New company energizes hope for electric car plant

A new company has taken the reins of the often-delayed ZAP electric car plant, and it plans to move forward with a project in Kentucky.

ZAP Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky, a start-up company based in Prospect, will take over the project after Shepherdsville-based Integrity Manufacturing closed its doors last week after it reportedly ran out of money.

Randall Waldman, former CEO of Integrity, sold his interests in the plant to ZAP Motor Manufacturing — a start-up company run by Gary Dodd, former president of Integrity and one of the first general managers of Toyota in Georgetown.

California-based ZAP has turned over its manufacturing agreement to the newly formed company. Waldman is no longer involved with the project.

"We are supportive of ZAP Motor Manufacturing Kentucky's efforts to manufacture ZAP vehicles," ZAP CEO Steve Schneider said in a news release.

Most of ZAP's electric vehicle manufacturing is done overseas. But spokesman Alex Campbell said Tuesday that the company is very interested in the prospect of a domestic supplier if it can compete on price.

Dodd said he plans to develop the ZAP product by producing more four-wheel vehicles (most ZAP vehicles have three wheels) that can travel 150 miles per charge at speeds of up to 85 miles per hour.

The new company will pick up where Integrity ended — hoping for a $160 million Department of Energy loan that will help fund the project.

If the company receives the federal loan, it will start the first of three phases of a plant in Franklin in Simpson County, south of Bowling Green.

The department is reviewing loan applications and plans to announce recipients in the next few weeks, said Stephanie Mueller, press secretary for the Department of Energy.

Integrity also was offered $48 million in tax credits from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority.

The incentives will expire in August if state officials do not grant final approval or extend the tax credits, said Mandy Lambert, director of marketing and communications for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

If it doesn't get the federal loan, the new company will look for investors. Dodd inherited a project that has been riddled with financial woes and delays.

Ground was broken in August in Franklin for a ZAP plant, which promised 4,000 jobs. But after financial markets plunged, investors pulled their money, draining the project of construction funds. The site remains untouched.

Dodd said the plant has endured some setbacks and the project is still uncertain.

"It's not going to be easy," he said. "I don't want everybody to think it's a done deal."