Renaissance Tropica

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Renaissance Tropica
1995 Tropica EV Roadster.jpg
1995 Tropica EV Roadster, as designed by Jim Muir. Image from original Renaissance Cars company records.
ManufacturerRenaissance Cars
Also called
  • Renaissance Cars Tropica
  • Tropica Roadster
  • Zebra Model Z Roadster
  • Xebra Model Z Roadster
Body and chassis
Body style Roadster
Layout Rear-motor, rear-wheel drive
Electric motor
  • Two DC motors, 18.3 kW (24.5 bhp) each
  • Total maximum power: 36.5 kW (49 bhp)
  • Total maximum continuous power: 11.2 kW (15 bhp) [1]
Transmission Direct drive (separately for each rear wheel)
Battery 11.2 kWh lead-acid

The Tropica or Tropica Roadster is an all-electric car made by Renaissance Cars in the 1990s. It was introduced for the model year 1995 and built in a limited number of units, but never entered series production due to financial issues. [2]



Renaissance Cars was founded by Bob Beaumont, who previously founded the company which produced the Citicar in the 1970s. The company was headquartered in Palm Bay, Florida. [1]

The Tropica Roadster was designed by Jim Muir. [1]


The car was to use an ABS body on an aluminum backbone chassis. [3] Although the first prototype had a fiberglass unibody, [1] later vehicles used an aluminum chassis and a plastic body. [4] [5] The total weight was about 2,200 lb (998 kg) at the prototype stage, with plans to reduce it by a further 400 lb (181 kg) in the production version; [1] the manufacturer ultimately specified the weight of the car as 1,960 lb (889 kg). [3]

The battery capacity was about 11.2 kWh, coming from twelve 6V lead-acid batteries, each with a capacity of 156 Ah; the batteries were removable. When a prototype was tested by the Car and Driver magazine, [1] the urban range was about 38 mi (61 km). Later owners of pre-series vehicles reported a range of about 52 mi (84 km). [6] In 2008, a car with about 20,000 miles on its odometer had a range of 35 mi (56 km) on the freeway. [7]

The vehicle would take 6-8 hours to fully charge, but as explained by one owner, "I can get an 85% charge in about 90 mins. The remaining 6-7 hours is used to trickle charge the rest of the battery." [6]

The vehicle had two DC motors, [7] one for each of the rear wheels, which eliminated the need for a differential. The vehicle had no gearbox. The maximum power output was 49 bhp, however the maximum continuous power output was merely 15 bhp, [1] which resulted in a top speed of about 60 mph (97 km/h). [8] [5] It was 57 mph (92 km/h) in the Car and Driver test, [1] while another user reported 72 mph (116 km/h). [6]


The car was introduced in 1995 (although prospective customers were able to reserve it earlier). [9] Approximately 16 pre-series Tropica Roadsters were produced [5] and exhibited in showrooms, with at least some of them finding customers. According to another source, the company made 23 vehicles overall, including prototypes and pilot series vehicles. [10] The car did not enter series production because the second financing round failed. [5]

In 1996, the company went into receivership [11] and most of its assets went to a newly founded company called Zebra Motors, based first in Novato and then in Alameda, California. [12] The company announced two models, the Model Z Roadster (which was a renamed Tropica Roadster) [5] and the Light Delivery Van (the latter featuring a swappable battery), but these did not enter series production. The company was then bought by a group of investors reportedly including actor Don Johnson and renamed Xebra Motors. [12] Though the group planned a limited production of the Roadster, [12] the company ultimately failed in 2001. [13]

The car appeared in an episode of Nash Bridges [12] (season 4, episode 17). [14]

One Tropica Roadster is in possession of the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum in Kingman, Arizona. [15]


One user reported buying a new Tropica for $18,000. [6] The manufacturer expected to sell it profitably for $12,500. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Car and Driver, March 1994. Text by Frank Markus, photography by Bob Costanzo. Available here
  3. 1 2 "Tropica. The World's First Affordable Electric Sports Car. Product brochure (2)".
  4. "Tropica Roadster Window Sticker".
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "The 1995 Renaissance Tropica Is The Electric Roadster You Didn't Know Existed". HotCars. September 15, 2020.
  6. 1 2 3 4 "The Answer Page". Archived from the original on 2008-10-18. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  7. 1 2 "Steve Bischoff's Tropica".
  8. Strouhal, Peter (September 8, 2020). "The 1995 Renaissance Tropica is the car nobody asked about". DriveTribe.
  9. "The Tropica/Zebra Saga".
  10. "Where are they now???".
  11. "The (now defunct) Renaissance Cars Home Page".
  12. 1 2 3 4 "Don Johnson plugs into electric vehicle maker". San Francisco Business Times. Archived from the original on 2007-04-23. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  13. "Auction ends run of electric car maker". East Bay Business Times. Archived from the original on 2006-02-09. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  14. "Zebra Model Z Roadster in "Nash Bridges"".
  15. "Acquisitions & Arrivals | Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation".