The first real mass market sub-$5,000 car was supposed to be here a few decades ago. That car could have been the ICE version of the Tata Nano. The Nano never really took of at the scale envisioned by Tata back then. It did, however, reignite the conversation into the need for an affordable bare-bones basic small city vehicle around the world. A vehicle that would meet a lot of commuters’ needs, and a decent vehicle to take one from point A to point B without a warp-speed 0 to 100km/h takeoff and a plethora of bells and whistles.
A new star and hope for the new “people’s car” was born last year, and this time it’s even better because its electric! Around the middle of last year, the SAIC, General Motors, and Wuling partnership released the Hong Guang MINI EV. In just over six months, the MINI EV sold 119,255 vehicles in China in 2020, second only to the Tesla Model 3 that sold 139,925 units in 2020. The mini EV has continued its impressive run in China and is currently topping the sales charts in China for 2021.
The MINI EV is very popular in the 3rd tier Chinese cities and is enabling people who would not have been able to afford a car to be able to get a decent affordable vehicle. Starting at just $4,200, the MINI EV’s appeal to non-consumers or the market traditionally targeted by automakers has a real potential to disrupt the auto industry. The SAIC, General Motors, and Wuling partnership is planning to produce at least 500,000 of these mini EVs this year. The success of the Hong Guang MINI EV shows that there is a huge market for these basic EVs.
Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV
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Hong Guang MINI EV Specs
The Hong Guang MINI EV has two battery options and some decent specs for that price:
- 120 km of range (NEDC) using 9.2 kWh battery for just $4,112
- 170 km of range (NEDC) using 13.8 kWh battery for $5,540
- A top speed of 100 km/h
- A 13 kW and 85 Nm electric motor
- Can seat up to 4 people
- Very decent boot space of 741 liters of space when the rear seats are folded down
- 2,917 millimeters long, 1,493 millimeters wide, and 1,621 millimeters high, with a 1,940-millimeter wheelbase.
The success of the Hong Guang MINI EV is an example of market-creating innovation, and several firms are also ramping up production of vehicles in this segment while other firms are now introducing new vehicles into this market, launching similarly priced small EVs. The new version of the Changan BenBen E-Star starts at 29,800 ($4,500), which is very good value for the money considering that the Wuling Hong Guang MINI EV is a 3-door, 4-seater vehicle while the E-Star is a 4-door 5-seater car. The E-Star also gets a bigger battery pack, a 31.18kWh (LFP) pack, and gets a longer range of 301 km (NEDC), with the higher, slightly more expensive trim versions starting from about $6,100.
China’s Low Speed Electric Vehicle (LSEV) market has probably set a precedent for this type of disruptive innovation. These LSEVs have been quite popular in small towns and in rural areas in China. They are quite an upgrade from bicycles, e-bikes, and motorcycles, as they protect drivers from the elements and generally cost less than $3,000. Over 5 million of these LSEVs, which generally come with lead acid batteries, have been sold in China. These are some of the funky looking small vehicles you can get on Alibaba. Now for just about $1,000 more, people can now get better quality, faster, more powerful city EVs with longer lasting LFP batteries. Some of the big players in the LSEV segment, such as Levdeo, are now joining the race. Levdeo is introducing the Letin Mango in this new mini EV segment. Another firm is launching the cheapest EV in China and this car is a whole $100 cheaper than the Hong Guang MINI EV! The Jemmel Lingbox Coco starts at about $4,100, good value for a car with a 30kW motor giving 95Nm of torque and a range of 120 km (NEDC) — also from an LFP battery.
We are pretty sure will see more players enter this market in China and also start to export to other countries in Asia, Africa, and other places. For $4,000, I want one! Already some firms are offering an upgraded model of the Hong Guang MINI EV known as the Nikrob Freze in Europe. Is the age of the small city EV upon us?
Images courtesy of GM.
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