Rural China Buying Millions of $3,000 Slow Electric Cars

Low-speed electric vehicles (LSEV) sold 75% of the unit volume of standard electric vehicles in 2018. About 1.5 million units in China during 2018—equal to about 6% of “conventional” vehicle sales for the year. For a bit of perspective, the entire global sales volume of standard-sized EVs was about 2 million units in 2018.

Sales of LSEVs have grown robustly without any subsidies at all, despite years of opposition from large incumbent automakers such as Changan Automobile Group.

Improving performance (battery range) for this $3000 price segment while keeping very low cost could see this segment of electric vehicles become a big part of electrification in China and the world.

When consumers step up from motorcycles to a gasoline-powered car, their personal oil usage will likely jump by nearly an order of magnitude or more. For those who use bicycles or e-bikes, the jump in personal petroleum consumption would be even more significant.

For perspective, if a million LSEVs displaced a million gasoline-powered midsize sedans from the market, about 15,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gasoline demand could effectively be lost. At the current estimated LSEV fleet size, the potential fuel demand displacement could exceed 60,000 bpd—2% of current total Chinese gasoline demand. LSEVs (and other electric vehicles) are even more impactful when it comes to capturing incremental demand for transport services that might otherwise be served by gasoline-burning motors. Here, 4 million LSEVs could capture an amount of incremental gasoline usage equivalent to the nearly 64,000 bpd of gasoline demand growth in China between 2016 and 2017.