The Chinese-made Wuling Hongguang Mini EV continues to dominate domestic electric vehicle sales, despite the diminutive vehicle being just two years into its release cycle.
Industry experts believe the little car’s remarkable staying power is likely because of its incredibly modest price tag. At just $5 000, the Wuling Mini EV costs about as much as a Bengal cat or the humidor glove box trim option in a Rolls Royce Phantom.
Classified as a micro EV, it is the product of a three-way partnership made up of industry heavyweights, SAIC (best known for its recent acquisition of MG) (50.1% stake), General Motors (44%) and Wuling (5.9%).
The EV has sold like a proverbial hotcake in China. In April 2022, not two years since it was launched, sales surpassed the 600 000 mark, according to EV blog, InsideEvs.
Its popularity isn’t likely to drop off anytime soon either. The same InsideEvs report indicated that Q1 sales in 2022 reached 94 778 units – a jump of more than 30% year-on-year, beating out BYD’s Qin range (75 000 units) and the Tesla Model Y(74 000 units).
To figure out how Chinese engineers managed to produce an EV at such an attractive price, Nagoya University professor, Masayoshi Yamamoto, purchased and shipped a model to Japan where he and his colleagues stripped the tiny EV down.
Yamamoto found that the majority of the EV’s constituent parts were made from consumer-grade materials. This may cause premature failures in the car, according to the professor. However, it also makes reparation and parts sourcing far easier for mechanics.
For the EV’s moderate pricing, prospective owners can look forward to several power options like a 9.3 kilowatt hour battery that will drive for 120 kilometres before needing a charge and a larger 13.9 kilowatt hour battery that’ll go for about 170 kilometres before needing to be plugged in.
The Wuling Mini EV’s modest range figures make it perfectly suited as an urban run-around but SAIC-GM has announced an extended range model is in the works. Although not even three metres long, the Mini EV features four seats and will reach a top speed of roughly 100 kilometres per hour.
Althought currently only available in China, the Mini EV has grabbed the global automotive industry’s attention. Several other micro EVs, with suspiciously similar styling and powertrains, have popped up internationally.
Notably, the South African Eleksa CityBug, launched in 2021. The CityBug still costs a relatively steep $14 000.
America’s cheapest EV is still the Nissan Leaf. At roughly $20 000, the popular Japanese EV still has some way to go to reach the uber-competitive price range of the little SAIC-GM microcar.