Curbside Outtake: Long-Dead Zap Xebras – EVs Have Come A Long Way In 15 Years

EVs have come a very long way in just 15 years. In case you need reminding, in 2008, the Zap Xebra was just about the only EV a regular person could hope to buy. But what a steaming pile of junk it was: an extremely crude $3,000 Chinese three-wheeler with a 6.7 hp coffee can 12V motor and a six-pack of 12V lead acid batteries. Top speed: 30 mph, on a perfectly flat road. Range: 15-17 miles. Price? $12k in 2008 ($17k adjusted). That’s about what a 2023 Chevy Bolt goes for after federal and state tax credits.

I tested a 2008 Xebra back at the old site, and that scathing review went viral, as I was apparently the only one willing to actually drive one. By 2009, Zap pulled the plug, due to increasing consumer backlash at the lack of support and price. And in 2013, Zap was ordered by NHTSA to offer to buy back all Xebras for $3,100.  Looks like the owner of these two in Port Orford didn’t get the memo; he would have been $6,200 ahead if he had.

Zap was an endless stock-manipulation hype machine until folks finally got smart, or were smarting from the endless issues with their Xebras. But that’s all in the (sort-of) far past.

This one came from the same dealer where I tested that Xebra. They seemed to be doing a fairly good business at the time. There were enough buyers desperate for an electric car at the time, no matter how modest its specs and capabilities.

Since it was a three-wheeler, it didn’t have to meet any of the safety regulations regular cars do. The fiberglass body sat on an extremely crude frame of welded channel steel. On one forum, an owner said his frame started to rust away after the first winter.

I did read comments the other day about some of you wanting an EV but a really basic bare-bones machine. Here you go! It just needs some new golf cart batteries, and you’re set to go…just not very far, or fast.

The front one even has a cyclops third headlight.

You’ve been Zapped!

The EV state-of-the-art was stuck in 1910 mode for some hundred years, until lithium batteries appeared and folks harnessed them to powerful motors…and a revolution began. And in just 15 years, EVs have leapfrogged IC cars. Who would have thunk?


Related CC reading:
Curbside Classic/Review: Zap Xebra – The Justified Assassination