streets of China’s biggest cities as taxis.
“Not all of them will convert immediately, but the government is committed in order to reduce pollution, to have as many of these taxis become electric vehicles,” says Lu.
And she says the government is backing that commitment with subsidies.
“There is not only subsidies for manufacturers to deliver these vehicles, but also the city government who actually owns the taxi business, if you will, is committed to make this happen because it has the support of the central government,” says Lu.
Lu wants ZAP to be first in line for those subsidies; it just signed a deal for mass production with Chinese automaker Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Ltd.
“Right now, the particular partner that we have is capable of producing 4,000 vehicles per month and scaling up to 6,000,” says Lu.
The SUV taxi runs on 117 lithium batteries. It can go about 180 miles before recharging. The batteries are positioned underneath the car, so cargo and passenger space are preserved. The sales price will be between $20,000 and $30,000.
The ZAP sports car, Alias, was just shown at the Beijing auto show. It will also eventually be produced at the China plant and someday maybe in the U.S.
“We’ll be filing with the D.O.E. for grant money to have a manufacturing plant here in Santa Rosa as well as possibly in Kentucky,” says ZAP CEO Dave Jones.
It remains to be seen how many taxis they can sell. Lu says so far they have an order for 400 from Korea and it’s working on pricing and orders for China.
The first ZAP taxi could be rolling off the Chinese assembly line at the end of this year.
A beautiful day for a drive in the Michigan countryside. Al Unser Jr. takes the wheel as the ZAP Alias undergoes durability testing on a road course adjacent to Michigan International Speedway. Cars are required to travel 20 times around the 1.88 mile course in less than an hour. Afterwards, Al Unser Jr. said the Alias corners just like a normal car. Later the ZAP Team helps a competitor by replacing their fried controller; lucky we had a spare! Thanks to Prashanth Radharkrishnan for providing video and for being Johnny on the Spot with his laptop.