Small three-wheel electric cars are becoming popular in densely populated cities across China, especially Beijing.
This is because owners don’t need a license to drive an electric vehicle, or EV, as it’s currently not classified as a car in China. And commuters can use the city’s bike lanes to dodge the notorious traffic congestions.
It’s a convenient mode of transport for many.
[Li Hongming, Teacher]:
“This kind of vehicle is smaller than a gas car. You don’t need to sit in traffic jams. It saves time, and it doesn’t need gas, which is quite expensive, so you can save money.”
The hooded three-wheel EV cruises at a maximum speed of about 19 miles an hour. It uses a removable battery that can be charged from a regular electrical socket at home.
EV retailers say sales are booming.
[Feng Luya, Shop Owner]
“Now each month we can sell 50 to 80 vehicles. The customers say they’re really useful.”
The price of a three-wheel EV ranges from $600 to $1,500—making it highly affordable.
Cheaper, slower-speed EVs sell faster than the high-speed models. Even the highly state-subsidized BYD E6 high-speed model still costs about $60,000. This is way above what most city dwellers can afford.
In rural China, farmers prefer the larger four-wheeled EVs with a top speed of 30 miles an hour.
Last year, the Shandong Shifeng Group—a manufacturer of the slow-speed four-wheel EVs—sold 70,000 in Shandong Province alone.
[Lin Lianhua, Vice President, Shandong Shifeng Group]:
“In the city, there are subways and buses…on the farm, people rely on motorcycles and bikes…when people have to go out…riding a bicycle or motorcycle is uncomfortable and unsafe. So, they need something between a car and a bike that they can afford to buy and use.”
The trend is towards low-cost, slower-speed EVs although local authorities in Beijing have yet to officially approve them.
Meanwhile, many fuel-conscious city commuters seem happy cruising on the slow lane.