We recently told you about the Kentucky Senate side-show in which Democrats and Republicans both tried to get legislation started that would make it legal for low-speed vehicles (LSVs) to drive on some roads in the bluegrass state. Now, Governor Steve Beshear has stepped in and signed an executive order that allows LSVs on roads with speed limits of 45 mph or less. Why would he do this? To encourage ZAP! to locate a factory there, of course. While a few weeks ago ZAP! had said there were no "formal conversations" about locating a manufacturing facility there, it certainly appears differently now. First clue: ZAP CEO Steve Schneider was on hand for the signing ceremony and took the governor for a spin in a Xebra afterward. Second clue: At that same event, Beshear also announced that state officials will work "hourly and daily" with ZAP!, a local businessmen Larry Cottingham and Randall Waldman, CEO of Integrity Manufacturing of Bullitt County to develop an incentive package to secure the building of the plant in Kentucky. Hit the jump for lots more news plus bonus video.

*Update: Added video of Governor Beshear's announcement and ensuing press conference.


[Source: McClatchy / Business First / Courier-Journal / SMASHgods]

The envisioned facility, which may cost over $100 million to build and set up, could employ 500 to 1,000 workers initially (they say as many as 2,500 eventually) and cover 1 million square feet. Although the company has said it is looking at several building sites, including one in Indiana, we expect one in Kentucky will be chosen. The most probable location seems to be in Simpson County on land specifically scouted for the project that Waldman has a taken an option on. Originally it was thought that the present facilities of Integrity Manufacturing in Bullitt County would just be expanded but Waldman now contends that the new factory would require more space than can be made available. ZAP! is said to be making an official announcement in the next week or two.

So, what vehicles will they make there if all this comes to pass? Likely the long-promised Alias, as it was mentioned by CEO Schneider as one of the models that will be built at the future factory. Since the Detroit Electric website presently says it will be for sale in 2009, they had better hurry up and build it somewhere. Detroit Electric is a joint venture between ZAP! and Chinese firm Youngman Automotive Group which is tasked with selling three-wheeled Alias. He also said that, initially, Xebra cars and trucks will be made there as well. It is unclear if they will continue to use parts from their current Chinese manufacturer or build them from the ground up under license. They do say that their models built at the new plant will change (and performance improve).

Of course, all of this is occurring under the cloud of skepticism that was greatly amplified with the publishing of a critical article by Wired. Since that piece was printed, the company has gained a new chairman, Eqbal Al Yousuf, who brings something in the way of bonafides as a successful businessperson as well as cash investments of over $15 million by the Al Yousef Group. Time will tell if ZAP! will begin to deliver the kind of quality electric vehicles the public is hoping for and if they do (or don't) we'll let you know. Bonus video below of the Alias model beside a possible drivetrain.




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