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Dec 2007 - Green Trucks Help with Holiday Rush
One of a number of three-wheeled ZAP electric trucks leased to UPS to use during the Christmas rush.

Santa Rosa, CA — It's a funny-looking car, some would say it's "cute" while to others it's simply "weird" but everybody has some kind of opinion about this very green all-electric three-wheeler that is starting to make serious inroads in America's urban areas. The electric is known as the ZAP Xebra, and is made in China with some final assembly performed in California.

The U.S. distributor installs the controllers and the batteries, which are made in U.S.A. The batteries are not all that different from those used in electric golf carts. Dealerships are springing up all over the U.S., the latest one in Texas.

When queried about the claim of being green, Santa Rosa-based marketing manager Alex Campbell told U.S. Tech that in that part of California, a major portion of the electric power is generated by the geothermal plants in nearby Lake County, and that if the vehicles are plugged in for recharging during low-usage periods at night, they are definitely not using fossil-fuel-generated power.

Holiday Rush
The small vehicles have a range of 30 to 40 miles per charge, although one happy owner has set a "record" or sorts with a 55-mile round trip in his Zap Xebra. The big news now is that UPS has leased 42 of the 3-wheeled light trucks and cars to help out with holiday rush deliveries in nearby Petaluma, California. The trucks are not painted brown and don't have the UPS logo, because it is strictly a 2-month holiday lease. "They short-term lease small trucks every year for the holidays," Campbell said.

The ZAP Xebra was designed as an economical electric city car that can handle city-speed driving up to 40 mph for daily urban driving and commuting as well as light duty government and corporate fleet applications. ZAP cars and trucks are believed to be the only 40 mph street-legal electric vehicles available in production today and sell for a little over $10,000. The operating cost is estimated to be about three cents per mile for electricity. Studies reportedly show that electric vehicles reduce automotive emissions by more than 90 percent when compared with gasoline vehicles, including the emissions from power plants.

The UPS branch in Petaluma has leased an initial fleet of 42 ZAP Xebra electric city cars and trucks for their small parcel deliveries. This is the first time that UPS has used electric city-speed vehicles for this purpose.

Small parcel deliveries are becoming more challenging for the trademark big, brown UPS delivery vans, which is why UPS is using the electric city cars and trucks to handle small parcel deliveries. The ZAP vehicles lessen fuel consumption and reduce automotive emissions produced by current delivery vehicles. Drivers will be monitoring their electrical usage to carefully analyze cost-savings and emissions reductions.

Missing Link
"This is the missing link for small package deliveries in congested areas," said ZAP CEO Steve Schneider. "Packages go from the airplanes, to the tractor trailers, to the delivery vans, then to the drop-off nodes. From there the ZAP trucks make the final delivery to the consumer in a zero-emission vehicle that costs less to operate. It's a perfect example of how green technology can help corporate America's bottom line."

UPS is setting up strategic distribution nodes where vans can transfer packages to the ZAP Xebras for final delivery in smaller communities, neighborhoods and downtown areas where larger delivery vans are less efficient and have a more difficult time navigating or parking.

"ZAP vehicles are much better than full size trucks in urban areas because they can save a fleet operator money," said ZAP Chairman Gary Starr. "Electric vehicles can also be one of the best things any organization can do to cut greenhouse gases and help the environment."

The actual cost varies widely in different parts of the country. California's Lake County geothermal electric power costs 14 cents/kwh while in the Midwest, power is about 4 cents. "This works out to about 1 to 3 cents per mile," Campbell explained. "One of our customers crunched some numbers and came up with an equivalent cost of about 600 miles per gallon based on fossil fuel generated electricity. That's pretty good gas mileage." Pretty good indeed.

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