back to article Ton-up electric Reliant Robin offered for '09

Californian electrocar firm ZAP has brought down a veritable ink storm in the British press lately regarding its planned new 156mph Alias electric sports "car". The Blighty-side hackswarm could be accounted for by the facts that the car is a) a three-wheeler, allowing (nay, necessitating) Trotters Independent Traders references …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    You're correct that Del Boy wouldn't be driving it.

    He owned a Reliant Regal.

  2. Martin

    This is a good idea

    I do hope this car will be available in the UK, as I think it represents a far more realistic proposition than the g-whizz (too small, slow, looks utterly crap) or the Tesla (WAY too expensive). I would actually consider buying this for my 50-mile round trip commute (currently costing me about £45 per week, in fuel). Whether or not I (and other people) would take the plunge would depend of course on how much the thing would cost to run (including battery replacement) compared to a petrol car of comparable performance.

    Slow ugly electric cars are emphatically NOT the future, but stuff like this COULD be..

  3. Anonymous Coward

    A bike is it?

    Then why not make it with two wheels, cheep, good looking and have comparable performance to a petrol commuter bike?

    Then you would have something usable rather then an expensive white elephant.

  4. spegru
    Thumb Up

    On the other hand

    Two wheels at the front, one at the back are much more stable than the old Trotter's vehicle (which as everyone knows was not a Robin but a Rialto!)

    Safety? After all they do allow bikes! and just because it 's classified as one doesn't mean its as dangerous as one (seatbelts, seat, front bodywork etc etc). This is a question of reducing cost and time for homogolation (It's also much drier!).

    Finally, on the green credentials aspect, my guess is that the efficiency of those coal or whatever power stations is better than the average internal combustion engine - so it probably does help to save the planet a little, even ignoring energy alternatives.

    I'm up for one if they're not too much cash!


  5. Tim Russell

    Bike is <4 wheels and <500kg usually speaking

    What I'm trying to work out is: loads of HP from batteries, how heavy are these batteries going to be and what is the potential/kinetic energy of that lump moving at say 70mph. Personally I'd want to see an ejector seat or crash test before stepping into it!

  6. spegru
    IT Angle

    Which reliant?

    @ anonymous you could be right - Del Boy's was a Regal it was according to wikipedia....

    I alway thought that theirs was was the van version of the Rialto and that the later Rialto was the reuse of an old name.........

    oh well!

  7. Alan Jenney


    Whilst a tricycle may be a simple way to bring such a vehicle to market, I'm with The Reg. on this one: the last thing that the fledgling electric vehicle market needs is another "car that is not quite a car", whether it be for having fewer wheels or no need for a safety rating like a car would have.

    @Spegru: They do compare ecologically well to the internal combustion engine - when you look at the total energy, impact and efficiency of the mining of coal through to the electric power to the road, it's over twice as effective than the extraction of oil through to the petrol engine power to the road. If you can use "green" sources, all the better.

    I'm a strong supporter of electric vehicles, but I still believe that people need a "proper" car that can run a couple of hundred miles and get up to motorway speeds under reasonable acceleration, carry a few people and their luggage. Not only that, but be supported by a dealership, service and repair network and good guarantees for battery life and resale value comparable to a regular car. It would only need to be as good as a second car in a household - a runabout for errands and local trips.

    Charging a battery whilst the car is not in use isn't too much of a problem. Most cars spend most of their life stationary. It's just a different habit to get into instead of finding a cheap petrol station.

  8. Electro Boy

    Not going to happen

    It will not happen. ZAP have a history of talking loud, but not delivering.

  9. Richard Kilpatrick

    Oh FFS.

    The Trotter's Van is Reliant Supervan III. It's BASED on a Regal (which was a two-door saloon). You pedants are useless.

    And not every three wheeled car is a damn Reliant. Morgan, for starters, made very well regarded three wheelers (with the single wheel at the back), likewise Berkeley.

    I'm not getting my coat; journalists need to stop thinking every three wheeled car is a Reliant Robin (or worse, Robin Reliant *stabstabstab*).

  10. Anonymous Coward

    That trip to the relatives...

    " it will take hours sitting still to charge up after travelling "100+" miles, so you'll need something else for that trip to see the relatives. "

    What, you're not planning on stopping long? You drive a hundred plus miles to see us and you aren't even going to stay as long as it takes to charge a battery?

    Your mother and I are very disappointed in you, young man.

  11. MattW

    Don't bother with electrics

    Just transplant a standard motorbike transaxle and a small efficient diesel engine into the back.

  12. buggane

    bashing bikes

    What is wrong with bikes, exactly? They're cheap, economical, don't take up much space, always fun.

    And can be enormously fast.

    OK they're a bit dangerous, but I'm tired of seeing them being dismissed out of hand. They are a good solution when used properly.

  13. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Oh FFS.

    Yeah, but it's the reference everyone defaults to and so it's perfectly legit to use it, part of the shared consciousness and that. And the inference of crappiness is integral, surely. Citing the Morgan three-wheeler wouldn't... quite work. Most people wouldn't have heard of it. It's like referring to something other than Heinz when you meanz beanz.

    Mmm, beanz.

  14. Matthew Smith

    Austin 7

    I'd like to see lightweight vehicles with skinny wheels, that can chug along at 25MPH and safely share the road with bicycles, horses and children playing.

  15. Colin Millar
    Thumb Up

    Waiting for the East Asians

    If electric cars are going to happen seriously the first real mass market contender will come from East Asia. Americans haven't got a clue about what will actually sell - the g-wiz - too ridiculous for words, the Tesla - not overpriced for what it is but sportster drivers are not likely to be at the head of the green early adopters and this now aimed at the cheaper end of that same market.

    What will sell like hotcakes is a Honda Civic Electric car. Fast recharge tech/higher mileages per charge is going to be the breaking point.

  16. Hollerith

    What's a car for?

    The people I know who drive cars are folks with kids to get to school and back, people who live out in the country, those whose work is in the countryside (farmer, builder, etc.) and salespeople.

    What part of a slick three-wheeler works for them? Where is the boot for huge bags of shopping? Where are the seats for kids, relatives, sick lambs, building gear?

    Fun little leccy cars are all very well for urban gadgeteers, but if you want the big gas guzzlers/people movers/lorries to stop polluting, you have to give them a powerful electric equivalent, and I don't see such a thing even on the horizon.

  17. Graham Bartlett

    Other three-wheelers

    Re Richard, there are other modern three-wheelers too. The kit-car fraternity have long been removing the front forks of bikes and the front subframes of cars, thereby assembling a three-wheeled bastard offsprint of the two with good stability and phenomenal performance. The Grinnel Scorpion was infamous for a while for the speed at which you could get yourself into a lot of trouble.

    In a less useful manner, the hairy-biker chopper-building fraternity have tended to go the other way, taking the back subframe and engine of a VW Beetle and the front forks of a regular bike to make a three-wheeler. But like the Harleys it's modelled on, they tend to look and sound great but have all the performance of an arthritic slug, so a bit too much style-over-substance there.

  18. Pete James

    Four candles.........

    The dynamics of the reverse 3-wheel configuration have the potential to surprise you; this wouldn't be some tippy little plastic pig but a very agile, nimble machine which would make you want one. In red. As ever though, mention three wheels and the press immediately drag the Trotter phrases from their graves. Can't we just once have something that explores ideas like this without indulging in wannabe Murdoch International journalism?

    The alternative of a small diesel bolted onto a motorcycle transaxle in this format is an interesting one. Shame the stylist drew a body devoid of balance and looking like something from a second-rate sci-fi flick, but these folk do tend to be a bit socially-challenged. Like programmers in fact, but with a slightly smaller porn collection.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crash testing "delays"

    ... (or a way around them) are, of course, the reason that the Tesla is "just" an electric Elise.

    In other words, ZAP have a lot MORE work to do than Tesla - they've got the whole rolling chassis to develop from scratch, whilst Tesla just have to fine-tune a very well understood existing one to fit the electrickery. Which, it seems, is the difficult bit.

  20. Neil Hoskins

    Definition of a Bike

    UK vehicle definitions are unfortunately way out of sych with Europe and are not at all conducive to developing light, safe, efficient vehicles. They are, in short, a complete and utter shambles. I think the problem started when they abandoned the use of the words "motor bicycle" and "motor tricycle" in favour of "motorcycle" and "tricycle", with no definition for a quadricycle. "Motorcycle" now appears to imply two wheels, because I never succeeded in getting my French 350kg (yes really) Ligier quadricycle registered as anything other than "private/light goods", so I pay the same tax as somebody with a Chelsea Tractor.

  21. Kwac

    @ buggane (& article)

    Bikes are safe.

    However, bikers (with an engine or without) are more at risk from other road users coccooned from the real world in their four-wheeled tin boxes.

    There aren't many bikers who haven't heard the magic words "sorry mate, I didn't see you".

  22. JeffyPooh

    Google Ad revenue?

    Is that MY money? I've got some Google Ads on some of my blogs and they generate a slow tickle of dollars that I've extraploated will take approximately three trillion years to reach the magic $100 point where someone at Google can be bothered to print me a cheque. My buddy is in the same boat. Between the two of us, Google has about $40 'on account'. I figure that many part-time bloggers like myself have some amount of money 'on account' with Google - waiting to reach the trigger point for an actual cheque. Multiply it by the numbers and the figures probably reach Galactic proportions.


    Maybe Google could add an 'Ah-Frig-it!' button where people such as us could donate OUR money to some worthwhile project.

  23. Red Bren

    "motorcycles are hugely more dangerous than cars" ???

    From the air-cusioned, seatbelted perspective of the driving seat they might be, but from the perspective of the little old lady mown down on a zebra crossing by the speeding BMW driver who was emailing his mistress while phoning his wife to say he would be late home for dinner* it's a different story. It's much harder to get distracted on a bike, when you can't use a mobile phone, change the CD, rummage in the glove box or do your make-up.

    No type of vehicle is inherently dangerous, or it wouldn't be road legal. The danger comes from the fallible, flesh bag in control of it!

    *One overly emotive statement deserves another! :-)

  24. Alex Campbell

    ZAP already has a 3-wheeler in London

    Wow, you'd think 3-wheels was a 4-letter word! ZAP already has a three-wheeler called the Xebra in London, keep your eye out for a green Xebra. The Xebra is more of a utilitarin/fleet style electric vehicle, but ZAP has sold about 1000 so far and company like Coca-Cola and Domino's Pizza are using them for deliveries. UPS has even used them, why can't normal people?

  25. Iain Brooks
    Paris Hilton

    Oh FFS

    Reliant bashing again? Guys Reliant found a niche in the market and built a series of cars that had three wheels (and could be driven on a motorcycle license!). Ask yourself - How many did they make and how long were they around for? If these guys can repeat that I find it hard to imagine that they'd be disappointed. They built other cars too - my Scimitar was a perfectly useable weapon on modern motorways (and could quite happily terrify all but the newest BMW's down the slip-road). You might also want to do a little research on exactly who built the bodies for a bit of a supercar that Ford made called the RS200.

    Somebody beat me to the ferocious beast that is the Grinnal Scorpion - and it isn't the only one.

    Hollerith - come on admit it - you live in London don't you. If that's your idea of how people who live outside a large city use cars then you shouldn't be allowed out on your own, never mind behind the wheel of a motor-vehicle. I have never in my LIFE had a sick lamb in any of my cars (most of the farms around here are dairy but the same goes for sick cows - I have nothing to do with farms). I commute 30ish miles per day and public transport doesn't run between my destinations (plus there's a honking great hill in between so a bike isn't an option). One of these would do quite nicely if it does what it says on the tin. The PH icon because I'd expect your sort of drivel to come from her.

  26. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    "motorcycles are hugely more dangerous than cars" ???

    In around two thirds of accidents involving motorcycles and other vehicles, it is the fault of the other vehicle's operator for failing to undertake proper observation in the first place or observing, but failing to correctly judge the speed of a bike and underestimating the bike’s time of arrival (RoSPA).

    Graham's three rules of defensive riding:

    1) Don't assume they've seen you.

    2) Don't assume they'll respect your right of way.

    3) Do assume that they're going to do something which will kill you unless *you* get out of *their* way.

    That's not the way it should be (car drivers should learn to *expect* a bike to be coming and check more carefully) but thinking "Hah! I was in the right!" when you're flying through the air won't make the ground hurt any less...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ oh FFS

    The Supervan was not just based on the Regal, it _was_ a Regal - the Reliant Regal Supervan. I should know - I used to own one.

    Here's some useful information...

    (for the Regal Supervan -

  28. Steven Knox

    " the States electric cars are in effect very dirty and inefficient coal-powered ones..."

    That depends on where in the States you are -- and indeed where you choose to source your power from.

  29. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Motorcycle uses take a chill pill!

    I think the whole point the author was making was that a bike has much lower safety standards then a car (Department of the Bleeding F$%king Obvious at your disposal). If a bike had to meet a cars safety standards, well there wouldnt be any bikes on the road. So the problem the author has is taking what is effectively a car minus a wheel and not making it meet a cars safety standards.

    A motorcycle does need a seat belt (in fact the ability to jump off a bike can sometimes be extremely useful), that means the ZAP wont actually need a seat belt by law. Nor will it need to be able to hit an object at xx mph (sorry dont know the exact figure) and not kill everyone in the immediate vicinity of the inside and outside of the vehicle. That's where the objections lie.

    If it looks like a car, is enclosed like a car then it should be regulated like a car! It should not be regulated like a motorbike just because some dastardly boffin has decided to take a wheel off so he doesnt have to meet the stringent safety criteria for cars.

  30. Oldfogey

    Top 3-wheeler.

    Confirm the Reliant Regal Supervan. They didn't attract Purchase Tax (before VAT), so the trick was to buy one, then add rear seats and windows - about 2 hours work all in.

    Eventually Reliant bought out the Bond company that made a 3-wheeler based on a Hillman Imp rear-end.

    Follwing this they brought out the Bond Bug, a very low slung 3-wheel 2-seater with a lift up lid.

    It was only available in orange, and looked like a big wedge of cheese.

    With the high performance Reliant engine that was developed for Formula 700 motot racing, weight of about 7cwt, low C of G, and that wedge shape creating downforce, it was one hot car.

    It gave 80mpg, and had a (very unoffical, to keep insurance down) top speed of 115mph!

    Furthermore, it was so stable that you could powerslide it, and do handbrake turns.

    I wonder what Clarkson would make of that?

  31. Charles Manning

    Not like a Reliant at all

    The Reliant was hugely unstable mainly because the engine (==big mass) was in the front where the single wheel was. Cornering at any sort of speed could get wobbly because it is basically a bike that you could not lean over when cornering.

    Now the Lotus thing has 2 wheels in front and would appear to have most of the mass above the 2 wheels. Much more stable.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re What's a car for?

    2cv is the way forward. seats out, pig in and off to market. gearstick & handbrake off the floor so the pig can't bend them - hot to trot.

  33. Richard Kilpatrick

    Three wheels on my wagon

    Yes; I'm aware that the official title is a Regal Supervan II/III, but a Regal - alone - it is not. And when I were a lad, they were just Supervans - and indeed, when I were a lad, I got carted about Sheffield in one a lot. I'm not quite sad enough to want one of them now, but I have a softspot for what was actually quite a nice looking range of vehicles at the time.

    And the Grinnal etc, yes, aware of those too, and Lomax, and Sparrows, and yadda yadda. I also spotted a Carver heading up the M6, though technically they're closer to bikes. There's something called "labouring the point". However, Regal = 2 door, reverse rear window, passenger car. No-one i knew in the 70s/80s referred to it as a "Regal Supervan".

    I think there's a double "disservice" to be done in heading the article "electric Reliant Robin" - one, experimental electric cars were produced by Reliant (and the Ant, with electric power, would have made a nice little town delivery vehicle), and two, there is absolutely nothing beyond the three wheels to actually link the two vehicles.

    @AC - I nearly bought an Ant for £50 a couple of years back - it was rotten. Ended up going on eBay for a stupidly high figure for what was, IMO, utter scrap, so I guess someone must like them. Same bloke has a Mumford Musketeer in the garage that I keep trying to persuade him to part with.

  34. Alan Jenney

    ...waiting for the East Asians

    @Colin Millar: unfortunately, the G-Wiz is fairly typical of the sort of cars coming from the East. It was for the Indian market initially.

    For instance, there's a Chinese EV that looks like a Smart. It is capable of 25 mph and 60 miles. It's all they need in their home countries. Copying existing designs is the order of the day, so expect lots of inefficient petrol engined hulks adding to the global problem until the West produce an electric car that in demand.

  35. Robert Long

    Oh, the naivety!

    "No type of vehicle is inherently dangerous, or it wouldn't be road legal."

    Yes, because our MPs would all vote to ban something that they all use if it was really dangerous! Ho ho ho.

  36. Colin Millar

    @alan jenney

    G-Wiz is from a Californian company

  37. Red Bren

    @ Robert Long

    Like drugs, for example?

    I'm not niave, just hopelessly optimistic... :-)

  38. Andrew

    Relative danger levels

    Oddly enough, I have heard of Morgan 3 wheelers. I knew a chap who drove one. He also rode a powerful motorbike. Ironically, he was killed, as a passenger, in a normal 4-wheel car.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And there you go...

    ... Jeremy Clarkson merrily accelerates to 156mph and then gradually coast to a standstill - with a flat battery. He did not even make it to the end of the runway.

    Do they think we are that gullible?

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