I’m fine in with my Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar, and would be equally so in ZAP’s four-door, all-electric, three-wheeled Xebra Sedan, especially if I lived somewhere with only three relatively moderate seasons and not where there are too many hills. ZAP, or Zero Air Pollution, has been a leader in advanced transportation technologies since 1994, at least those vehicles that are both practical and affordable to us non-celebrity types.
While presenting on Ecopreneuring at the Solar Living Institute’s SolFest in Hopland, California, this past August, I had an opportunity to drive Zap’s Xebra. It’s amazing the difference a few decades can make in the driving experience: from CitiCar to Xebra. The Xebra, pronounced “zebra,” is a lot smoother and its breaking system more consistent than my CitiCar (admittedly, a 30-year-old collector vehicle). This Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) has a top speed of 40 mph, but I shouldn’t be driving over that anyway given the posted speed limits in town. Having driven a Geo Metro for years, driving a ZAP Xebra felt almost the same (at low speeds), but without the fumes, fuel and gas station stops.
“I drive about 10 miles per day, 5 miles each way to work,” says Edelman. “If I take my son to school or pick him up, that may add another 5 or 6 miles. The car has a maximum range of 20 miles on a single charge. The most I’ve gone is about 18 miles. The 20 mile range is based on ideal driving conditions; when I’ve gotten up to 18 miles on a charge I can feel the car starting to lose power.” The car easily recharges overnight, ready by the next morning. New ones go for about $12,000, but Edelman picked up his for $11,000.
“ZAP is a small company without lots of marketing and dealerships,” confides Edelman, when asked why more people aren’t driving around in one. “Service can be a problem, since there is no dealership nearby to work on the car. On the other hand, the cars are pretty simple mechanically, and I’ve learned to deal with small technical problems on my own.” Pretty good for someone who teaches theater and not electrical engineering.
“It is insured and licensed as a three wheel “electricycle” with motor cycle plates,” explains Edelman. “The insurance is comparable to our gas car.”
So while GM continues to advertise heavily for a vehicle it can’t even sell us yet (the Volt), ZAP’s Xebra is one option for getting around town — today. What’s making the proposition of owning one even sweeter is the new ZAP plant under construction in Kentucky (Xebras are currently manufactured in China). Now this car for local transport around town will be Made In America, another attractive selling point for Americans who care about supporting American green businesses.