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This article was published on February 25, 2021


This teensy Chinese EV outsold Tesla last month — and it’s cheaper than some ebikes

Oh, and it's partly made by General Motors

This teensy Chinese EV outsold Tesla last month — and it’s cheaper than some ebikes
Matthew Beedham
Story by

Matthew Beedham

Editor, SHIFT by TNW

Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.

Over in the US, General Motors has made its statement of intent, pledging to go electric and remove tail-pipe emissions from its light passenger vehicles by 2035.

It looks like GM still has a way to go before we see its electric dreams realized on English-speaking shores. However, if we turn our gaze to China, GM is already helping to produce electric vehicles, and it turns out, the fruit of its labor is outselling Tesla, by a long way — last month at least.

Let me introduce you to the Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV, the electric vehicle that’s stealing the show in China and is made in collaboration with GM, yes that General Motors.

ev, china, USA, GM
Credit: Wikimedia
Hong Guang MINI EV, is made by state-owned SAIC in collaboration with General Motors.

It’s cheap, it’s cheerful, and it’s the very embodiment of electric urban motoring. But prepare to have your breath taken away: this cutesy little motor is so far beyond affordable, it makes some bicycles look overpriced.

It costs just $4,500. No, that’s not a typo, it is actually cheaper than some ebikes. But if you’re a person of luxury, which I’m sure you are, there is an upgraded version that has air conditioning that costs $5,000. And of course, in this blazing fireball called Earth, the one with A/C is the one to buy…

[Read: How do you build a pet-friendly gadget? We asked experts and animal owners]

According to figures from BBC News, the Hong Guang Mini EV is selling like hot cakes. Last month, there were nearly twice as many Mini EVs sold as Tesla vehicles.

It’s not surprising when the cheapest Tesla costs $30,000 more than the Hong Guang, but still, the Mini EV proves practicality and affordability are characteristics that should not be overlooked.

The Hong Guang is being branded as “the people’s commuting tool,” which I think is code for: “It’s kinda pants, but hey! It’s damn cheap!”

mini ev, hong guang, future, electric
Credit: Wikimedia
The Hong Guang Mini EV rear end. It’s sort of like a Smart Car, but even more basic.

The Hong Guang has a tiny battery, according to other reviews the big battery version comes with a 13.8 kWh pack, giving it 110 miles (160 km) of range. The standard version has just 75 miles (120 km) of range.

It tops out at 62 mph, (100 kph), so you won’t be breaking any land speed records with this thing, but it’s designed for the city, and we can bash it all we want, it looks perfect for the job it’s designed to do.

There have been all kinds of weird and wonderful EVs dreamed up over the years.

Take the Sinclair C5, a ride on ebike from 1985 that was light years ahead of its time, but also wildly dangerous and mis-marketed. Or Canyon’s recent pedal-powered car-bike concept that wants to reduce excess waste and have people commuting in tiny machines fit for one person.

canyon, podbike, future
Credit: Canyon
The Canyon car-bike concept could help address a number of challenges associated with traveling in and around busy cities. But it will need a good reception if it’s to become a thing.

All of these are great ideas, but perhaps the reason why they’ve failed or are yet to come to fruition is because they overthink the problem and end up being far too expensive. What we need are simple, pragmatic, and most importantly, affordable EVs that nearly everyone can afford.

Let’s hope that when General Motors turns its attention to its US market it applies some of what it’s learned from building one of China’s best selling electric microcars.


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