Zetta: Will There Be A Budget-Oriented Russian Electric Car?

Valerii Madness

More and more car manufacturers agree that the future of the global automotive industry lies with electric cars. They are convenient, handy, and friendly to the environment — which becomes increasingly relevant. Experts predict that by 2040, most vehicles around the globe will be electric, but it’s neither a trend nor a fashion statement. Instead, it will become our new reality.

Zetta Electric Car: It’s As Far As It Went

Many years may pass before electric cars become available to people who don’t want to use public transport for the daily commute. The main problem is an EV expensiveness: even basic configuration will cost a fair amount. The leaders of the industry are already looking for options to reduce the price of flagship products. They share a common principle: electric cars must get cheaper.

Электромобиль Zetta

And while manufacturers carry out difficult calculations and develop flagship cars accessible to the mass consumer, Russia wants to fill a clear market need and release “the cheapest electric car in the world”. As usual, Russian manufacturers got down to work with an ostentatious zeal, but the high-profile project hasn’t still been embodied. Actually, it froze at the stage of plan development of the future “electric car worth only 7 thousand dollars”. 

However, Russian engineers have initially made the right decision. If you want to create a cheap electric car, then you have to save on its size. Judging by the looks, Zetta CM1 will be just as capacious as a vacuum cleaner. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sure. But the comments under the product announcement show that most car enthusiasts don’t find the Russian electric car — Zetta — even slightly impressive, really. So when watching videos about Zetta, remember: it will be the cheapest electric car in the world. Let it be your mantra. After all, if you want to pay less, you’ll need to ignore some inconveniences. In any other case, call Elon Musk.

Zetta, What Are You?

Zetta CM1 is planned as a compact three-door sedan with an electric drive for two or four wheels. It will turn into an urban electric car designed for short trips to work or family picnic getaways.

Evil tongues ​​are already joking that it will be very interesting to look at the miracle of the Russian automobile industry on the backdrop of serious traffic congestion in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other megalopolises. Nevertheless, there’s no point in bringing up this question at least until the details of a prototype test-drive come up.

The Zetta electric car production was supposed to launch in December 2019, but the triumphant event was put on hold. And so began the year 2020. Suddenly, generalizing electric cars in Russia stopped being a hot topic, and everyone got other things to worry about. Nothing surprising about that: the issues of the day hardly include e-cars.

At the same time, we would like to refrain from any bashing, if only because it has long become mainstream. While there is nothing to praise in this Russian electric car, Zetta hasn’t got anything to dig at as well. 

The Zetta electric car is currently work in progress. Its characteristics have not been fully disclosed yet. It is stated that Zetta is planned to become a four-seater; however, the finished drafts throw discredit upon it. When comparing Zetta to smart fortwo, the Russian e-car is only 34 centimeters longer. But the length shouldn’t be confused with overall comfort. Although it seems bigger visually than the market-leading smart fortwo, the statement that Zetta can sit up to 4 people seems too optimistic. Still, it’s not easy to judge by the drafts and photos. Who knows? The engineers might still surprise us with a revolutionary approach.

A spacious trunk is nowhere to be found. That’s where Zetta follows the path of the best European sports cars. In other words, it’s not the right car to go to the station and meet your beloved auntie who has brought everything but the kitchen sink.

The declared range of 200 kilometers also gives rise to doubts. Firstly, Russian-made batteries per se cause a certain mistrust. Secondly, this range is just too good for such small cars. Then again, we are dealing with plans that are only announced to hype up a future novelty.

Guest From The Future

Overall, the future of the Russian electric car Zetta seems rather vague, and it isn’t just about the delay. The decision to produce low-cost e-cars was quite in line with other social programs for Russian citizens. At the same time, it was adopted in a completely different setting. We are talking about the ruble-to-dollar exchange rate, as well as home manufactures closing because of the COVID-19 quarantine.

What Was The Original Plan?

In 2019, the CEO of Zetta Denis Schurovsky stated that the basic configuration of this Russian electric car (with a 200-km-range battery and a front-wheel-drive) would cost 450 thousand rubles. It was equivalent to $7000 at the time.

Электромобиль Zetta

As for today, the dollar price of the Zetta electric car decreased by almost $900, but the components went up instead. On a related note, they all are produced in Russia except for the battery manufactured by China’s GE Power Technology. But will Zetta‘s ruble price decline as well? Although the answer’s not hard to guess, the company is not yet ready to provide any commentary.

However, the much-promised low cost is also due to impressive support from the state. At some point, the Russian government decided that creating a budget-friendly electric car is necessary for a positive image of the country. Basically, something along the lines of “The domestic market will do it for starters, and then we’ll see how it goes.”

As a result, the Ministry of Industry and Trade secured funding for the research and development of the Zetta electric car. A Fund for the Development of Monotowns has further accepted the task and supported the initiative with a solid investment. A total amount to be invested in the production of low-end e-cars amounted to 450 million rubles. And the government has recently hinted it would’ve been nice to see the result.

Originally, it was planned to release up to ten prototypes with the production date set for December 2019. Then it went from bad to worse. For 2020 (we are looking at the calendar), 2000 cars were scheduled for a release with at least 15.000 cars produced annually. And that’s considering the production capacities to be ensured by a staff of only 200 workers. So how many cars were released as of April 2020? Again, the company did not answer. The official website stays silent, so the Zetta electric car remains an aspiring project. The only details we got to retrieve from the manufacturer is “Our company keeps running the tests and prepares for commercial exploitation”.

And to think that the development of Zetta started back in 2016! A year later, the company has introduced a prototype equipped with 98-hp propulsion and lithium-ion batteries. Last year, after engineering a conveyor, the construction and equipping of assembly shops have begun. The production is expected to take place in Tolyatti, and some of the Zetta electric car characteristics will be similar to Lada 8 and Lada 10. So there’s one question left: when will the low-cost Russian e-cars break free from the assembly line?

Электромобиль Zetta

A year ago, Denis Schurovsky declared that preparations for the production launch are completed by 70%, and the assembly shops should be fully ready by the end of 2019. This was followed by a punchline: “…if there are no financial strains”. Although it has not been officially confirmed, some rumors state that the strains did begin as early as last winter, significantly intensifying in 2020. However, the Zetta electric car completed certification back in October 2019. Production has only come to a halt when approaching validation tests. The mass production never started. Still, the company believes the delay is temporary.

Did We Miss Something?

There’s one more thing that no one seems to recall. When the government announced its plans to produce Russian electric vehicles, it has also promised to deal with an equally important issue. We are talking about charging stations, which are still virtually absent around the country. And the ones available are so inconvenient that the e-car owners regretted purchasing a non-standard vehicle painfully. The car lovers constantly post comments on the Internet, saying that Russia is not the right country to experiment with the purchase of an electric car. The future is nowhere near, so the problem remains unresolved.

It was assumed that the Zetta electric car would be mass-produced. Following the example of Western countries, it means that charging stations need to be built at every gas station, in the parking lots of shopping centers and supermarkets, and even in some precincts. So, has anything been done yet? The answer containing all the diversity of Russian obscenities can be found on the very same websites. Spoiler: things are right where they started. All in all, the state of things is reminiscent of the 2015 road comedy film Vacation that mocked an Albanian electric car, Tartan Prancer, for being impossible to charge.

Long-Playing Project

So what is known about the Russian electric car Zetta aside of tech specifications that happen to not be fully public yet? The only information available is that the prototypes have no buttons on the dashboard. Also, the vehicle will be operated using portable electronic devices: for example, a controller or a radio signal tracker. It was even mentioned that a special app will be developed to control Zetta remotely. The steering wheel was only added to a prototype to complete certification.

Электромобиль Zetta

The Zetta electric car is planned to be released in 3 configurations, with up to 40% of the lineup having a front-wheel drive. The average trim of the Russian e-car will include increased battery capacity, and up to 30% of production is focused on implementing this task. The luxury version will get a four-wheel drive and even more battery power. The operating life is expected to not surpass 150.000 km range.

In Russia, budget-oriented cars have been in the greatest demand for years. Space-effective and relatively cheap Zetta electric cars were supposed to fill a market niche, and the production plan was quite competent. It suggested Zetta conquers the Russian market quickly and further expands to Kazakhstan, the Arab countries, and the countries of North Africa. However, as it often happens in Slavic countries, it went a little sideways. Let’s hope that the Zetta electric car won’t become another pompous, yet unembodied project of the Russian automobile industry.

Do you want to learn more about electric cars in mass production? Read more on our website. Also, the fullest possible range of news from the world of electric vehicles is available on our Telegram channel.

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