Zap, which stands for zero air pollution, already makes and sells a three-wheel electric vehicle in America called the Xebra but plans to come to the UK with a new concept called Alias, also a three-wheeler. It is powered by two electric wheel motors driving the front wheels and has its single wheel at the back.
The car will be made in China by Youngman and Zap has set up a new company, Detroit Electric, to act as its distributor in Europe. Youngman owns 51% of Detroit Electric, which is headed by former Lotus Engineering chief executive Albert Lam.
He said: “Zap commissioned Lotus to design the Alias, which will go into production in 18 months. We have done a lot of study with this car and we are confident we can do it. A running prototype is four to six months away, then 12 months after it will go into production.”
The Alias, which has an aluminium structure, is just the first step for Detroit Electric. It needs the car to prove to an unnamed Asian carmaker – thought to be Proton – that its technology works.
“We are in discussion with an automaker in Asia that is keen to produce an electric variant for us,” Lam said. The cars will be in the C-segment and A-segment. Detroit Electric has already planned trim and final line-up and says performance will be comparable to the petrol versions. They will have no gears by constant acceleration to top speed. Range is estimated at up to 150 miles before the battery needs recharging, which takes around six hours.
Pricing for the Alias will start around £20,000. It will have two variants. The base model will go from 0-60mph in 7.0 seconds and hit a top speed of 120mph with a battery range of 100-150 miles. The top-spec ‘Al Unser Jnr’ model, named after the Indie 500 racer, will hit 60 in less than 6.0 seconds and go onto 140mph with a similar range.
Lam said the company has carried out stability tests on computer and claims the three-wheel Alias is as stable as a Honda Civic.
Detroit Electric is planning 260 dealerships in Europe and 40 in the UK with one distributor which has already agreed terms. It will also set up a few premium showrooms in the UK.