China is zapping up its burgeoning alternative auto segment through a joint venture between U.S.-based ZAP, a pioneer in the electric car field, and the Chinese Youngman Automotive Group. The two are to manufacture and distribute electric and hybrid vehicles for the car, truck and bus markets while also focusing on producing an electric charging infrastructure throughout the vast nation.
And it may not be long until these vehicles are pushed stateside.
"This joint venture will provide a platform for both ZAP and Youngman to focus each other's strengths to develop solutions that have the potential to transform the industry," says Steve Schneider, ZAP's CEO. "Our energy will not stop at the vehicle engineering level. Using renewable energy to provide a cost-effective recharging infrastructure to customers, we can change the world, one vehicle at a time."
Earlier this year, Youngman awarded Lotus Engineering several vehicle development projects and recently signed an agreement with Proton — Malaysia's national car company — estimated to be worth several billion U.S. dollars. The strategic partnership with ZAP will allow the joint venture to bring highway-capable electric and hybrid vehicles, such as the ZAP-X crossover SUV, to the market.
"There are many good manufacturers out there, but to be a great manufacturer we need to do something that can change the world," says Pang Qingnian, Youngman's chairman. "I have built Youngman Group based upon three key principles: quality product, technology and brand.
"With our current product lineup and our commitment to quality, I believe we can provide a viable electric alternative to the world," Pang continues. "Through the integration of currently available technologies and renewable energy, I believe we can take a leadership position and play a significant part in providing a better alternative."
"This is the most significant relationship that ZAP has ever entered into," Schneider points out. Since 1994, ZAP has delivered nearly 100,000 vehicles to consumers in more than 75 countries with strategic partners in Europe, Asia and South America.
The ZAP-X SUV will utilize Lotus Engineering's Aluminum Performance Crossover (APX) platform and body structure.
A combination of the lightweight aluminum vehicle architecture, a new efficient drivetrain and advanced battery management systems are intended to enable a range of up to 350 miles between charges, with a rapid 10-minute recharging time. An auxiliary power unit is planned to support longer-distance journeys.
Lotus' conventional gasoline V6 engine will be replaced by revolutionary in-hub electric motors, delivering 644 horsepower in all-wheel-drive mode.
An innovative placement of the powertrain leaves the space previously occupied by the conventional engine and drivetrain open for additional battery capacity and amenities, making it an attractive consumer-oriented electric car concept, Schneider reports. The design features will give the ZAP-X crossover enhanced structural strength, storage space and range, he adds.
The platform "is a perfect fit for our plans to introduce a full product portfolio of electric cars," explains Schneider. "Due to the initial design by Lotus, our cost and time to production will be significantly reduced. We believe that the ZAP-X will become the most advanced, most practical and most appealing flagship electric vehicle to date and will revolutionize the industry."
According to Lotus CEO Mike Kimberley, "The bringing together of these next-generation vehicle technologies represents another significant step forward for automotive technology."