The most recent dead-tree edition of Wired Magazine just arrived and the cover sports a charged headline reading: “Eco Hype: ZAPS’s No-Show Green Cars.” ZAP? That press release-happy, Santa Rosa, Calif.-based electric scooter maker? Yep, the 10-page feature tells the story of the electric vehicle startup […]

The most recent dead-tree edition of Wired Magazine just arrived and the cover sports a charged headline reading: “Eco Hype: ZAPS’s No-Show Green Cars.” ZAP? That press release-happy, Santa Rosa, Calif.-based electric scooter maker?

wired vs za

Yep, the 10-page feature tells the story of the electric vehicle startup that became a 14-year old publicly traded company that has turned an annual profit just once, offers just two three-wheeled electric vehicles, and has more than one pending SEC investigations against it. While ZAP declined to comment for the piece, Sullivan quotes several ex-executives as well as several frustrated franchisees.

No doubt ZAP has made some large promises it has yet to fulfill: the fuel cell-power Worldcar never materialized; neither did Daimler’s compact Smart Fortwo, nor the Brazilian flex-fuel compact Obvio, points out Wired. While ZAP is now suing Daimler, the Worldcar and Obvio deals evaporated with little explanation.

So what does the electric-vehicle maker have going in its favor? Well, in the broad but shallow pond of electric vehicle companies, ZAP is one of the only ones actually selling electric vehicles, the three-wheeled Xebra, to American customers Schneider recently said in an interview.

ZAP’s most recent big news was the joint venture it launched with Chinese automaker Youngman Automotive Group. The JV is called Detroit Electric and is headed by Albert Lam who left his position as CEO of Lotus Engineering to lead the new company. “Our plan is to launch with a 12-meter pure electric transit bus, the ZAP Alias, and two family sedans as early as the summer of 2009,” Lam said in the release.

While companies like Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive have been focused on getting a high-performance electric vehicle to market and have spent tens of millions to do so, ZAP seems to have dawdled along the way, pushing iPod chargers and plug-in hybrid kits instead of getting four-wheeled electric vehicles into customers’ garages, or their own partners’ showrooms.

While it seems unlikely that Sullivan’s article will do much to disrupt ZAP’s green screen, we’ll be watching it all with a keen eye. For all of its woes across the years, ZAP still possesses some valuable assets that it could leverage into a profitable electric auto company.

Graphic courtesy of this very cool Flash timeline of ZAP’s stock at WIRED.

  1. Nanotechnology may create some kind of pepetual fual in which one half of chemical reactions may recharge the other half of exhausted fuels. Some bacteria’s are already being used for treating chemical disposal of factories. Think of it, Bio- agents eating their food and recharging your fuel tank.


  2. As an early investor in ZAP I have seen my $1200 investment go down to $17 through at least 2 reverse stock splits and falling share price. My early enthusiasm for this company has long since faded. Corporate execs still make out by issuing more and more stock to fund their pipe dreams and pocketbooks. Like printing money there seems to be no end. Can’t wait till this house of cards falls.

  3. This company needs to die for real EV companies can get solid bank funding and get real products into the hands of consumers who believe in the dream and have cash in hand.

    The terrible ZAPs executives need to start running before the WIRED freight trains hit them in the face.

    Have you ever called the ZAP HQ? These folks are idiots who can’t commit to a solid delivery date if it’s printed right in front of them. I, for one, won;t “deposit” a single cent toward the ZAP-X until I can touch and drive one for myself.

    Buy buy ZAP, get lost!

  4. [...] for cleantech. The electric car industry is straining between lawsuits, technical snafus, and corporate creativity. Right now the light at the end of the tunnel is the delivery of the next 299 Teslas by the end of [...]

  5. [...] and scooter business into full-fledged auto company. This is the same problem with which decade-old infamous ZAP is still dealing. We hope that come 2010 we’ll see some new electric vehicles silently [...]

  6. [...] who wrested the company from his co-founder in 1999, has had SEC complaints filed against him.  A recent issue  of WIRED featured a lengthy expose about ZAP Motors’ allegedly shady dealings. Over the years, [...]

  7. If you read the article, several of the quoted sources are former stakeholders in ZAP who have left to compete against ZAP, so naturally they are trying to discredit ZAP in the eyes of the public, media, investors and dealers.

    All they’re their statements about ZAP are wild exaggerations. ZAP did sell Worldcars, the market was small. ZAP does have a hydrogen Worldcar at its Headquarters, but we see electrics as a simpler solution. ZAP did sell the Smart Car (over 300) and could have sold a lot more if Mercedes, smart and others hand’t interferred. ZAP doesn’t make the OBVIO, so how can we deliver it? Plus, it seems ethanol is not really taking off like OBVIO thought. The Xebra was designed for niche markets, but today it is probably the only affordable alternative for people looking for an electric car. The NY Times said it was the best selling electric vehicle at the nation’s top electric car dealer. The ZAP Alias and ZAP-X were engineered from conception by Lotus Engineering, not ZAP, and we don’t expect the first vehicles to be available until 2009 and never publicly stated that any vehicles would be available before then. As for the dealers in this article, I feel for them but this is a business and other dealers don’t seem to be having problems selling Xebras. One of the dealers slamming ZAP is starting his own 3-wheeled EV company, so naturally he’ll want to paint ZAP in a bad light. Everyone thinks building electric cars is easy. ZAP has stayed in business by building more than 100,000 electric vehicles, from bicycles, to scooters, mopeds, motorcycles, ATVs and more. While we have seen good companies come and go in this market, what other consumer EV manufacturer has been in busines for 13 years. Good luck.

    As for the “shady stock dealings,” be careful and do your research. All the allegations in this article are designed to confuse the average investor. Management for public companies get most of their compensation in stock and the sale of this stock is highly restricted and regulated to protect the average investor. Talk to your broker.

    I am the proud owner a Xebra and would recommend for everyone to start driving electric, no matter what company you buy from. This is the message that all true environmentalists need to make so we can vote as consumers for what we believe in. Hopefully car-makers will respond.

    But don’t believe the ZAP haters, they are green with envy.

  8. Why did Wired zap ZAP?

    In 1999, the nominated the ZAPPY scooter for an award.

    Today it looks like all their ads come from auto and oil. I wonder if they sold out?

    You have seen “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Is Wired trying to kill the electric car?

  9. [...] issue of WIRED, the magazine does an expose on the shady dealings of electric vehicle maker ZAP.http://earth2tech.com/2008/03/25/whyd-wired-zap-zap/With gas prices rising, electric looking better – Clackamas ReviewEd Storey says electric cars, like [...]

  10. [...] a scathing feature in Wired Magazine earlier this year went through a laundry list of supposed failed promises and alleged corporate misdeeds at ZAP, pointing out that the company [...]


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