June 22, 2007 9:55 AM PDT

Zap to make electric sedan based on its sports car

Zap to make electric sedan based on its sports car
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Electric-vehicle maker Zap says it will come out with an electric car that will go about 100 miles on a charge but cost only $30,000, a combination of features that so far hasn't been achieved.

Whether Zap will succeed is an open question.

According to the company, the sedan will be a derivative of the Zap-X, a sport SUV scheduled to hit the market toward the end of 2008. The Zap-X is designed to go 350 miles without a charge and from 0 mph to 60 mph in about 4.8 seconds.

Zap says the sedan, whose top speed will be about 100 mph, will likely come out before the sport SUV. More details about the car will be offered at Zap's shareholder meeting on July 29, the carmaker said.

Zap-X illustration
Credit: Zap
The Zap-X sport SUV, as illustrated
on the Zap Web site home page.

The price-to-performance metrics Zap is touting for its cars exceed the figures that other electric-car manufacturers are touting. The Tesla Roadster, for instance, costs $92,000 to $98,000 and goes 200 miles before needing a charge. Its maker, Tesla Motors, plans to come out with sedans in 2009, but these cars will cost between $50,000 and $70,000 and not go as far as on a single charge as the Roadster.

The high prices of electric cars are largely due to the cost of lithium ion batteries--the power source for electric car manufacturers. Making an electric Honda Accord would require about $30,000 in batteries, estimates Ian Wright, who heads up electric sports car maker Wrightspeed.

As a result, many observers in the electric-car industry are skeptical about Zap's chances for success. The company so far has mainly sold scooters and electric bikes in relatively small numbers. Zap also sells the Xebra, an electric car that runs on conventional batteries that tops out at around 35 miles an hour.

Zap CEO Steve Schneider, though, asserts that Zap has enlisted a number of partners on the project. Group Lotus in England is helping with the car's design. The company is also working with some of the new entrants in the lithium ion battery market.

Companies trying to build lithium ion batteries for cars include Valence Technology, Altair Nanotechnologies and A123 Systems. In an interview in January, Schneider acknowledged that he was familiar with both Valence and Altair.

The relatively long range of Zap's cars comes from the design of the car, he has said. The Zap-X and the sedan run on hub motors--placed on the wheels--a design feature that frees up a lot of space to put batteries in the car.

See more CNET content tagged:
sedan, Valence Technology, SUV, Tesla Roadster, car


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Not holding my breath
Interesting idea, but I'm sure not holding my breath for it to become a reality anytime soon. The cost is the big issue. Making an electric vehicle, while being by no means a trivial task, is hardly revolutionary stuff. The trick is making it work well without being obscenely expensive.

Right now the batteries are likely to be just too expensive for a $30,000 pure electric design like this unless it's only got a TINY motor. Certainly they could get by with a lot less batteries than in the Tesla Roadster (which has about a 250hp motor), but even with a motor half as powerful and half the distance (ie 1/4 of the battery power) they would still be looking at probably $10,000 worth of batteries alone. Add in the costs for the actual car and they're going to struggle to even produce the thing for $30,000, let alone be able to sell it for that price.
Posted by Hoser McMoose (182 comments )
Reply Link Flag
100 miles ain't much
I really can't see any purpose in such a car unless it has quick recharge batteries and there
are public recharge stations. In that case, using Altair's estimated future costs of its batteries at $500 per kWhr, and 5 miles per kWhr, 20 kWhrs battery pack would do and cost $10,000, leaving $20,000 for the rest of the car. I'm sure they would offer extra cost extended battery packs for
those who want a semi-practical vehicle.
Posted by theBike45 (90 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No purpose?
How is there no purpose to an electric car that can go 100 miles on a single charge? How often do you drive more than 100 miles at a time?

Yes, within a few years there will be recharging stations at offices, malls, hotels and other locations. I just saw another article on news.com about this: Envisioning the solar parking garage (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/8301-10784_3-9726663-7.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/8301-10784_3-9726663-7.html</a>).
Posted by grant999 (7 comments )
Link Flag
100 MPH......
According to the Zappy website, it is said that the new Zap X is to reach speeds up to 155 MPH and can go 350 miles before it needs a charge.

The best part about the Zap X is that it only takes about 10 minutes to re-charge.
Posted by TatianaBetady (2 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds Great
In a 2 car family, driving roundtrip 10 to 40 miles for work each day is the "big" drive for one of the cars. If they tout 100 miles, the reality is probably 40 to 70 miles with traffic, A/C, stereo and headlights.

Have my company provide a plug in the parking lot and I'm golden. I'd only plug in at the office so they'd be paying all my weekday juice.
Posted by regulator1956 (577 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In 1996 I was facinated by the zap bikes and flew from china to their office. I was impressed with the product but not the price. I really thought they were missing the boat with the market as well.
If they were priced right for the masses, the bikes could have been a hit but they were way to high for the masses and it turned out their were better bikes cheaper.
They will most likely miss the boat on the cars as well as I will bet they will not go after the right market this time either. They were entrenched in their thinking with no flexibility at the time.
Posted by bsachs (2 comments )
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