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.