While Australia may be slow to embrace electric vehicle (EV) adoption, many of the world’s largest auto markets are increasingly electrified. Electric vehicles are mainstream now, in large part thanks to the vision of Elon Musk’s pioneer company, Tesla, which transformed the global public’s perception of electric vehicles from dull to desirable.
The Tesla Model 3, Tesla’s smallest and cheapest vehicle, is officially the world’s best-selling electric car of all time with nearly a million units sold and was the fastest-growing rechargeable electric car. sold to the world for three consecutive years, from 2018 to 2020.
“Was” being the operative term. Today, a small EV rival in China has dethroned Tesla as the world’s most popular electric car – after only a year on the market and without even having to leave its home country.
It’s called the Wuling Hongguang Mini – not as eye-catching as the ‘Tesla Model 3’, but there you go. Manufactured by SAIC-GM-Wuling, a joint venture between two Chinese state-owned automakers and the American General Motors, the diminutive “mianbao che” (面包车) or “bread car” has finally overtaken the Model 3 in the worldwide monthly sales, with Wuling selling over 1,000 per day, the conduit reports.
Although it is currently only offered in mainland China (which makes those sales figures even more impressive), the brand has ambitions to export it overseas, and manufacturers from countries like Latvia and Pakistan are already in the process of concluding agreements to produce the EV under license.
Less than 3m long and producing the equivalent of 13kW from its single engine, it’s really a difficult thing. But the asking price is also: around 5,700 AUD. It’s cheap by anyone’s standards. It only has an effective range of around 120-170 km (depending on the battery) but considering that the natural environment of this car would be the crowded streets of a Chinese metropolis, this is hardly a problem. .
An important factor in the success of the Hongguang Mini is also its cute side. This is an obviously attractive small car with a somewhat retro aesthetic – taking inspiration from the MINI book – that Wuling squarely aimed at the female market, which is generally more receptive to owning electric vehicles because it does so. Al Jazeera the article relates.
Would the car work in Australia though? It’s a good question. Even if the car were sold here for double its Chinese RRP, it would easily remain Australia’s cheapest car – and by far the cheapest EV (the cheapest EV currently available in Australia is the MG ZS $ 40,990 before highway charges).
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The biggest problem is security. An unofficial crash test of the Hongguang Mini conducted in China suggests car malfunctions in crash, with tester joking “No one in the car can survive even in a frontal collision at low speed … Crushed like [a] can of soda”, Tesmanian reports. It would not be allowed to be sold as is in most foreign markets.
Guess you get what you pay for.
China has long been the world’s largest producer of electric vehicles as well as the world’s largest market for electric vehicles: Home to more than half of the world’s fleet, the Middle Kingdom quickly and enthusiastically adopted vehicle technology. electric in a way that makes other auto giants like Japan and the United States look like real stragglers.
The “People’s Tesla” is successful for a reason: it is cheap and it sacrifices the safety and comfort of creatures in search of the cheap. But its success should be a wake-up call for Tesla, America and the rest of the world: Unless others start to innovate, China will undoubtedly overtake everyone in the electric vehicle game.