Using parts from a beat-up VW dune buggy, Gary Starr built his first electric car during college in 1974 when he got tired of standing in gas lines.
The experiment convinced him the technology was there; what was needed was a way to market alternative-powered transportation as fun. These days, the Zapworld.com CEO is the marketing force behind Zappy, the standout in a line of folding electric scooters and bicycles that is expected to gross up to $10 million in sales this year, a 50% increase over 1999.
"Even though the company stands for Zero Air Pollution, most people think we stand for innovation and fun," says Mr. Starr, 44. "While a lot of people talk about the environment, not a lot of people will take action. People ride this thing because it's a blast to ride."
While a team at the company develops product extensions, Mr. Starr looks for strategic partners. He signed marketing deals with Lucas Licensing for a Star Wars Zappy and with Smith & Wesson Corp. for an electric bike for police officers.
Celebrity sightings on Zappys also have helped. "What's interesting about electric vehicles is your imagination is the only limiting factor," he says.