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Zap to do three-wheeled car in 2009

Three-wheeled cars may make a comeback with the craze over electric cars coming to a boil.

Zap, the electric car company based in Santa Rosa, Calif., is adding another electric car to its lineup.
Zap Alias
Credit: Zap
An artist's rendering of the Zap Alias.

The three-wheeled Alias, due to go into production in 2009, will have a top speed of over 100 miles an hour and go 150 miles on a charge, according to Zap. It will sell for $30,000. The Alias will also likely come with a hybrid range extender, a small gas motor that can power the car or charge the battery.

The Alias will actually be made by a joint venture between Zap and China's Youngman Automotive Group. The company has an animated video of the prototype here. Zap said last year it planned to release a $30,000 electric car in 2009 but didn't mention at the time that it was a three-wheeler.

Zap also sells a three-wheeled low-speed electric car. (Check out the . It was a bit scary to drive, but we got noticed.)

Until recently, three-wheelers have occupied a niche of a niche of a niche. Some European companies made them back in the 1950s and '60s. And an evil villain drove one in Goldmember, the third movie in the Austin Powers trilogy.

Some three-wheelers, though, are going upscale. Venture Vehicles plans to bring three-wheeled hybrids and electric cars that would sell in the $20,000 range to the States starting next year.

Three-wheelers don't weigh as much as their four-wheeled counterparts, so they can go farther on a charge than regular electric cars. They are smaller, too, making them easier to park in cities.

Three-wheelers can also get to the market faster because they are classified as motorcycles, which means there is less safety testing. And they can be fun to drive. Venture's cars, based on a car design from the Netherlands, will tilt into turns like a motorcycle.

Zap, though, has many skeptics, and the company has many projects still in the works. It is also coming out with the Zap-X, an electric SUV later this year.

Zap, for its part, notes it is working on these projects with Group Lotus, a British car company. The Alias, in fact, grew out of the Zap-X project.