ZEEKR 001 and 009 first drives: Quality EVs offering proof this automaker is just getting started

After over two years of consistent coverage of Geely’s young, all-electric ZEEKR brand, I finally got the opportunity to see its first two EV models up close and take them both for a spin. As a bonus, ZEEKR also had its purpose-built EV designed for Waymo on display ahead of the first deliveries to the robotaxi startup.

Since its inception announcement from parent company Geely back in March of 2021, EV brand ZEEKR has been a mainstay on Electrek’s homepage for a number of reasons. For one, with a powerhouse like Geely in its corner, the company has scaled up and done so quickly, producing over 10,000 units of its flagship 001 shooting brake in a mere four months.

It only took ZEEKR 520 days to deliver 100,000 cars, a number that had already surpassed 120,000 as of June 2023. Deliveries should continue to grow as ZEEKR has now introduced a third model called the X, as well as a quad-motor performance variant of the shooting brake called the 001 FR.

The newly appointed CEO of ZEEKR Technology Europe, Giovanni Lanfranchi, joined us at the Monticello Motor Club in New York and talked us through the company’s fast-paced strategy, explaining, “ZEEKR is moving faster than a very fast China.”

With two EVs already on the cusp of beginning sales in Europe and plans to expand to 70% of the continent’s markets by 2025, followed by the Middle East, ZEEKR is certainly moving fast. Its EV models are fast, too, as I got to take the 001 and 009 out on the track and experience the Chinese automaker’s tech up close for the very first time. Here’s an up-close look at the 001 shooting brake inside and out.

Taking a spin in ZEEKR’s first two EV models

My first ride was in the ZEEKR 001 EV, which, in my opinion, is even more sleek in person. As a shooting brake, the 001 offers a much more streamlined profile and simply looks faster than a sedan… and it probably is.

The dual-motor Performance AWD version I drove goes 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 3.8 seconds, has continuous damper control (CDC), and delivers 544 hp (400 kW) – pretty impressive considering the EV weighs 2.4 tons. I’ll tell you what – when you’re hitting hairpin turns and accelerating through straightaways, the 001 feels a lot lighter.

It was a joy to ride and only makes me want to experience the 001 FR even more. That will take some time, as production just began, but that will happen eventually. Trust me.

Once my adrenaline briefly settled, it was time to move on to the 009 multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). In the US, we simply call it a minivan, but there is nothing mini about this vehicle. The team told us the internet in China has actually dubbed it the “ZEEKR Tank.”

My first impression of the second EV model from ZEEKR was how low it sits, how large its side door is, and how luxurious it looks inside. As you can see from the images above, the rear seats offer some serious incline… just as long as no one large is in the third row, as it looked pretty tight back there.

My first ride was as a passenger, and although it was comfortable, the large leather seats left room to shift around. Granted, most passengers won’t be experiencing a hot lap in the 009, meaning they should remain relatively still, but even the front seat left room for some shifting at high speeds.

Upon driving the 009 myself, it’s clear that this is a whole new beast altogether. Even at 2.8 tons, the 009 can accelerate 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds, but it honestly feels a lot faster than that. Turns weren’t as tight as the 001, which made for a more “thrilling” experience, but after driving and riding in the 009, I’d like to see more of these EVs in the States because they might plow right through the “soccer mom” family car stigma minivans usually have.

The 009 is not only luxurious and comfortable, but it is powerful, safe, and loaded with advanced technology. It will be interesting to see how it continues to fare in China’s MPV market and whether it makes its way over to other countries. I could see it as an excellent replacement for the Tahoe or Escalade as a livery vehicle.

ZEEKR also showed off its robotaxi built for Waymo

Last but not least, during my East Coast visit, ZEEKR surprised us with an up-close look at its purpose-built EV that will soon make its way to Waymo, following an agreement signed back in late 2021.

Although the EV on display was a non-driving prototype, it was cool to get a glimpse of some of the technology and design cues ZEEKR is bringing to the table here. The EV is a bespoke model that will soon be shipped to Waymo, which will add its own technology to enable autonomous robotaxi rides. Essentially, ZEEKR could sell the EV to other commercial operators for different uses. This specific design, however, was developed alongside Waymo.

According to ZEEKR, the prototype EVs are being built in China as we speak and will be sent to Waymo shortly. The robotaxi network plans to deploy the purpose-built EVs in five US cities to begin, including San Francisco, Phoenix, and Austin, but there is no clear timeframe on when that will happen.

The version seen above does not include a steering wheel, but the first EVs you may see on city streets will likely have them for regulatory reasons. ZEEKR said that if regulations require the steering wheel, it can add it as necessary.

While experiencing the EVs at speeds well over 100 mph was a huge perk, my first experience with ZEEKR was much more than that. The quality, technology, and plans for expansion are grounds for excitement for this young company. Its growth in a short time and its current valuation of $13 billion are causes for optimism, and its support from Geely should only harden that sentiment.

There’s a lot in the works across ZEEKR’s design center in Sweden and production hub in China. Trust that I’ll stay on this beat to keep you in the loop. Hopefully, I can get behind the wheel of the aforementioned X and 001 FR EVs next and report back. Stay tuned.

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