Over the past 10 years or so, a lot of new energy vehicle startups and legacy OEMs have followed the same formula of starting with top of the range electric vehicles ($50,000 plus) and then moving slowly to develop lower priced versions. There has been a lot of progress in the EV space over the past 10 years, especially in incremental improvements in energy density, improvements in battery chemistries, and the optimization of battery cell and pack manufacturing processes.
LFP-based module-less packs in cell to pack configuration, such as BYD’s Blade battery, have reduced the costs of batteries to a point where EVs with a real world range of over 300 kilometers (~186 miles) are now priced at levels considered affordable. However, these EVs have mostly only been available in China. One of the reasons for this is because a lot of the legacy OEMs in Europe and the US still want people to believe that EVs are still far more expensive to build than their beloved ICE vehicles, and that this will be the case for a very long time. One of the traditional big auto firms, Renault, apparently even wants the deadline for the end of ICE sales in the EU to be delayed till 2040! A lot of these legacy OEMs are planning for a cheaper $25,000 car only by 2025. The VW ID.2 is sadly and quite disappointingly only expected to arrive in 2025. Renault’s successor to the Zoe, the resurrected Renault 5, is now coming back as an all-electric car and has been confirmed for production in 2024. It is also expected to be priced around $25,000 in 2024.
2025 is four years from now, but legacy OEMs want people to believe cheaper EVs can only be a reality four years from now. $25,000 has become the benchmark number, as if decent EVs cannot be priced lower than that then or even now. Four years is a very long time, and a lot can happen between now and then. It also appears that these legacy OEMs are failing to learn from history, or are choosing to ignore what happened in other industries in the past. Could they be believing that they are immune from what happened to Kodak or Nokia? Trends in the mobile phone industry could give a picture of what is to come. Cheaper, well-built smartphones and feature phones from Asia have progressively stolen market share in emerging markets. Consumers now have a choice between an $800 smartphone and a $400 very capable smartphone from these Asian brands, and a lot of them will go for the $400 phone.
But perhaps the solar industry gives an even better picture of what is to come. Between 2008 and 2013, China’s solar-electric panel industry helped bring down world prices by 80%. For solar project developers, this was a gamechanger, as this had a significant effect on the overall cost per Watt of solar projects, catalyzing tremendous growth in the industry. On the list of the top 10 solar companies in the world, 8 of these are Chinese, and the same could happen soon in the EV space.
It was only a matter of time before Chinese EV manufacturers started to look at taking their EVs to the world just as the Chinese solar panel manufacturers did. As Zachary Shahan said recently, “For the past several years, many of us have been wondering about when Chinese electric vehicle (EV) startups would start trying to sell their vehicles in Europe and North America. We’re finally seeing the expectation come to life.” Well, it’s happening, folks!
BYD has started deliveries of the Tang SUV in Norway. The Tang has an 86.4 kWh Blade battery and has a range of 400 kilometers in the combined WLTP cycle. It starts from around €57,000. Nio’s ES8 is now coming to Norway and has had some glowing reviews. The ES8 has a 100 kWh battery and a range of 500 km (WLTP). This will also be a car that is over $60,000. The XPeng P7 has now joined the G3 on the Norwegian market. The P7 is equipped with an 80 kWh battery pack and delivers a range of up to 530 km WLTP. The P7 starts from around $49,000 in Norway. Several other Chinese EVs are available and are getting some rave reviews. These include the MG5 station wagon, the MG ZS EV, and the Aiways U5.
The biggest question for me was when will we start seeing cheaper EVs from China that will shake up the market similar to what happened in the solar industry? This is one of the reasons I have been following CleanTechnica’s China monthly sales updates from Jose Pontes very closely for a very long time. I have always been looking out for affordable EVs with a decent range, looking for which ones were beginning to push decent volumes in China and scaling nicely, which would be a good sign for potential exports.
Back in October 2018, after record sales of over 20,600 units in a month, I was really hoping the BAIC EC series will kick in and take on many new markets outside China. I was particularly excited by the fact that ICE models from BAIC were already assembled in my home town of Harare, Zimbabwe. I had hoped that since BAIC already had a presence here it would eventually start assembling the EC EV series as well, but the EC series seems to have all but disappeared from the charts. Other affordable EVs I have been following over the years include the Cherry eQ, the BYD e2, the Leap Motor T03, the Changan Ben Ben EStar, and Ora’s collection of Cats! This group of EVs are priced in a range that could really excite consumers and really catalyze mass adoption of EVs. I like to call this group of EVs, “ICE Killers.”
Back to Ora’s collection of Cats! Great Wall Motors’ Ora R1, also known as the Black Cat, has a 33kWh battery pack and a 35 kW motor giving it a 220 km WLTP range. It has been consistently showing up on the China monthly sales chart. The upgraded 2022 Ora R1 is priced from around $10,000, which is a good value for a decent 200 km real-world range car. It has not yet been launched in Europe and other markets, but independent dealers are already importing the Black Cat directly and reselling them in Ghana and other markets.
Great Wall Motors also has the Ora R2 (White Cat) in China. It has a 38 kWh battery option. The battery has an 8-year or 150,000 km warranty. The Ora R2 produces 45 kW (60 hp) of power, and 130 Nm of torque. It starts from around $12,000 in China. Then there is the Ora Good Cat! There is good news about the Good Cat. Great Wall Motors announced this week that the Ora Good Cat will be the first model from its Ora brand to be launched in Europe and the UK. It will be available to pre-order in those markets before the end of the year with deliveries starting in early 2022. It’s really good to know that Great Wall will be bringing a right-hand drive version to the UK very soon, meaning we could see the Good Cat in other right-hand markets such as India, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as in East and South Africa.
The Ora Good Cat with a 49 kWh LFP battery starts from around $13,000 in China and has a range of 401 km (NEDC). So, in early 2022 (not 2025!) people in Europe will have access to a very good affordable EV that will probably be priced around €20,000 (official pricing to be announced closer to the launch). Just as the Chinese solar panel manufacturers helped drive down the cost of solar panels, Chinese EV firms look set to bring mass market affordable EVs to Europe and the world. While some European OEMs insist on the narrative that affordable EVs won’t be possible soon, Great Wall Motors is already bringing affordable sub-$25,000 EVs to Europe. The Ora Good Cat is here, and it will be the first of many affordable Chinese EVs that will help catalyze the mass adoption of EVs on a global scale.