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ZAP Xebra electric trucks are first to be sold in US in significant numbers.
One of the first mass-produced, Chinese-made electric vehicles to be offered in North America is the Xebra from ZAP. Because it has only three-wheels, it can be licensed in some states as a motorcycle. Top speed around 35 mph.

So, You Want to Buy An Electric Vehicle?

Some simple, but vital points to consider before you buy that EV.

By Michael Glaviano

You are finally ready to take the plunge.

The foundation of your decision may be a concern for the environment. Perhaps you want to step up and do your part to reduce our contry's dependence on imported fuel... or maybe you simply love the technology, but for whatever reason, you have decided that the time is right. You want to purchase an electric vehicle.

You start to do research on available products and the companies that supply those products. Very soon, you begin wondering just how green these products really are. Very soon you begin to wonder how reliable these companies will be. You may have additional considerations that come into play as you do your research.

Of course we at EV World can't make your decision for you. We can't say something like, "Well, just buy this model from that manufacturer and you'll be happy with your purchase." You will have to develop your own criteria and base your decision upon those criteria. What we can do is suggest a partial list of that you may use as part of your decision-making process. Most-likely, our list won't cover all your considerations and our list may include things that you don't care about, but we think we can give you a start.

  1. Have you heard of the company before? Are articles about the company available from independent sources? It is easy for the company to produce press releases and PR pieces, but you probably want to hear what others have to say about the company.

  2. Is there a users' group for the company's products? Can you contact other customers to gain an understanding of their experiences with the company and its products?

  3. Does the company have a dealer network? Even if the company is too small to have its own dealer network, there are "Green Vehicle" companies in several states in the US. These independent companies carry vehicles from a number of manufacturers.

  4. Does the company have a physical presence in your country or are they just a web-site? How long have they been in business? Are products available from them for immediate sale, or is the company taking orders for a production run that's scheduled for some time in the future? What is the delivery time being quoted? What are delivery costs? Are taxes and license fees included?

  5. Does the company respond to email questions about their products? You should be able to make email queries to companies to ask simple questions about physical specifications such as wheelbase or wheel diameter. If the company responds with a clear answer, that is a mark in its favor. If no one respods or if someone responds with an answer that is cryptic or difficult to understand, then it is appropriate to wonder how likely they'd be to respond to a warranty issue after a purchase. If the email bounces...

  6. Can you make arrangements to test drive a vehcile?

  7. Will you be able to register the vehicle for use on city streets in your locale? Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) are low-speed vehicles. Some states allow these to be operated on streets with speed limits 35 miles per hour or lower. NEVs are not required to have the same safety features as full speed vehicles. Make sure the classification of the vehicle is appropriate to your need.

  8. Will you be able to obtain liability insurance for the vehcile? What will this cost?

  9. What safety features are included with the vehicles? Seat belts? Air bags? Anti-lock breaks? Are there impact crush zones? Have the vehicles been crash tested?

  10. What does the manufacturer say about the materials used in the construction? What materials comprise the body? Steel panels? Plastic? Fiberglass? Is there a frame or is the vehicle based on a unibody construction method. Are the seats upholstered in cloth? Leather? PVC plastic?

  11. What does the company say about vehicle performance and battery pack life expectancy? What is the quoted price for a battery pack replacement? Do they have a service network that can do the battery replacement work? Do they offer training materials that you could take to a local repair shop to have the work done?

  12. What is the general warranty on the vehicle? On the battery pack? On the drive train?

  13. Is the vehicle likely to perform well in the climate of your locale. Lead-acid batteries, for example, do not perform well in cold climates.

  14. What voltage will you need to supply to charge the vehicle? 110V? 220V? Is there an on-board charger that's included in the purchase? Do you need some external equipment to charge the traction pack?

  15. What options or amenities are offered for the vehicle?

  16. What is the actual country of origin of the products? If the company produces its products in Austrailia, Canada, the EU, Japan, the UK, or the US, you probably have an idea about labor laws, environmental regulations, and working conditions. It is good to make sure that your purchases support behaviors that you consider appropriate.

  17. Do the vehicle specs meet your needs? Do the specs make sense? For example, a full-size sedan running a 72 volt battery pack probably won't accelerate like a Tesla roadster, so think about the claims being made and do some comparison shopping. In the EV realm, just as in so many others, "too good to be true" probably isn't.

Again, this isn't a complete list of things to consider, but this list should give you a framework for your dialog with a company. As consumers, we have a responsibility to be active and intelligent in our selection of companies and products. By supporting ethical companies and good quality products, we help advance the state of the art in electric vehicle technology. Good luck and safe motoring.

Times Article Viewed: 13242
Published: 20-Mar-2009

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