The cheapest Chinese electric cars are coming to the US and Europe—for as
little as $9,000
February 4, 2019 Akshat Rathi
China already sells more electric vehicles than the rest of the world
combined. And there’s a long list of the categories you can choose
from—including large buses, sports cars, two-wheeled motorcycles, and zippy
One of the hottest categories in that list is “tiny cars.” These
mini-vehicles can cost as little as $1,000 and, in China at least, you don’t
even need a driver’s license to use them. The catch? Their top speed is less
than 40 miles per hour, they run on cheap lead-acid batteries, and they have
little to no crash protection.
That’s not much of a concern for Chinese users, who are buying these
low-speed electric vehicles (LSEVs) like hot cakes.
Four-year-old electric vehicle maker Kaiyun Motors thinks that it can tempt
Americans and Europeans to buy into the craze. “Mini-electric vehicles are
more than enough to meet consumers’ daily needs,” Wang Chao, founder of
Kaiyun, told Bloomberg (paywall). “There is a huge market out there around
Kaiyun will start selling its “Pickman” electric pickup in the US, Germany,
and Italy as soon as next month. The base Chinese model sells for 16,800
yuan ($2,500). The US version will start at $8,950, Fox News reports.
These are not snazzy, high-end vehicles, and their marketing isn’t either. A
promotional video for the Pickman features a young, hoodie-wearing Chinese
narrator plainly explaining the car’s unique features. The pickup comes in
six colors, boasts off-road capability, and can fit a “family of three,”
according to the video. It has a range of 120 km (75 miles) on a single
charge. The battery takes up to ten hours to charge. The Pickman’s top speed
is 45 km per hour (28 miles per hour), and it has a payload capacity of 450
For comparison, top-end electric cars like Tesla Model S can go for more
than 480 km (300 miles) on a single charge, can fast charge lithium-ion
batteries to 100% in 75 mins, and boast top speeds of 240 km per hour (150
miles per hour). The top model costs more than $90,000.
And if we compare within Pickman’s category, the gasoline version of the
Ford F-150 pickup starts at $28,000 and its upcoming electric version is
rumored to start at $70,000. The Pickman can’t do everything that a Ford
F-150 can do—such as travel at a top speed of 160 km per hour (100 miles per
hour) and carry a payload as much as 1,000 kg. But it still has potential
for use on farms or construction sites, where the car can be used in the day
and put to charge at night at a lower cost than a gas-guzzling truck.
... the Pickman is nimbler than U.S.-built pickups and costs as little as
one-tenth of a F-150, its limited speed and driving range of 120 kilometers
(75 miles) on one charge may put off some potential customers ...
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