AFVI Show: All about electric cars with Dynasty, GEM, Zap!, ZENN and Phoenix

Dynasty, GEM, Zap!, ZENN, Phoenix.

Certain readers in our audience will see this list and think, "What about Tesla? And Miles?" I'm not sure why those last two companies were not part of the electric vehicle panel at AFVI on Tuesday, but they weren't. Miles even had a presence at the show (Tesla didn't).

Whatever the case, representatives from those five electric car companies gave nice State of the EV Market/Industry presentations and if there was one overwhelming idea from the panel it was Let's Work Together (which, as I mentioned yesterday, might as well be the unofficial slogan of AFVI right now).

The best representation of this idea came from Gary Starr, chairman and co-founder of Zap! Starr talked about The Zap! Challenge (good branding, there) which wants to sell 100,000 EVs – any EVs, not just Zap!'s – each year by 2010. Sales of a hundred thousand a year would make up less than one percent of the new vehicle sales in the US but eliminate about a billion tons of CO2 each year. The other part of the Zap! challenge is to plant a million trees by 2010. Zap plants 200 trees in a third world country for each car it sells. Starr said a teacher once told him that there are two things you can do to help the environment and the economy: drive an electric car and plant a tree. The Zap! Challenge is an obvious embodiment of this advice from years ago.

there's much more (too much?) after the jump

Starr didn't mention the Lotus X, although the Zap! booth girls were wearing Lotus X shirts. Next month, Zap! will add an electric scooter to its line-up of electric vehicles (ATVs, cars, underwater propulsion devices, the Zappy, etc.). Give some of Starr's presentation a listen here – he talks about the Yugo, of all things ( MP3).

The Old Guard on the panel, GEM, was represented by Rick Kasper, President and COO. Jasper gave a brief overview of GEM's history, a history that stretches back to 1992. There are about 33,000 GEM vehicles in the US today and 1,000 in Europe and Asia, and GEM grows this number by about 4,000 vehicles a year. GEM has a distinctive EV line-up, and you can see it here. GEM's 30-mile range NEVs (or 40 miles with the additional battery option) take about 8 hours to recharge, or can get 80 percent recharge in 45 minutes with new off-board fast charger. GEM offers a heap of options and has (minute 33ish) 150 dealers across the country, mostly at Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep dealerships.

GEMs only have a 12-month limited warranty (but it is extendable) and are used at all sorts of campuses, parks and planned communities. GEM cars can help be used to meet EPAct requirements. GEM contribution to the general EV market is an affordability page at to compare operating costs of a GEM with ICE and other cars. It'd be nice to either have a page like this on the sites of all EV makers or a generic comparison calculator that could be applied to any EV on the market.

Bryon Bliss, VP of sales and marketing of Phoenix said that the Big Six are no longer providing electric vehicle options, so Phoenix and the others on the panel are stepping up with EVs available today (or soon anyway, like later this year, in some cases). The Phoenix SUT, with its 95 mph top speed, 100-mile range and a 250,000-mile battery guaranteed for 3-year/36,000 miles (even though Phoenix calls them 12-year batteries), dominates the offerings by the others on the market. It also has the most out-of-reach price: $45,000 compared to $10,000 +/- $3,000 for a GEM. Bliss gave a good rundown on why Phoenix is different, and you can listen to his reasons here ( MP3). Bliss also said Phoenix is thinking about introducing 4WD and extended range (more batteries) options in the future. He didn't have an answer to a member of the audience who asked if you could put a snowplow on the SUT.

One company we don't cover much on AutoblogGreen is Dynasty Electric Car Corp., owned by Commercial Body. There's no real reason why we haven't in the past, so let's get started. Dynasty makes five models of the "it" vehicle, an NEV build on a 2x4 aluminum chassis, with fiberglass exterior with molded bumpers, a 5.5 DC motor, six 12 volt batteries, 13-inch wheels, and a variety of options: regen braking, AC drive, heavy duty suspension, and upgraded battery packs (including high speed charging options).

Bill Williams, VP of sales of ZENN, has a long personal history with electric vehicles and he used to sell Zap! vehicles. He has also consulted with Lee Iacocca as well as many EV companies. Williams said he feels that ZENN is the company that's doing it right (not that other companies are doing it wrong, mind you. We're all working together, remember). His DIY tip for people is to realize that government incentives for electric vehicles do not always apply to NEVs. But, because there are over 400 "Kyoto-committed" mayors in America, conference attendees (and AutoblogGreen readers) could and should start discussions with them to encourage NEV sales wherever it's feasible. That's one way to sell 100,000 a year. Williams mentioned, but didn't talk about any details about, the EESTOR.

The ZENN vehicle is based on Beneteau Group's Microcar and has six 12-volt DEKA Gel batteries for a 35-mile range. Williams said the company is now offering a new fast-charge option and the somewhat big news he announced is that ZENN is now accepting orders for right-hand drive options (this piqued the interest of a woman from Australia). ZENN is also looking at highway speed vehicle options, but Williams said this will likely be joint venture or doing conversions using ZENN's battery technology because, hey, there are enough cars out there already.

I particularly liked Williams's response during the Q&A session on how he and other NEV sellers have to explain their vehicles to the public. If you haven't clicked on any of the other MP3s in this post, you should really give him a listen ( MP3). Good stuff.

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