We first saw the ZENN on the Canadian TV show, The Rick Mercer Report several years ago. ZENN stands for Zero Emissions No Noise. It is a fully electric car that was manufactured in Canada. The glee that was on his face as he drove the silent running vehicle around and around was infectious. He boasted that the little two seater could hold enough groceries for a week and then opened up the tailgate to reveal a dozen cases of beer (Molson's Canadian) and a box of Cheerios. I had to have one . . . the car, not the beer.
I suggested to a friend of our's that she open a local franchise, but she treated the suggestion as a joke. I visited the Seattle sales room floor and test drove one myself. I often have trouble finding enough leg room in many automobiles, but not in the ZENN. The seventeen thousand dollar price tag felt a little pricey. My buying enthusiasm waned. Even though every once in a while I would see a ZENN driving down the road on the streets of Tacoma's northend.
The ZENN operates off six batteries, which give the car a range of about 35 miles. Top speed is 36 miles per hour. An extension plug to an electric outlet recharges the batteries over night. Batteries last from two to three years and can cost over two hundred dollars per battery. Used ZENNs have used batteries and suffer a highly reduced range.
Over the years I occasionally searched on Craigs List for used ZENNs. As you can imagine, they didn't appear very often. Although made in Canada, they were never widely sold in Canada (red tape: rules and regulations). I also checked on eBay looking for ZENN deals. Just like real estate, a ZENN is dependent on "location, location, location." For example, if someone found a super deal on a ZENN in Arizona, shipping or towing charges to the Pacific Northwest would be horrendous.
In February I found a super deal on a ZENN in Bellevue. The motivated sellers were asking $3500. They had purchased the new Leaf, which is also electric and this made their ZENN redundant. On an adventure to Seattle and Everett, we stopped by and tried out the car. Peg has wanted a smaller car for years. This particular car had a few issues, but the owners were really nice. The batteries needed replacing and the range was seven miles. I thought, well if we could make it until summer on the current batteries we could probably swing the deal.
When we arrived at the owner's home the car had developed a minor flaw. It wouldn't drive forward. Peg sat in the car and went for a drive in reverse and then drove the car herself in reverse. She liked it. It had an excellent radio and the 2007 ZENN only had 9500 miles on it. It had been a daily driver for the wife. The husband had the problem fixed and we returned. Peg drove the car around the neighborhood and then I drove the two of us about half a mile. We returned and paid cash for the asking price.
On our way back to Tacoma, we stopped in Burien and arranged for towing. Two days later the car arrived. I couldn't get it to run. I pushed it and then jumped in as it rolled down our driveway where I guided it under the carport. I thought perhaps the key had been left on during the towing. I plugged in the car and left it several days. It still wouldn't run. I had a friend with mechanical skills come over and check the fuses and look it over. The previous owners were great. They made suggestions and even offered to drive down from Bellevue to see what they could do. I am sooooooo glad I didn't ask them for help. As my friend looked over the car I sat down at my desk and minutes later saw my friend drive the ZENN past my window and up the driveway.
The problem? It was a loose nut behind the wheel. I was making it too hard. All I had to do was turn the key on, take the break off, put the car in reverse and touch the gas pedal. I was expecting more when I turned the key on. There is no "vrrrooom, vrrrooom." The sound of silence is normal. What a fool! We've been driving it ever since. Even with the short driving range, it takes me to a weekly meeting on the waterfront or shopping at Safeway very nicely including the hill up from Ruston Way. We found a source for batteries (reading ZENN blogs revealed a better battery than the one recommended by the manufacturer), but haven't ordered new batteries just yet.
Besides the ZENN under the carport, we had a 1988 Buick Reatta (red, two seater sports car), a Buick Century and a Dodge Durango. We decided to keep driving the Century and sell the Durango. With the proceeds from the sale we would buy new batteries for the ZENN, or so the theory was. We listed the Durango on Craigs List, but it didn't sell. We were never available to show the car when it was convenient for potential buyers. Then I saw another ZENN car for sale in Bellevue on Craigs List. The price was reduced from $5800 to $4800. It had fairly new batteries and only had 4900 miles on it. It was advertised as a 2008 but turned out to be another 2007, but a fancier model. My asking price for the Durango was $5900. My offer was a straight across swap. It was accepted. We arranged for towing.
We had the ZENN towed to Puyallup with our client, King's Towing. Several days later Peg dropped me off at their shop and I drove home . . . or tried to drive home. I made it to within a few blocks of home before I ran out of gas and the car ran out of juice. Jose Estrada, the owner of King's towed it the rest of the way. I plugged it in for two days and then drove it around the neighborhood and up and down hills. The current range is fifteen miles. Much less than it should have been for batteries about seven months old. We'll have to investigate each battery. It could be that they haven't achieved their full cycle, yet.
My son Patrick doesn't understand why we bought a second ZENN, but even with a range of fifteen miles I think it will work out for us. With the two ZENNs we are able to make meetings, visit the dry cleaners, go out to lunch/dinner, and shop for groceries. They almost always turn heads. What makes it worthwhile, however is that I seem to have more cash in my pockets these days. My Durango was my daily driver. Most of my driving is very local and city driving is not an advantage in the Dodge Durango, unless there is snow and ice on the ground.
The ZENNs are part of the family, now. Peg has named them. The first one is a non-descript gray color. She calls it "Mousey" after a feral cat that adopted us many years ago. The latest ZENN with a sharp looking two-tone blue and gray color pattern and its fancier interior and exterior trim package is named "Azure-te" from the George Shearing song, which was recorded by Nat Cole, Frank Sinatra and Karrin Allyson and others. We saw Karrin Allyson perform the song at Jazz Alley in Seattle. Peg requested she sing Azure-Te and she did. The lyrics: Gone and got the blues in Paris, / Paris blues called Azure-te. / How can I be blue in Paris? / Easy, 'cause you're far away. / Can't lose this blues, / This Azure-te.
Sunday morning Peg and I drove Azure-Te to the Harvester Restaurant near Wright Park for breakfast with friends. Each of them took a turn sitting in the passenger seat to see how much legroom there was.
That afternoon when Peg drove the Century to visit my sister at St. Joseph's Hospital, I drove Azure-Te to Heidelberg Field to watch grandson Riley play baseball. As I drove home I stopped for a traffic light at 6th and Orchard. A car pulled up next to me. The couple inside got my attention and asked, "Sir? What kind of car is that?" I responded with "ZENN." They next asked, "Where's it from?" "Canada," I replied. "It certainly is cute," they said with a look of longing. I nodded my head. It is.