One Week With the Zap Electricycle Scooter
One Week With the ZAP Electricycle Scooter
It's now just about a month since I picked up my nifty new ZAP
(scooter) at the EVS-14 show. I though everyone might like a little note as to how
it's fitting in at the Udell household. The answer is: like any infant, it's
having teething troubles, but I'm hoping it will work out into a good member of
the family. I've posted photos on my website and will be putting them on the
I saw the blue electricycle at the EVS-14 show, and living in a city
is probably the scooter capital of the USA, I decided I must have it. Especially
since there was a show price of $500 off and I would save the typical $400 in
shipping with the rental pickup that I used to get to EVS-14. ( I brought two
ebikes... silly me, I thought there would be some sort of show for USERS of EVs,
not just makers...) I figured that I could make space in the back of the S10, and
sure enough, late Tuesday afternoon, just as everyone was breaking camp, I talked
ZAP out of the blue scooter. Oddly enough, the red one at the show was also sold
to someone in Key West... I have yet to meet this person...
I got a chance to drive the scooter before I bought it, and according
salesguy at the ZAP booth, the scooter had seen nearly its whole charge used on
demo rides that day. The energy gauge reflected this, and when I took it out for a
ride, it was kinda sluggish, so when I returned I tested another one which
responded much better. I decided that that must be how they are, since the
literature at the show said that the specs were to speed of 28mph and up to 30
miles range. The ZAP rep explained to me that the scooter was a demo and that
they'd send me the things that it was missing, like the mirrors. Oh yeah, and the
Wed morning I stuffed it in the back of the pickup and headed back
Key West, plugging the charger into an inverter in the cigarette plug of the
pickup. 8 hours later I was in KW and the charger was showing green - Ready to Go!
I attached a plate from another scooter I own ( illegal, I know, but I had to try
the new toy) and headed out for a spin.
Acceleration didn't seem as good as the other ZAP electricycle that I
energy gauge dipped low whenever I hit the throttle. My Honda Elite SR (50cc two
could leave this thing for dead at a light, and has almost 10mph on it on the top
Still, it did almost 25 mph and ran fairly well and quietly. The most annoying
thing is the idiot lights for "on" and "high beams" are blindingly
bright. I toned
down the "on" light with some tape, I put it away to play
with the next day, putting it back on the charger for the night.
Over the next couple of days I ran the scooter a few times, and took a
closer look at it. The final drive is by chain and the motor is a brushed DC, I
think it's permanent magnet and has an integral gearbox. The batteries are 50 Ah
sealed lead acid batteries (2) the same size as a hawker 38 Ah. I believe they're
rated at the 20 hour rate instead of whatever rate hawkers are rated at. The
batteries are held in with quick release levers and connected into the harness
with Anderson connectors so that you could change the batteries in just 30 seconds
or so. The charger that it was using was a 3A 24V charger that looked like a small
stereo amplifier, and it seemed to me that this would take an rather long time to
charge up the system.
and the 8A charger.
In addition to this problem, the latch that held down the seat was not
connected to the lock that was supposed to release it. That's OK though, since the
one key that I had to the ignition didn't fit that lock anyway. I added a pull to
release the seat.
Seemed like a good time to call ZAP and see what I could get done about
I called and Spoke with Shelly, and after fixing some credit card
silliness ( the credit card company thought that something was up since suddenly,
after a long
period of inactivity, the credit card went to Orlando and bought a scooter...) we
started in on solving the problems and immediately hit a snag- ZAP didn't have a
Apparently, the electricycle will be considered a moped in CA, and
a title there. Consequently, ZAP never got one for it. Since this is one of the
first to be sold ( I think the first), at least outside of CA, this was the first
time that they had heard of this problem. I told them that I'd head down to the
tag office in the morning and see what I could find out.
Shelly then put me on with Rick in engineering who said that I had the
charger for the scooter. The correct one is supposed to be an 8A model, and he
offered to send me one, FEDEX. Great! That ought to put most of the charge in
I got the charger the next day, but it was a couple of days before I
to the tag office ( Christmas holidays ) and when I did, the person behind the
counter didn't seem to know what to do. After calling over her supervisor, the two
of them decided that what I needed was a signed slip from the CA DMV saying that
the policy for moped did indeed not require them to have a title. Also, I'd need a
notarized sales slip from ZAP as a proof of purchase. I passed this info on to
Over the holidays I got another chance to take the scooter out for an
spin, and did a little run to check it's range. The result? By the time I had gone
13 Km I could barely get the scooter to cross a street if it had any crown to it.
This is lots less than 30 miles (50 Km). Hmmm. I'm a big guy, 250lbs, but this
seemed a little much.
I called Rick and mentioned it to him, and he agreed with me. I said
try again with a smaller friend at the helm and I'd watch everything closely. Then
Shelly emailed me and said that the problem had been passed to Andrew at ZAP and
sent me his extension. On the positive side, the new charger really makes charging
a lot quicker and even with the short range, the charger makes opportunity charges
The next week I put my friend Jim Melton on the scooter and sent him
around the area a little, coming back every 2 miles or so. I checked
voltage under full throttle too, and the batteries sagged to 11.5V with a full
charge. After 18Km or so
the scooter was down to just 30Km/hour and by 20Km it was down to 22Km/hour.
That's a range of less than 12 miles.
I suspect that
the batteries aren't up to par and are sagging too much. Also, the rear axle
started to make a noise like
the bearings were dry or damaged. Then, at the end of the run, the key got stuck
in the ignition. We were unable to turn it to the "off" position to get it out.
removed one of the batteries to prevent theft.
I called Rick up and let him know how the test had turned out, and what
problems we had faced. He said that he'd look into a new ignition and other parts,
and that when he got some Hawkers in ( the battery that all the scooters are using
now ) he'd send them to me to see if they help range and acceleration. Andrew is
working on the title thing, and
has sent me a fax with the moped registration form and the laws of CA. We're also
working with the State of Florida to try to get a title out of them.
This evening I came home to a ZAP care package of mirrors for the
ignition lock, and parts to fix the underseat latch. I've installed them and the
scooter is running again. I'll be looking into the bearing noise from the rear
this weekend. With any luck, we'll have the registration fixed in a week and the
scooter will become Ella's daily driver.
My conclusions so far? The ZAP electricycle scooter is a nifty way to
around downtown, but lacks the range to do anything more than short distance runs
in low speed areas. The quality is not up to par with Honda, but above the quality
of most of the Korean scooters I've used. The scooter is a good looker and ZAP is
actively working on making it better. Their customer support has been very good,
but I'm annoyed that I am still waiting to drive it legally. Even with the deal
with the title, I've put on over 150Km on the scooter in less than a month,
including the week or so that it was down while ZAP got me another ignition. I
love scooting quietly along with no pollution.
I wonder how it would do with two more Hawkers hung on the back like
saddlebags, only lower. Even with my weight on the scooter, and with only 1 notch
above lowest on the rear spring preloads I don't bottom out the rear springs. I
don't think that the scooter would mind the weight, especially since with less
voltage sag there would be performance close to original. I'm tempted to find
Feel free to write me directly if you have any questions.
More ZAP info at their website, and at my EVS-14 ZAP page. Or, check out the
scooter at the source SunCom of China.
The latest news: as of 1/30/98, the electricycle is registered in Florida! - Here's the
whole sordid tale:
After waiting for a month, I called ZAP to find out how the registration paperwork is
coming along. To refresh your memory, the scooter didn't come with a title since in CA it
didn't need one, and nobody seemed to know what it would need in FL. Shelly Starr from ZAP
called Tallahassee ( the capital of FL) and spoke with someone at the DMV who said what we
would need is a Manufacturers Statement of Origin, known as an MSO. This would need to be
signed by the a ZAP representative and a SunCom rep, which is the Chinese company that ZAP
gets the scooters from.
Shelly had an MSO drawn up using the VIN ( vehicle identification number ) that they
had on file for my scooter, and shipped it to me FedEx. The next day I stopped by the tag
office and checked to see how much this was going to cost me, so that I could bring a
check the next day and do this quickly and only end up a little late for work. The girl
behind the counter said that it'd be $125 or so, because I'd have to pay the sales tax
that I didn't pay CA. The next morning I was at the counter when they opened.
Well, I should have called in sick to work, because everyone in the tag office had to
have a part in looking over my paperwork, and the office manager had to call the capitol
to check on whether or not registering something without a gas engine was even possible.
Then there was a big discussion on how many cc's the scooter was, since this is one of the
ways that the classify scooters, with anything over 50 being technically a motorcycle. I
told them that it only barely did 25 mph, a performance envelope that puts it at the
bottom of the local scooter population, and if they had to put something down under cc's
they ought to put it down as 49cc's like other mopeds.
Next they sent a girl outside with me to check that the VIN on the scooter matched the
one on the MSO. It didn't!!! I had never checked it, actually I never knew where it was. I
had figured that ZAP knew from their paperwork and that they'd hook me up right. OOPs. It
turns out that the VIN on a scooter is stamped on the frame on the left hand side, near
the ground where you put your feet. In this case it's right in front of the centerstand.
As bad as having a different number was, the number that was there was VERY difficult
to read, causing the girl to not even go on record as to what the number was, just that it
obviously did not match the MSO. We went back inside to find that the office manager was
now convinced that I had to also go to the Police Department and check to see that my
scooter was even legal to drive on city streets. I maintained that this decision was
already made by the state, and that the local Police had essentially nothing to say about
it. This argument wasn't flying in the tag office, and besides they now wanted me to
confirm with Traffic Officer Gomez the VIN on the scooter.
Happily, the Police department is only a mile or so away from the tag office, so I
could make a few trips on the very limited range that the ZAP scooter has. When I got to
the Police department I had Officer Gomez paged, and after a half hour of waiting I called
up to dispatch to see if they had any idea when he might be arriving. It turned out that
he was at the tag office, waiting for me, and nobody there had seen fit to tell him that I
had gone down to the PD to meet him! We got that fixed and a couple of minutes later,
Officer Gomez pulled up on his Police Special Kawasaki 1000. I pulled the scooter around
for him and we proceeded to the requisite question "how many cc's is it?". We
then went over all the normal safety equipment, like lights and the horn, and when that
was satisfactory we started checking out the VIN.
It was definitely not the VIN on the MSO, and Officer Gomez had to head back inside the
PD to check on ordinances. When he returned, he had with him an older officer ( perhaps a
detective, he was in plainclothes) who asked about the cc's and then asked me to put the
scooter on its side so he could have a closer look at the VIN. He scraped away some of the
rust and excess paint and between him and Gomez they decided on what the VIN was. It was a
few digits different in the body of the number, and the ZAP MSO also had four zeros on the
end, which the scooter didn't.
The older officer then said that the only thing that they could check was the VIN,
because it's up to Tallahassee to decide what's legal on the road (that statement sounded
kinda familiar...) and that all scooters are supposed to have a second copy of the VIN in
another location, perhaps we ought to look for that to confirm the numbers that we can't
read too well. After 10 minutes of searching the scooter we were unable to find any.
The officers decided that I'd have to go back to the tag office and check with them
about the second VIN, and that I could use the numbers that we found on the frame for the
title, once the MSO matched. I'd have to get a new one from ZAP. That sounded like the
easy part, so I called Shelly back, and told her that I needed the new MSO to end in 688,
not 975 like the existing MSO that I had. I also suggested that she put the MSO in Ella's
name ( the scooter is a gift to her), not put the zeros on the end of the VIN and asked
where the second VIN was. She told me that it should be on the battery rack under the
seat. I checked and found nothing, it looks like mine does not have a second VIN location.
I hoped that the tag office wouldn't know to look.
The next day I got the newly redone MSO with 688 ( the final three numbers as seen by
officer Gomez) but still with the zeros at the end in Ella's name. I called her and she
stopped by to register the scooter during her lunch hour.
The tag office was totally confused about seeing "another" electric scooter,
(" we had some guy in here yesterday with one just like that!") and the girl
that went outside to check the VIN came back saying that it was not 6880000 like the MSO
claimed (or 688 like officer Gomez said it was), but 888. After a long wait while they
called Tallahassee again, the decision was that with the extra zeros on the end of the VIN
they could not give Ella the title. Besides, they said, the number isn't 688 like the MSO
says, its 888. AARRGGHHH!!! Ella was very upset, and let me know.
That night I called Shelly again, and this time she agreed to leave off the zeros and
send us a third MSO with 888 as the last three numbers of the VIN. Apparently all the
other scooters that ZAP has have zeros at the end of the VIN.
Yesterday I got anther FedEx from ZAP with the new MSO in it and Ella got a chance to
get to the tag office after work, looking for the same girl who checked out the VIN the
last time, that way the number would stay 888. If this try worked, it would be at least a
little appropriate since it was her birthday. I hoped that the tag office wouldn't ruin
her day. I had also suggested that she do it at 4:30 (it was a Friday), that way all the
public servants would be looking to go home and be motivated to just finish the paperwork,
whatever the numbers were.
There was some grief over what to put down as the cc's of the scooter, but somebody
remembered me saying that it was like a 50 cc scooter in performance at best, so they put
it down as 49cc's and gave Ella a plate and a title. Hey, not bad. Only 6 weeks after
getting the scooter...
This will allow us to start putting some real miles on the scooter. As I write this,
Ella is off running some errands with the electricycle, and she'll start using it to get
to work on Monday. I'll keep everyone informed as to how it all works out.