Zap partners with Chinese OEM on electric SUV

  • 23-Apr-2010 01:37 EDT
SUV-Alias in Korea.jpg
The Korea EV Industry Association hosted the EV Eco Challenge & Fair 2010, spotlighting, among other vehicles, a preproduction Zap Alias three-wheeler and a prototype of the five-door Zap-Jonway compact SUV—both all-electrics.

An all-electric SUV under development by an American company and a Chinese automaker made its public debut at an EV eco-challenge competition in South Korea.

"This was our first time road testing the SUV in public, and the vehicle completed 205 km of the 220-km course," said Steve Schneider, CEO of electric vehicle supplier Zap, a California company developing an all-electric five-door SUV with China's Zhejiang Jonway Automobile.

Sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy, the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs, and the Ministry of Environment, event participants at the three-day EV Eco Challenge & Fair in March included battery and recharging companies, auto parts manufacturers, and EV producers Leo Motors, CT&T, AD Motors, Green Car Clean City Inc., Zap, and Zap's Korean distributor, Samyang Optics.

Zap-Jonway's front-wheel-drive SUV was fitted with a 108-V lithium-ion battery pack. "We have two versions," said Gary Starr, Zap Co-Founder and Director of Business Development. "There's a 108-V pack with a 22 kW·h capacity and a 360-V pack with a 35 kW·h capacity." 

The electric SUV averaged 85 km/h (53 mph) on a course that included city driving as well as highway cruising along hilly terrain in occasional snowy conditions, according to Schneider. Charging stations were at the 58-km (36-mi), 114-km (71-mi) and 159-km (99-mi) route points.

The SUV's batteries were recharged for 1.5 h at the first charging station and 2.5 h at the second charging station. "But the vehicle ran out of charge 8 km from the finish. That's because the SUV that was designed to go 300 km was stuck in customs, so we competed with our 140-km vehicle, which is a low-cost, limited-range SUV," said Schneider.

Jonway's A380 SUV is the springboard for the electric SUV. Said Alex Wang, CEO of Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Co. Ltd., "It looks the same."

Sold in 1.6- and 2.0-L gasoline variants, a 1.8-L version will be added as an A380 engine choice. More than 8000 A380s were sold from May 2009 through March 2010, according to Wang.

The five-door all-electric SUV will use a Jonway-produced chassis and a Zap-supplied electric driveline. The joint venture company, ZAP Hangzhou Electric Vehicle Co. Ltd., will handle EV integration in China.

When market-available in the third quarter of 2010, the SUV with an independent MacPherson front suspension and a double-wishbone rear suspension initially will be sold to fleet and taxi customers in China. It will be the first vehicle produced from the Zap-Jonway joint venture, noted Wang.

Zap and Samyang Optics also showcased the three-wheeled, two-door Zap Alias at the Korea EV eco-challenge.

"The Alias project started about 36 months ago under a contract with Lotus Engineering. Today, all the major engineering work is done, the parts list has been sourced, and we have running prototypes," said Starr.

For the EV challenge in Korea, the Alias demonstration vehicle relied on lead-acid batteries that are part of a 216-V system. The batteries are fitted underneath the vehicle in a reinforced composite battery box," according to Starr.

Schneider said the Alias finished the challenge, recharging batteries at each of the three stations along the way.

"The other three Alias running prototypes will have lithium-ion battery packs," said Starr, "including the vehicle that will participate in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize shakedown track event at the Michigan International Speedway in May. That vehicle will be driven by Al Unser Jr., a former two-time Indy 500 winner."

Alias production vehicles will use Li-ion batteries. A 50-kW motor will be used in the base model, and the upgrade model will use a 125-kW motor.

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