May 21, 2022

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Half the Automotive

CAR seminars return to Acme | Business

ACME — Global leaders of the automotive industry converged on the Traverse City area this week to talk about electric vehicles and other developments in transportation.

The annual Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing Seminars are a hybrid event this year, with some people attending in-person at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa while others will watch via livestream. Pre-registration was necessary to attend the multi-day event, which features 50 speakers and is expected to host more than 800 attendees.

Speakers include Ford’s chief diversity officer and director of people strategy, GM’s director of global battery cell and electrification strategy, Honda Research Institute USA’s chief engineer, Amazon Web Services’ global director of automotive sales, a senior economist with the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council’s executive director, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Sessions focus on business and engineering opportunities around the globe for automakers, suppliers and related companies. Off the seminar schedule, attendees network to build relationships and advance their business interests.

One company seeking to grab the attention of the buying public is Zapp, a United Kingdom-based company that is introducing an electric two-wheel vehicle during the Management Briefing Seminars.

Zapp, represented by a crew that includes automotive engineer Tony Posawatz, showed journalists a pre-production unit in downtown Traverse City on Tuesday night.

Classified as a moped, the 200-pound Zapp i300 is designed as an urban mobility vehicle for one and possibly two people, a way to navigate heavy traffic with relative ease.

“No one enjoys getting around the city anymore,” said Posawitz, best known for his work on the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which went on sale in 2010.

Posawitz now is on the boards of several automobile technology companies, including Lucid Motors, which last week began trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

But he’s excited about the sales potential for two-wheeled electrics, which are lighter, less expensive and easier to park than four-wheel electric cars. Motorbikes are more commonly used as everyday transportation in Europe and Asia than they are in the U.S. Zapp now is ramping up production at a factory in Thailand. It will open its first retail store in Paris sometime this year.

“We think Europe will be an easy sell,” Posawitz said, since two-wheeled transportation already is common there.

He believes many large cities eventually will ban internal combustion engines to help reduce local pollution, and he suspects European cities may be among the first to do so.

“This is an urban solution,” he said of the Zapp i300. “There will be a lot of two-wheel solutions coming out.”

The Zapp product, he said, fits into the transportation marketplace between full-size electric motorcycles, which he said can be ungainly to navigate in heavy urban traffic, and low-powered electric scooters, which can have trouble keeping up with urban traffic.

The i300 can accelerate from zero to 30 miles per hour in less than 2.5 seconds, from zero to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. The vehicle is governed to top out at about 60 mph. In European markets, top speed can be adjusted to conform with local laws.

Recharging batteries is easy with the Zapp. The vehicle takes up to two proprietary battery packs. Each pack is rectangular, weighs 12 pounds, and has a carry handle. They can be charged in four hours from a regular wall outlet.

List price for the initial i300 model (which has interchangeable color carbon-fiber panels) is $8,995, but various government benefits created to encourage electric vehicle usage could reduce final cost to around $6,000. A planned more basic model will have a list price of $7,495 and a final cost after benefits of about $5,000, according to the company. More information is available at ZappScooter.com.

Zapp plans to sell in Europe and Asia this year. It potentially could launch U.S. sales in 2022, Posawitz said.

The CAR Management Briefing Seminars will put the pedal to the metal Wednesday with a day-long schedule of speakers and events.

The nonprofit Center for Automotive Research is based in Ann Arbor. It offers consulting and research services and aims to analyze issues facing the mobility industry. Its annual event in Acme functions as a gathering of the globe’s automotive minds.

“No one enjoys getting around the city anymore.” Tony Posawatz, automotive engineer and Zapp board advisor