August 21, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Automaker aims to bring clean cars to the masses
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At the moment, electric cars, at least inexpensive ones, need work. While the Xebra can go 40mph, it takes awhile to get up to top speed. Flooring it, I cranked it up to 30mph, but it took about six seconds. The battery charge lasts for about 40 miles. The performance and range, however, will increase with better batteries. Currently, the Xebra runs on a lead acid battery.
But I do have to admit, I smiled the whole time I was driving it.
"This is a second car or even a third car," Schneider said. Ninety percent of all car trips in the U.S. are under 21 miles, and most of the time the driver never cranks up the car past 40 miles an hour, he added. Thus, a market could exist for cheap commuter cars.
By contrast, the scooters are a different story. The Zappy 3 picks up quickly and turns well. It is also much easier to learn to drive and seems to be faster than a Segway. The Zappy 3 costs only $700, far less than the thousands that Segways cost.
May buyers of the scooters are big fans. Ken and Diana Ackerman, who were visiting ZAP's warehouse, have bought 20 ZAP scooters for residents of their trailer park in Calistoga, Calif. "We ride every night at 7 p.m.," Diana said. The riders, some of whom are around 80 years old, will soon participate in a parade.
The Zappy 3 is supposed to top out at 15 miles an hour. Schneider, who lives on a hill, recently took a Zappy up to 40mph, but wiped out and broke four ribs and some other parts.
"I took it way past its capabilities," he admitted.
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