Jet Industries Electravan 600

jet-electravan-600-profileElectric cars such as the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf are all the rage these days. These sexy cars offer zero emissions, good fuel economy, and near-silent operation. But there was a time not long ago when electric vehicles were not sexy or cool.

Early electric vehicles were converted from gasoline-powered vehicles using primitive chargers and batteries. They were a novelty item, mostly reserved for hippies and fringe-thinkers. They lacked the mass-market appeal of today’s sophisticated alt-fuel vehicles. Let’s revisit those times for a moment to take a look at once such vehicle: the Electravan.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive

It won Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” before it was even available for sale nationwide. It runs on gasoline – and, when it wants to, on electricity. Its mileage is more controversial than global warming and stem cells combined. It is the most interesting car in the world.

Whether you love it, hate it, or are indifferent about hybrid cars, there’s no question that the Chevrolet Volt has generated a ton of attention from the media. I was fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of a Volt at the 2011 Arizona International Auto Show.

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Zap Xebra 3 Wheel Electric Vehicle

Because of its black and white stripe pattern, the zebra is one of nature’s most recognizable animals. Along those same lines, the Zap Xebra is a very recognizable car. Can you guess why?

No, it’s not an optical illusion. This is a 3-wheeled passenger car with the single wheel in front. But wait, it gets better! The Zap Xebra is an all-electric car manufactured in China! You can imagine my complete and utter surprise when I spotted this one silently humming around in Glendale, Arizona.

With a price of just $12,000 brand new, Zap had the market cornered on affordability (and unusual looks). However, at that price point there must have been some compromises in quality. According to several websites I found, some of the cars were made of fiberglass while others were made of steel. None of them ever came with airbags.

The range is an estimated 40 miles at 40 mph, so it can’t go on the highway. The driver must have been pretty close to home at the time I spotted him.

These cars were only produced from 2006 to 2009. I wasn’t able to get a photo of the front, but it has this crazy third headlight in the center that gives the car a very “mouse-like” appearance. Whether you like it or hate it, this is definitely not a car you see every day!