The Z.E.N.N. Car

Z.E.N.N. = Zero Emissions, No Noise. It’s a Canadian car made in Quebec. It can travel 35 miles on a charge and is speed rated at 25 miles per hour. In other words, it’s a so-called “neighborhood vehicle” that plugs into a standard outlet. Not particularly convenient for many who have long commutes, but for many who just run errands, pick up the kids from school, or go get a few groceries, it’s perfect. In fact, it seems to be designed to handle a week’s worth of Canadian groceries. Canada’s own Rick Mercer reports:

Oh, and it’s not available in Canada.






43 replies
  1. 1
    Psycheout says:

    25 mph? Sounds great! Where do I sign up? Sadly there’s no go-cart speedway in my area.

  2. 2

    […] But today he’s really got the hot scoop. And I mean H-O-T-T!!! Get this: a car that can go 35 miles at a whopping 25 mph! WOW! Move over Ferrari, well, into the fast lane to get around this monstrosity. Here comes the turtle car! […]

  3. 3
    Xenos says:

    The only reason this car has a low carbon footprint is because the electricity in Quebec comes from hydropower. If you don’t have a source of hydro or solar power, your are most likely burning coal to power that car.

    Still, if you have a short commute, it is awfully practical. Cheap to buy and cheap to run. Less money going to places like Texas and Iran.

  4. 4
    Bombadil says:

    My local golf course has a whole fleet of these vehicles — has for years.

  5. 5
    Michael D. says:

    Bombadil: Heh. True I guess. But I would definitely use something like this to zoom (well, not zoom) around town, where the speed limit is generally about 25 anyway, and usually less than that with traffic the way it is.

  6. 6
    Jen says:

    It’s cute, but I can’t think of anywhere I could drive to without getting honked to death going 25 mph, except maybe Manhattan, where I do not live. I couldn’t go to the grocery store at 25 mph. I mean, I understand the compromise and basic neighborhood vehicle concept, but it’s going to need to top out at no less than 50 for that to be really viable, no?

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Trevor B says:

    I own a moped that gets 100+ miles to the gallon, I suspect my carbon footprint is still smaller than this coal powered piece.

  9. 9
    Jen says:

    And you couldn’t pick up the “kids” in it, only kid. It’s a 2-seater. I’m not sure I’d put my kid in the front seat of a tiny vehicle going 25, either…

  10. 10
    RSA says:

    Did anyone catch Top Gear’s take on the Peel P50? Hilarious.

  11. 11
    Michael D. says:

    It’s a 2-seater

    Hello? It has a trunk!! :-)

  12. 12
    Bombadil says:

    Sounds like it might work at a gated community or retirement community type of thing, or something like that development that Disney built down in Florida. But I can’t think of any of my local towns and cities where this could be useful. Too bad, it’s a good idea in theory, just impractical for most locations.

  13. 13
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    The Z.E.N.N. falls under the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s FMSVV 500 regulations which govern NEV’s (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles). The reg requires that NEVs be equipped with headlamps, stop lamps, turn signal lamps, tail lamps, reflex reflectors, parking brakes, rear view mirrors, windshields, seat belts, and vehicle identification numbers. In return for those minimal requirements, NEV’s are restricted to a top speed of 25mph. At present, 35 states have passed legislation allowing NEV’s to be operated on surface streets where the posted speed is 35MPH or less.

    There are several of them in use (No Z.E.N.N.cars though) in my small town but, many of our streets are narrow and we have a high enough population of the aged that seeing someone do 25 (Or less!) is not extraordinary.

  14. 14
    zzyzx says:

    I’m waiting for a practical electric car. 60 mile range at 60 MPH, and the Prius will be reserved for road trips.

  15. 15
  16. 16

    The only reason this car has a low carbon footprint is because the electricity in Quebec comes from hydropower. If you don’t have a source of hydro or solar power, your are most likely burning coal to power that car.

    Probably, but you’re creating a lot less in terms of emissions than you are with even a hybrid. The real problem is as zzyzx says–top speed and range. I’m looking forward to the Tesla rollout of their sedan.

  17. 17
    Zifnab says:

    The reg requires that NEVs be equipped with headlamps, stop lamps, turn signal lamps, tail lamps, reflex reflectors, parking brakes, rear view mirrors, windshields, seat belts, and vehicle identification numbers. In return for those minimal requirements, NEV’s are restricted to a top speed of 25mph.

    Wow. Bullshit. No wonder no one wants to buy an electric car. We legally aren’t allowed to build one anybody would want to buy. I could see an electric vehicle getting away with 40mph without a problem. Most of the streets in my mom’s suburb cap out at about 40 anyway, and they are so overgrown with stop lights and stop signs, you’d have a hard time accelerating past that if you wanted to.

    But if you’re going to double anything, double the 35 mile range. I don’t know how it handles idling – especially with the radio cranked up and the Heating/AC at full blast – but during Christmas season I can definitely see myself covering 15-20 miles driving back and forth between shopping centers and mini-malls. That’s cutting it kinda close for me.

  18. 18
    Jen says:

    I thought of that, too, Zifnab, if you tried to combine more than about 2 errands, you’d have to go home, and it wouldn’t work r/t for a lot of people’s commutes. If they could do something that went 50 mph and 50 miles on a charge, I think they’d probably have something there. I guess I can see why the hybrids have been so much more popular.

  19. 19
    Peter Johnson says:

    Oh, and it’s not available in Canada.

    Why do socialist countries hate the environment?

  20. 20
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    Besides the regs limiting top speed there’s the issue of price. From the charging times for this (4 hours to charge to 80%, 8 hours for a full charge) I’m guessing that it uses lead acid batteries. They’re cheap but their energy density is way behind some of the newer battery types. Z.E.N.N. could go with Lithium Ion batteries and easily get twice the range but the cost would go up by a couple of grand.

    As an aside, the FMSVV 500 regulations were passed in 1997 and haven’t been revisited since then.

  21. 21
    Billy K says:

    It’s crap like this, touted as a “solution,” that’s made alternative energy vehicles seem like a joke.

    Why are we even talking about something unable to drive on actual roads? We can do a lot better. The EV-1 was a functional vehicle. I had one for a week. Absolutely loved it. That was almost 10 years ago.

  22. 22
    D-Chance. says:

    Too bad the US couldn’t come up with something like that

  23. 23
    D-Chance. says:

    Of course, the Obvio (same company)… if you want to put a car that looks like a dwarfed VW beetle on a bad acid trip on the same highway system with SUVs and 18-wheelers. 200-240 mile range and up to 120 mph and all for only $50K. Of course, if it breaks down, the mechanic is in California, so that towing fee is gonna suck.

    As Billy said, until these “alternative cars” look and perform like real cars and trucks, they’re useless. 300-400 mile ranges per ‘tank’ and 75-80 mph is pretty much a necessity, especially in rural areas. And payload, the need to haul 4-5 grown-ups or contractors’ equipment/supplies… it’s hard to believe that so many are still stuck on building tinker-toys for the market in need of utility at this late date.

  24. 24
    Sarcastro says:

    ‘No noise’ is an astonishingly bad idea for a vehicle built specifically for trundling through neighborhoods.

  25. 25
    Zifnab says:

    300-400 mile ranges per ‘tank’ and 75-80 mph is pretty much a necessity, especially in rural areas. And payload, the need to haul 4-5 grown-ups or contractors’ equipment/supplies…

    For commercial vehicles, yes. They recently overhauled all the buses in Austin with hybrid engines, which – in my opinion – was an excellent idea.

    But those big trucks are expensive to produce and their turn-over rate isn’t nearly as high as the generic soccer mom car. I know a friend who’s dad has driven the same truck for 10 years. I know a friend who’s mom gets a new Van/SUV/whatever every two years. The marketplace for “experimental” vehicles is in the affluent yuppie suburbs of California, Texas, and New York. You can get away with a car that only has a 50 mile range and a top speed of 40mph there – especially if the family is a two-car family. And from that humble stock, you can grow into larger and more aggressive cars.

    KIA and Saturn started out making two-seater pocket cars too. Now they make sports cars and SUVs. That’s just the way car companies grow up.

  26. 26
    D-Chance. says:

    Zifnab Says:

    300-400 mile ranges per ‘tank’ and 75-80 mph is pretty much a necessity, especially in rural areas. And payload, the need to haul 4-5 grown-ups or contractors’ equipment/supplies…

    For commercial vehicles, yes.

    For real people. The guy who’s hauling lumber or tools or feed/hay all day will use the same pick-up to run to the post office or grocery store. The mom running a kid to school was up 4 hours early with 300 newspapers piled in the back, and will really be pinned in with the Sunday editions. Most of the rural set use their behemoths for both commercial AND for personal everyday use. A second car is usually not an option when a family is scraping by on a lower to middle 5-figure income. Flexibility and utility are a necessity.

    The marketplace for “experimental” vehicles is in the affluent yuppie suburbs of California, Texas, and New York. You can get away with a car that only has a 50 mile range and a top speed of 40mph there – especially if the family is a two-car family. And from that humble stock, you can grow into larger and more aggressive cars.

    That sounds suspiciously like “trickle down technology”… never figured you for a Reaganite. /grins.

  27. 27
    Chris Johnson says:

    This is awesome. I have a rumbling old Buick Century that will probably do 110-120mph and still gets more than 30mpg, but IN my town I’m doing 25. Because it’s my town.

    AND our electric is hydro-power.

    I think I’d rather have a futuristic electric motorcycle if we’re talking raw efficiency and neighborhood jaunts, but seriously- very cool, and I just started liking Michael twice as much for seeing fit to post this. Didn’t think you had it in you, man. Moar.

    Also bear in mind people, electric is very different behavior than a 25 mph piston engined vehicle. Electric is all about the low-end torque, you might not even need a gearbox at all. It could be belt drive. You could have one of these that would chirp the tires all the way to 25 mph and still keep to that (regulated) limit, or we could throw the limit away and you’d have a crazy little tire-squealing midget that topped out at, say, 45…

    They make electric dragsters. The trick is, the motor doesn’t actually melt if you’re only burning it up for a second or two, so low-end torque can get really silly.

    My gas-powered car has a modified air intake and exhaust so it tops out near the top of its rev range and is pokey at low revs. That’s actually more boring since I don’t race the thing. The electric powerband would be more fun in normal driving, without a huge penalty in efficiency.

  28. 28
    Chris Johnson says:

    This is awesome. I have a rumbling old Buick Century that will probably do 110-120mph and still gets more than 30mpg, but IN my town I’m doing 25. Because it’s my town.

    AND our electric is hydro-power.

    I think I’d rather have a futuristic electric motorcycle if we’re talking raw efficiency and neighborhood jaunts, but seriously- very cool, and I just started liking Michael twice as much for seeing fit to post this. Didn’t think you had it in you, man. Moar.

    Also bear in mind people, electric is very different behavior than a 25 mph piston engined vehicle. Electric is all about the low-end torque, you might not even need a gearbox at all. It could be belt drive. You could have one of these that would chirp the tires all the way to 25 mph and still keep to that (regulated) limit, or we could throw the limit away and you’d have a crazy little tire-squealing midget that topped out at, say, 45…

    They make electric dragsters. The trick is, the motor doesn’t actually melt if you’re only burning it up for a second or two, so low-end torque can get really silly.

    My gas-powered car has a modified air intake and exhaust so it tops out near the top of its rev range and is pokey at low revs. That’s actually more boring since I don’t race the thing. The electric powerband would be more fun in normal driving, without a huge penalty in efficiency.

  29. 29
    Darkness says:

    Sarcastro Says:

    ‘No noise’ is an astonishingly bad idea for a vehicle built specifically for trundling through neighborhoods.

    We prius drivers already play this game. People need to learn to look, not listen, before stepping into the road. Or we can do like they do in India, not because the cars are quiet but because the roads are so horribly noisy that the sound of one vehicle gets lost: they install custom sounds on the cars, one for forward, one for reverse. You can use it instead of a horn.

    People are trashing the idea of vehicles like this simply because they aren’t the audience for it. Like legions of retirees who need to get to church and the corner store don’t count as a viable market or something. Sheesh. You have no idea how easy it is to maintain a car like this. (I had a friend with an electric car in the 80s.) It has only a fraction of the parts of a normal car and can be fixed with a voltmeter. So, if you are on a fixed income, cheaper fuel and low cost of ownership are huge. Plus, on the upside, when Gramps forgets his meds (or takes them three times in one day) and tries to wander off… hey he won’t get far.

  30. 30
    Bombadil says:

    Darkness beat me to it. I love going in to a parking garage with my Prius and startling the hell out of a pedestrian who doesn’t hear me coming.

    Does that make me a bad person?

  31. 31
    jcricket says:

    I’m all for crazy stuff like this. More experimentation is better, as far as green/eco technology. There won’t be one big “bang” that solves all our problems (just like there’s not one transportation “model” right now).

    I’m not gonna buy one of these, but with the next revs of Priuses (better batteries, longer trips just on battery, etc.) I might be at the point where my next car is a hybrid.

    My biggest problem is that I drive too little for most “premium” eco-products to make economic sense. I can take the bus, but it would add about an hour to my commute (sometimes it sucks to be so close in). Maybe I need a plug-in scooter or something.

  32. 32
    Billy K says:

    You can get away with a car that only has a 50 mile range and a top speed of 40mph there

    Americans will never buy a car (in significant numbers) that tops out at 40mph.

    KIA and Saturn started out making two-seater pocket cars too. Now they make sports cars and SUVs.

    Saturn’s first line included a compact car, an economy sedan and a wagon. I wouldn’t call any of them a “pocket car.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn_S-Series

  33. 33
    Andrew says:

    Electric only vehicles are for golf courses.

    Plug-in hybrids are a real world solution.

    But we should really, really listen to Colin Chapman: Add lightness.

  34. 34
    Xenos says:

    I expect we will see a lot of people happy to settle for the limited range of an electric car once inexpensive solar is more common. I just love the idea free transportation — but then, I am really cheap and I have little shame.

    Diesel hybrids will be the best all-around vehicles… you can already get a Sprinter (DaimlerChrysler) diesel van that will seat 10 people and get 25 miles to the gallon with a ridiculous range exceeding 650 miles. Put a plug-in hybrid system in that baby, and you are in soccer-mom heaven.

  35. 35
    Jamey says:

    I’ve got a non-polluting transportation device that I use to pick the kids up from school and run quick errands to the post office and grocery. They’re called SHOES, you lazy fucks.

  36. 36
    mrmobi says:

    Okay, I’ve got to say I agree this car seems a little weak, although for older folks who don’t travel much it might just work.

    I own a Scion Xb. I recently read an article about a consortium of green companies who are beginning an experiment using the Xb as the platform.

    The car is converted to battery power and fitted with a computer which, when parked in your garage and plugged in, recharges the batterys.

    All pretty standard so far. Where this gets different is that once the batteries are charged, the computer allows the charge in the batteries to be uploaded to the power grid. The user can specify that he/she never wants the charge to go below a certain level. Imagining a power grid with tens of thousands of cars doing this, it could become a viable addition to the power grid.

    The article stated that expectations were a user could expect a check from the local power company of $1,000 to $2,000 a year for a typical user. (Most people have a round trip of 25-30 miles, and typically use their auto for about 45 minutes to an hour a day)

    Of course, this probably would only work in rural areas, where local power cooperatives allow this sort of thing to happen. Still, seemed like a good idea to me.

    I don’t have a link, but the item was on TreeHugger.com

  37. 37
    Shochu John says:

    Mr. Mobi,

    I’m confused. How does the modified Scion generate power to upload to the grid if it gets al of its power from the grid in the first place? If it has a combustion engine as well, this strikes me as a terribly inefficient way to generate grid power. If it’s solar, how does it generate power when parked in the garage?

    I don’t get it, where is this power coming from?

  38. 38
    Andrew says:

    I don’t get it, where is this power coming from?

    It’s coming from magic energy faeries who live in the scion’s wheel wells.

    Plug-in hybrids are not an efficient method for powering the grid. They may be useful as an emergency generator, or in extreme cases where the grid is overloaded as in a heat wave, but many small engines are much worse than a large power plant.

  39. 39
    jcricket says:

    I’ve got a non-polluting transportation device that I use to pick the kids up from school and run quick errands to the post office and grocery. They’re called SHOES, you lazy fucks.

    And pray tell how do those shoes (likely old ones) help contribute to the consumerist economy? They don’t, moonbat, that’s how.

    And you know what else you can do with shoes? Conceal shoe-bombs!

    Terrorist.

  40. 40
    Jen says:

    I think I’m just going to get Clooney to ferry me around town in his Tesla. Now that’s an electric two seater I could really warm to, the kids can walk home.

  41. 41
    uptown says:

    Already seen a few in Seattle (our electricity is mostly hydro). Looks like many ultra small cars that you see in Europe. Great for parking in the city.

    And to all of you moaning that “that they’re too small for rural drivers” – who cares!! Most people in this country live in the cities or suburbs.

  42. 42
    Tim C says:

    It carries a Canadian’s week’s worth of groceries. How many 6-packs is that?

  43. 43
    Tim C says:

    You know, I’m afraid we may end up choking on all those hybrid batteries. An article in the WaPost several months ago looked at the manufacture of the batteries for a Prius. Zinc is a major component. The zinc in mined in Canada by diesel-powered equipment. It’s taken by diesel rail to the St. Lawrence Seaway, where it is put aboard a diesel-powered ship and sailed across the Atlantic to Wales where it is smelted using large amounts of coal-generated electricity. The resulting ingot are then loaded aboard another diesel-powered freighter and sailed around to China. Diesel rail takes the zinc ingots into the interior of China where they are made into battery components. These components are then taken by diesel rail back to the seaport where they are loaded onto a diesel-powered freighter and taken to Japan. There the battery components are made into batteries, which are then installed in Priuses, which are loaded aboard diesel-powered freighters and sailed to the US where they are sold to US consumers who want to be eco-friendly. Hmmmm. Oh, and someday those batteries will have to be disposed of.

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  1. […] But today he’s really got the hot scoop. And I mean H-O-T-T!!! Get this: a car that can go 35 miles at a whopping 25 mph! WOW! Move over Ferrari, well, into the fast lane to get around this monstrosity. Here comes the turtle car! […]

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