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.

28 thoughts on “Rural China Buying Millions of $3,000 Slow Electric Cars”

  1. I was wondering why Chinese lead production was insanely high. I was just thinking starter batteries for millions of new internal combustion vehicles. But clearly these vehicles are a factor, if they made a million and a half of these things in a year.

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  2. Well, it probably contributes to pollution if it slows down traffic to a crawl. Mining and smelting all the lead for the batteries is also bad for the environment and human health.

    I can’t see this as positive unless they stop using lead-acid batteries.

    I was wondering why China was mining so much lead…now I know. Crime in China will probably go bonkers in about 20 years…unless they have very clean smelters. Somehow, I doubt that is the case.

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  3. Please watch the use of “an”. You are hurting my brain. Better to use “a” and be wrong occasionally, than “an” and be wrong most of the time…if you don’t want to learn when to use which. I am not a stickler for spelling and grammar generally, I make my share of mistakes, but this is like smacking the reader’s a face into a wall. You just thump…stop right there…then try to pick up the pieces.

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  4. Even if they were powered by coal (which is not the case, only a percentage of all the power generation comes from coal) it still is a huge improvement on our lives. China’s cities have a huge pollution problem, so remove all the transport pollution from the cities and concentrate it on a coal plant in a remote area, the lives of the inhabitants of those cities would be greatly improved.

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  5. I would assume that there are still large parts of China rural areas are still without electricity. And that there would be a larger market for small cheap gasoline pickup trucks.

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  6. In the US and rest of the west you buy an used car if you want an cheap car
    In China and other 3rd world countries with fast growth its not enough used cars to fill the demand for cheap cars so they have to make new very cheap ones.

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  7. Different factors at play here than in the U.S., where people expect it all.

    But the good thing about tunnels (once constructing them becomes cheap enough) is that you can have multiple layers of tunnels, and it wouldn’t be difficult to have different speeds in different tunnels.

    And even at 25 miles per hour, not having to deal with intersections or gridlock would mean faster speeds in most urban areas during rush hour.

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  8. In the year 2000 China had exactly one type of car on the road and nothing else…. a small red Volkswagon 4 door… you could have any car you want as long as it’s a red volkswagon 4 door… no idea what it is these days…

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  9. In Italy, these cars could be driven by people older than 14 (after getting the license)
    These cars have a limit on the power of the engine and speed and can transport only the driver and a passenger (if the driver is over 16 or 18)

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  10. The context of this article was them being sold in a handful of rural Chinese provinces.

    I’m assuming there’s little in the way of highways to factor into the purchasing decision.

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  11. Trying to find a parking space in San Francisco left me envious of “Smart Cars” – they fit in spaces my car didn’t fit in.

    I can easily imagine a city deciding that only small cars and taxis should be allowed in the downtown core during peak hours. Somewhat similar restrictions already exist, here and there.

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  12. Access to charging ports is probably why Japanese Kei cars haven’t made the switch to electric. Most Kei cars are used in dense urban areas, and it will take some time for chargers to be built out to all the oddball spots urban Japanese end up using for parking. Rural Chinese on the other hand will usually have a house that they can run an extension cord off of to charge these little things.

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  13. Only if they are carried by something else.

    Some of these cars have max. speeds of like 25 mph.

    Which is fine if you only want to commute near your home and back and not take any highways.

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  14. Can they go 155mph in a small paved tunnel?

    Seriously, though, this makes a lot of sense. I wonder why more of the Japanese Kei cars aren’t electric.

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  15. I assume electric cars in China are fundamentally
    powered by coal generated electricity.
    But do not contribute to pollution otherwise.

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