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ZENN Electric Car
The ZENN Motor Company, based in Canada, has had a storied and rocky history. So far, the Zero Emission, No Noise (ZENN) company has produced only about 500 units of its 3-door hatchback neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), which came in two flavors, one with a longer range.
On April 30, 2010, the company ceased production of all of its vehicles to concentrate on drive train development and sales to equipment manufacturers and other automotive interests. Slow sales and negative publicity regarding their large financial stake in EEStor, an energy storage startup, were the likely reasons for the change.
The ZENN NEV/LSV
The ZENN car was designed off of the MC2 microcar made by Microcar in France. To this, ZENN added 12V lead-acid gel batteries and other electric drive train components.
These low speed vehicles (LSV) were a subject of debate in Canadian government as to their legal standing - did they qualify as something different than normal, highway-ready cars? was the question. In the U.S. vehicles incapable of traveling at speeds higher than 25 or 35mph (depending on the state) are considered NEVs and exempt from most highway safety requirements.
The lack of clarity in the Canadian rules is cited as the reason the ZENN saw almost no sales in that country.
ZENN entered into a partnership with startup EEStor in 2004 to gain partial ownership and exclusive rights to the EEStor technology when it released. The Electrical Energy Storage Units (EESU) the company was developing were to revolutionize the automotive industry, acting as half battery, half supercapacitor, giving fast charging energy for long term storage.
After ZENN put tens of millions into the startup, money which ZENN itself was given as venture capital, the controversy began as EEStor patents slowly released with their registrations and a skeptical EV community began asking questions about the viability of the technology.
As of this writing, EEStor has missed 4 deadlines for delivery of prototypes of the EESU to ZENN and has yet to publicly demonstrate the energy storage system in action.
The cityZENN was to be the company's first foray into highway-ready vehicles as a full in-house design powered by the EESU technology. The car was not technically innovative beyond the EESU, but would have given a likely investor injection into ZENN.
With failure of the EESU to be delivered and the change in business plan by ZENN, however, the cityZENN was relegated to the "could have been" pile.
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