Zap Crap | Mismanagement Plagues Electric Car Company

zap car 01 Zap Crap | Mismanagement Plagues Electric Car Company

Despite what Kermit the Frog says, it’s pretty easy to be green these days. America is loving green so much that it has almost become unpatriotic to question the credentials of anyone who claims to be promoting light-impact products. Wired.com recently took that step, uncovering unethical and probably illegal business tactics at ZAP! Corporation, one of America’s largest all-electric vehicle companies, based in Santa Rosa, CA.

ZAP! has been in business since 1991 when garage-tinkerer Jim McGreen invented electric conversion kits for bicycles. He dubbed his new company ZAP (zero air pollution) Power Systems and started looking for investors. Gary Starr was the first to write a check, and the company incorporated in 1994. Starr was a solar car pioneer who was asked to leave the company he helped to create, U.S. Elecricar — marking an ominous beginning to the company.

ZAP! grew quickly after McGreen invented the Zappy, a standup scooter that Kevin Spacey rode on the David Letterman show. Revenues were over $1.4 million by 1998. Revenues did not bring profits, however, and Starr and McGreen had a major falling out over whether to move production overseas. Starr maneuvered to increase the company’s board to seven members, giving Starr enough votes to get rid of McGreen. Starr succeeded, and by the end of 1999, McGreen, who had founded the company in his garage, was gone – no HP story to tell here.

zap car 03 Zap Crap | Mismanagement Plagues Electric Car Company

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Fisker Karma | Electric Hybrid That Sounds Like a Jet Plane

fisker karma electric hybrid 01 Fisker Karma | Electric Hybrid That Sounds Like a Jet Plane

Remember when instant mashed potatoes arrived on the food scene? While not as delicious as fresh and homemade, they boasted a precious saving of prep time in the kitchen. The problem was lumps, which are inherent in the natural variety but were noticeably absent from the fake ones. So, in an effort to produce more a more realistic-seeming fake product, the manufacturers of instant mashed potatoes began adding lumps.

But they didn’t fool me. They were still instant mashed potatoes.

Henrik Fisker is now attempting a similar endeavor with his new plug-in/solar electric hybrid Karma sports car. The fast but environmentally responsible vehicle can travel 80 kilometers (50 miles) without relying on gas, which cuts down tremendously on emissions and our dependence on foreign oil. When battery power runs out, the engine utilizes a one-gallon fuel reserve to recharge the car. Nice.

fisker karma electric hybrid 03 Fisker Karma | Electric Hybrid That Sounds Like a Jet Plane

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Wired Nextfest | Monoco Knows Zero

boise solar gliving Wired Nextfest | Monoco Knows Zero

There aren’t too many things that will get me to drive to the LA Convention Center… The L.A. Auto Show (I’m there every year), some killer music or, last but not least, something “G”. WIRED Nextfest 2007 had some cars of the future, a few things G and as for the music? Lets just say I went for the Solar Car and the future of Green Pavillion.

The first thing to catch my eye was the Astrolab electric concept car, the first high-performance solar vehicle to be commercialized in the world. For the record, Monoco got there first – and for a small country, that’s a big feat. Venturi Automobiles created this ping-pong-table-meets-sportscar covering 3.6 sqm of photovoltaic cells. The Astrolab goes 70 mph for up to 70 miles per trip.

My first question was, “Does this thing just go forever as long as you have sun?” The answer was no. It’s an electric car. The solar panels only assist in the recharge — left alone with no driving, the panels charge the battery about 10 miles per day. Still pretty cool, if you ask me. BTW, how do you get in? It comes with a metal plate you put over the sides to sit on while you swing your legs into the cockpit.

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Electric eBox Laps Gas Powered Scion XB

eboxupdate02 Electric eBox Laps Gas Powered Scion XB

Update Autoweek takes The eBox for a Test Drive: "Just before he drove off, silently, in his new eBox, Hanks observed,There are three electric cars sitting on the moon, and now another one in my garage. The eBox makes even more sense in Los Angeles than in the Taurus-Littrow Valley of the moon. I can drive all weekend, hauling dogs and helping my friends move, and the only reason I’ll need to stop at a gas station is for beef jerky and lottery tickets.

How far we’ve come. The AC Propulsion eBox—a Scion xB converted to run solely on electricity — has ultraefficient lithium-ion batteries, which are better than the NiMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries the EV1 got by the 1999 model year and which powered the Honda EVPlus during its short lifetime. An eBox can go 150 miles on a charge if you take it easy and 120 if you don’t. The eBox’s Li-Ion batteries offer 355 volts and 35 kilowatts and weigh only 595 pounds, including the cables and battery box. Consider that you toss out the engine, transmission and much other stuff when you convert an xB to electric drive, and that weight gain isn’t so bad. Curb weight of a stock xB is 2395 pounds and goes up to 3050 as an eBox.

Now, on paper, that suggests that the xB might outperform the eBox, but our results surprised us—the eBox out-performed the stock Scion xB by a large margin in every parameter we tested. The eBox got from 0 to 60 mph in 7.02 seconds, versus 9.71 for the xB we tested four years ago. Braking from 60 to 0 took 126 feet in the eBox and 132 in the xB. The slalom went by at 42.6 mph in the eBox and 40.9 in the xB. AC Propulsion didn’t change tires, springs or shocks on its car, either, so all those numbers came up with the same setup Scion sent out from the factory. The eBox benefited from a lower center of gravity and from the instantaneous torque inherent in an electric motor."

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