The 5 Mini EV - Cheapest Electric Car from China
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
I think many have heard of the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV in China. We've also touched on it earlier to compare their efficiency with Aptera, the three wheels, 2-seats, solar-powered EV if this Chinese mini EV is equipped with solar power. Since the beginning of 2021, Wuling Hongguang outsold Tesla Model 3 and became the best-selling EV in China, with close to 100k units in Q1 2021. Why?
How Cheap Can It Be?
At a starting price under $5,000 a unit, compared to $35,950 for the cheapest Tesla Model. It is the most affordable electric car, and it sure outsells Tesla. Many people are jealous of not being able to get one from where they are.
The Mini EV market is exploding in China. There are more mini EVs that are available from just a year ago. Tesla also decided to make a sub $25000 EV, though it's not a Mini EV.
The 2021 Top 5 Mini EV in China
Since Wuling Hongguang started selling in 2020, there have been quite a few rising stars. I found an interesting Youtube video from a Chinese motorist channel that extensively evaluated the five most popular China mini EVs. They are:
- ORA Black Cat 2021 Model 351km by GreatWall
- BenBen E-Star 2020 Model by ChangAn
- Little Ant by Chery New Energy
- Wuling Hongguang Mini EV by SAIC-GM-Wuling
- BaoJun E300 2020 Model EV 3 seat by SAIC-GM-Wuling
Although the video is in Chinese, I captured some of the information shown and got it translated. Let’s see what they have found.
From the data on left show, Wuling Hongguang Mini is the cheapest of all. GreatWall ORA Black Cat is the most expensive at $10,000+. There is no sales figure on Chery Little Ant and Wuling BaoJun E300 that are likely new to the market.
Efficiency and Acceleration
The following table shows their performance and efficiency.
As discussed in a previous article, Wuling Hongguang Mini has a very efficient energy system. It came 1st in the Efficiency category; however, an efficient energy system does come with a cost. You'll see, the Wuling Hongguang Mini has the worst acceleration of all, over 31secs to accelerate from 0 – 100km/h (in fact, it could not reach 100km/h, max out at 95km/h in the test). No wonder there is a joke about the EV being for the elderly (but popular for ladies drivers).
On the other hand, its cousin Wuling BaoJun E300 not only scored the 2nd worst in acceleration, and it won the worst battery/range competency at only 78.65%. That is achieving only 78% of the factory reported range of 260km, at 204.5km. While the other three are doing close to or above 100%.
All EVs purchased brand new for the show test, so there was no degradation should encounter.
Safety - Emergency Braking
After all, safety is most important behind the wheels. The pic below shows how it stops in an emergency braking and Elk test (Moose Test).
From the figures above show, Chery Little Ant was the worst in all tests. It is not the case. Wuling BaoJun E300 (yes, BaoJun again) failed with the system overheating after the 5th trial.
Safety - Elk (Moose) Test
The Elk test below shows the stability at emergency lane switching. BaoJun E300 did an OK job and ranked 3rd overall. Still, a minimum margin from the bottom two, ChangAn BenBen E-Star and Wuling Hongguang Mini, who has no ESP (Electric Stability) installed. I cannot imagine what would happen if it had an ESP fault when performing an emergency lane switching. I have included a youtube video to show you what an Elk test should look like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIN8CyhYREM.
Only GreatWall ORA Black Cat passed the ELK test requirement of 69km/h (43miles/h) and won, while Chery Little Ant failed marginally.
The next test is riding comfort, the “Comfort and Shock Absorbing Test”. Unfortunately, I have no idea of what the result figures are. All I can tell is that the smaller the figure, the better it is. As you can see, the best for riding comfort would be Chery Little Ant, with no significant changes as speed increases compared to the rest. It is essential to note that GreatWall ORA Black Cat, Wuling Hongguang Mini, and Wuling BaoJun E300 have a higher figure even at low speed. That is, you feel the bumpiness even driving slow.
The last table above is to compare the Trunk space. A mini EV like them must create space intelligently while not affecting passenger occupancy. ChangAn BenBen E-Star is the best in this class with its five seaters, 40/60 folds rear seat, and overall largest internal space. In comparison, Wuling BaoJun E300 takes the 2nd runner up as three-seaters with a single back seat. You do not lose any room if you need storage. The rest would need a full fold down for storage space; that is, no more back seat.
Overall Value for Money
The video did not specify an overall winner. I found it challenging to pick one from GreaWall ORA Black Cat, ChangAn BenBen E-Start, and Chery Little Ant. It is really up to you on the requirements and the price to pay. However, a ChangAn BenBen E-Start at the expense of 69800 yuan (roughly $11500), compared to a Wuling Hongguang at 38800 yuan (approximately $6000). As a 2nd city Mini EV runabout, Wuling Hongguang is still more tempting.
Wuling Hongguang Mini may lack the performance and some safety features such as ESP (neither ChangAn BenBen E-Star). The slowness may be its most prominent safety feature.
A city car does not need high performance but practicality. It is probably the reason it's already entered some international markets.
There is a rumor that Chery is bringing another mini EV to the international market called Chery QQ Ice Cream next year. Not many details were released, but it has a small battery and efficient motors similar to Wuling Hongguang at 170km range only. This Chery QQ Ice Cream will soon compete directly with Wuling Hongguang at the low-cost mini EV market.
It is interesting. Although the mini EV market competition is happening mainly in China, not affecting most of us. It is also a reflection of the world’s EV market trends.
In contrast, most enthusiasts like high-performance EVs; they can only show off the performance at a race track or risk other people’s lives. A Tesla Model S Plaid is tempting, but it does not suit most people, not even the cheapest Tesla Model 3. The market needs more affordable EVs.
A Fair Share Of EV Resources
Battery prices are high, and supply is constrained. To speed up the transition to EV and the emission reduction of CO2, different tactics need to deploy.
As for battery tech and charging infrastructure improvement in the next 5 to 10 years, a small EV with a 300km range might improve two or three folds. There is no hurry for a 1000 km range EV to compensate for the “Range Anxiety” now.
Smaller passenger EVs require only smaller batteries, while larger commercial vehicles require larger batteries. A fair share of batteries is the first thing we should look at to increase EV adoption. It will immediately increase the EVs supply and lower the purchasing cost for passenger EV.
What do you think?
Trustworthiness is No. 1
Have you heard of KANDI? A Nasdaq-listed start-up from China, making their own-branded small/mini EV, entered the US market in Q1 2021. It aroused quite a welcoming noise when it first campaigned before launch. It fits our small affordable EV theory, and the review was good. But It didn't get accepted.
An unknown brand that wanted to push into a new market is challenging. The underlying reasons may be more complicated; news on financial faults, fake sales, etc. It is not an accepted brand neither in China. Maybe someone is just trying to push his luck.