Quality electric vehicles are now available from a range of major automakers, but it wasn’t always the case. The world of EVs was once populated by a series of fly-by-night operations that built low-volume curiosities, attempting to break into a market that wasn’t quite ready to go mainstream. A great example of this era is the 2006 Zap Xebra, one of which was recently for sale on Facebook Marketplace for just $850.
The photos of the vehicle show a dilapidated three-wheeled contraption in a very sorry state. The center console has been removed, there’s filth and debris littering the interior, and the car is in no way capable of running and/or driving. Originally able to hit up to 40 mph and with a range of 40 miles, the Xebra’s drivetrain was powered by six 12V lead acid batteries. The owner notes that this example needs new batteries and tires, and interestingly states that it comes with a clean title.
The latter piece of information is notable, as the Zap Xebra was not what one would call a stout and reliable vehicle. In 2013, federal regulators mandated that the sum total of 691 Xebra vehicles be bought back by the company in the wake of intractable braking issues, as reported by Press Democrat. The company was ordered to pay $3100 to owners and destroy the vehicles as part of the ruling.
However, as shown by complaints on the NHTSA website, some as recent as 2016, the company may not have been particularly thorough in pursuing the buybacks. Obviously, at least one Xebra slipped through the cracks, given we’re seeing one in this ad. If you’re considering purchasing the vehicle regardless, it bears noting that the recalls concerned significant failures of the braking system. The Xebra was caught out both for its excessively long stopping distances, and the lack of a braking system that could safely hold fluid in the event of a leak in one part of the system.
Despite offering the Xebra in a wide array of styles, including a pickup, and an open-top “Safari” model, it never quite caught on. Poor quality was par for the course, with one review noting such disasters as hooks welded to the frame after it had been painted, and panels hacked away with tin snips. Other oddities include the ZAP Xebra Xero, fitted with a 150W solar panel that could fully charge the onboard batteries in just 47 hours of full sunlight. Despite a veritable menagerie of other piecemeal business activities over the years, the ZAP website went dark in 2017 and the fate of the company today is unclear.
Of course, if you want a small, off-beat electric vehicle, you could do much better. There’s a recreation of the classic Tamiya Wild One coming to market soon, or for something more car-like, you could try and land yourself a Hong Guang Mini EV. Getting either one road registered in the US could be difficult, though.
It takes either bravery or sheer recklessness to consider piloting a vehicle that the government itself deemed must be destroyed. However, if you’re suitably keen, you can always go out on the hunt for a Xebra of your very own. Maybe you can drive around with a bit of wood to jam in the wheels to slow it down?
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