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The electric-car revolution reaches Mexico with the Zilent EV, a plug-in electric that is getting off to an ambitious start here. The plug-in electric cars were developed in Canada and are built in China. Now a new company, Zilent Autos Electricos, is setting up a network of dealerships in Mexico to distribute them. As its name suggests, the firm is committed to selling environmentally friendly cars that can be recharged from any electrical outlet.

Initially, Zilent plans to sell two tiny four-passenger hatchbacks called the Dream and the Zivo. The Dream, which appears to be a conversion of the China-built Chevrolet Spark, measures 132 inches long and weighs just under 2,000 pounds, while the Zivo is even smaller, at 119 inches long and 1,600 pounds. Both five-door models ride on 145/70R12 tires and can run at speeds up to around 40 mph. Range with their lead-acid battery packs is 80-95 miles, limiting their use primarily to urban areas.

The Dream will sell for around $8,500 and is said to come with a five-year warranty. The Zivo is not yet priced. A third model, the Lawis, a two-passenger pickup, is also planned.

Supported by a modest initial investment of around $8 million, this year the venture will develop a network of 10 dealerships in the Mexico City area. It plans to expand to other cities in the next year and beyond.

The government has offered to give special tax incentives on the sale of these cars, and would not require owners to put them through regular emissions inspections.

If plans materialize, the company has said it would like to establish a local assembly facility by 2012. It sees its modest portfolio of electric vehicles as an alternative to newer low-priced gasoline models from such Chinese automakers as FAW and Geely that are starting to attract low-income consumers in Mexico.

Zilent Autos homepage:

Zilent Dream EV

Zilent Zivo will also go on sale in Mexico this year. It's a four-door hatchback that is only 119 inches long.
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