Tax lure OK'd for electric cars

A Shepherdsville company can get as much as $48 million in state tax incentives if it builds low-speed electric cars in Simpson County.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave its blessing Friday to a proposal from Integrity Automotive to make ZAP (Zero Air Pollution) electric cars at an $84 million plant in the Wilkey North Industrial Park in Franklin.

Integrity Automotive, a division of Integrity Manufacturing, would build the electric cars for ZAP, a California company. Integrity proposes to employ as many as 4,000 workers within four years and pay an average hourly wage of $20.

Bob Gunnell, a Louisville public relations executive who represents Integrity, said the company had no comment on the incentive package. He said Integrity would defer to any announcement from Gov. Steve Beshear's office.

Gunnell said Integrity hopes an announcement could come soon, perhaps in the next week.

Beshear spokesman Jay Blanton also declined to discuss details. “The state has put forward a very attractive incentive package, but that package is predicated on certain performance objectives being met, and we hope that comes to fruition,” he said.

At the request of some state lawmakers, Beshear signed an executive order Aug. 5 that would allow low-speed electric cars on highways with posted speed limits of 45 mph or less.

The lawmakers who sought the order thought Integrity was going to select a plant site in Bullitt County and were surprised when Integrity CEO Randy Waldman said the company had obtained an option to buy land in Simpson County.

Integrity officials said Beshear's order was crucial to a decision to build the cars in Kentucky. More than 40 states allow low-speed electric cars on some roads.

Currently, ZAP makes low-speed electric cars in China.

Four-seat ZAP sedans cost about $11,700 and a two-seat truck costs about $12,500. The cars can travel 45 miles on an electric charge that costs about 60 cents. The vehicles do not use gasoline.

Some auto industry analysts have warned Kentucky to proceed with caution in negotiating with ZAP.

One of them, Aaron Bragman of Global Insight, an economic forecasting group, said “ZAP often makes very big promises ... but has yet to prove they can deliver all they say they can.”

ZAP officials have dismissed such criticism.