For the last of our series of updates on Automotive X Prize contestants, we check in on California-based ZAP. We find the company has charged ahead since the contest, expanding its product line and acquiring a Chinese automaker.
Unlike many X Prize competitors who were formed just for the contest, or otherwise a relatively new endeavor, ZAP was founded in 1994. ZAP was started to manufacture and distribute an ingenious three-wheeled stand up electric scooter, now called the Zappy. The company has some struggles, and even controversy, as it has tried to expand into the electric-car production business. It became perhaps best known for its failed attempt to build and sell an electric version of the Smart ForTwo in the United States, as well as the maker of the Xebra car and pickup, low-speed electric vehicles based on a truly odd Chinese design, which ZAP sold in the United States as motorcycles, in states that would allow it. It also distributes the ZAP XL truck, a converted EV based on a design from another Chinese automaker, Wuling.
Fast forward to the X Prize, and the ZAP Alias electric three-wheeler was one of the five vehicles that made it to the finals in the competitive Side-by-Side Alternative class. Their quest for the $2.5 million prize ended when the car ran out of electrons with two laps to go in the final race.
The Alias is the first road-going vehicle the company has designed from the ground up. Since its debut in the Automotive X Prize, ZAP has acquired Chinese automaker, Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Co. , a maker small SUVs (that resemble older Toyota RAV4s) and small seven-passenger vans. According to statements on its Website, ZAP—now calling itself ZAP Jonway Automobile—plans to develop and electric version of the SUV to sell in China and other world markets. It does not intend to offer the SUVs in the United States, according to spokesman Alex Campbell, but already has orders here for a low-speed electric version of the vans.
The electric SUV will beta test a new electric motor for the Alias, ZAP hopes the Jonway venture will provide revenue for it to continue to develop the Alias. In an interview with a Chinese television station, ZAP CEO Steve Schneider says the company plans to develop a four-wheeled version of the Alias, as well.
So of all the X Prize competitors, it may be ZAP, the company with some electric-car sales under its belt, that is closest to production of a real-world electric car, albeit only overseas and not one that gets the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon at this point.
Then again, Edison2 is also charging ahead.
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