zapxebra.jpgZap,
a small US company specialised in electric vehicles, has signed an
agreement to form a joint venture with Chinese car maker Shandong
Jindalu Vehicle Company.

Zap is best known in the US for its Xebra electric three-wheeler (pictured left), which the Chinese company makes.

While
electric cars have long struggled to be taken seriously in the west,
Zap claims interest in the Xebra has soared with rising gas prices,
particularly from fleet owners.

Its third-quarter results,
released today, show unaudited sales of $10m for the first nine months
of fiscal year 2006, which is apparently a record in Zap's 12-year
history.

Zap's latest announcement
about the Chinese JV is frustratingly short on detail and long on
promise. In particular, the two companies promise to develop a new
generation of “low-cost advanced transportation vehicles” that run
efficiently on gas, electricity, ethanol and other non-conventional
fuels.

The only concrete detail in the release is that Zap has
established an office in Dezhou, China to support the JV. More
developments will be announced “shortly”. Despite our scepticism and
Zap's chequered history, it's difficult to disagree with this comment
from Shandong Jindalu's president Lu:

Although
many companies talk about doing things for the environment, we are
proud to be part of a joint venture in which both parties are dedicated
toward bringing vehicles to the market that can bring not only good
returns to our shareholders, but the planet as well.”

I guess he forgot to check out Zap's share price, which is now less than it was five years ago.

Go here for more on Zap and Chinese-manufactured electric cars on the Green Car Congress website.

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