Local company to mass produce all-electric SUV taxi

May 6, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Santa Rosa electric car company is set to marry its tech know-how with China's emerging industrial power. The goal is to break into the car market in China, which is expected to become the biggest in the world. ZAP car, or the Zero Air Pollution car, just signed a deal to mass produce its SUV taxi.

The ZAP car and all-electric SUV sits in Zap's Santa Rosa showroom. Right now, only a handful of them exist, but ZAP Chairman Priscilla Lu hopes that someday soon there will be thousands of them rolling through the streets of China's biggest cities as taxis.

"Not all of them will convert immediately, but the government is committed in order to reduce pollution, to have as many of these taxis become electric vehicles," says Lu.

And she says the government is backing that commitment with subsidies.

"There is not only subsidies for manufacturers to deliver these vehicles, but also the city government who actually owns the taxi business, if you will, is committed to make this happen because it has the support of the central government," says Lu.

Lu wants ZAP to be first in line for those subsidies; it just signed a deal for mass production with Chinese automaker Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Ltd.

"Right now, the particular partner that we have is capable of producing 4,000 vehicles per month and scaling up to 6,000," says Lu.

The SUV taxi runs on 117 lithium batteries. It can go about 180 miles before recharging. The batteries are positioned underneath the car, so cargo and passenger space are preserved. The sales price will be between $20,000 and $30,000.

The ZAP sports car, Alias, was just shown at the Beijing auto show. It will also eventually be produced at the China plant and someday maybe in the U.S.

"We'll be filing with the D.O.E. for grant money to have a manufacturing plant here in Santa Rosa as well as possibly in Kentucky," says ZAP CEO Dave Jones.

It remains to be seen how many taxis they can sell. Lu says so far they have an order for 400 from Korea and it's working on pricing and orders for China.

The first ZAP taxi could be rolling off the Chinese assembly line at the end of this year.


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