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World media has given this baby maybe 0.01% of the attention siphoned off by Tesla Models 3+Y. And yet it managed to squeeze between these two giants, grabbing global Silver Medal in 2021 with 424,000 sales - all of them in a single country. Do you know its name?

Cars

SAIC, GM, & Wuling To Release A Remix Of The Smash Hit Mini EV

During the heights of the Bad Boy Records era, Bad Boy would often release remixes of smash hits from their own recording artists. Bad Boy Records would also pick up some songs from artists on other labels, and then turn them into even bigger hits. Everyone wanted a Bad Boy Remix. Sean “Puffy” Combs, who was also known as Puff Daddy, Diddy, and now simply known as “Love,” was an expert in this field. Sean Combs’ empire helped shape contemporary hip-hop, and Bad Boy remixes were a big part of it. He even used to say, “We invented the remix.” In the music industry, a hot remix would give a new lease of life to a song and was a great way of boosting sales.

It looks like the era of remixes is coming back in a big way, this time in the auto industry. In the past, legacy OEMs would have long periods in between new models. Sometimes people would have to wait for 7 or so years for a new model of their favorite car. In between that time, OEMs could offer a cosmetic facelift edition. It seems as though Chinese firms are beginning to have a refresh cycle that is closer to mobile phones than to traditional automakers. New energy vehicles can be considered to be gadgets on wheels. Chinese automakers are also pushing more connected vehicles and are positioning some of their product offerings to ride on trends that appeal to the younger, new generation of car buyers. As Jose Pontes puts it, “The Wuling EV has become a trendsetter and a disruptive force in urban mobility, a true EV for the masses, with the added bonus that the people buying it (mostly females, mostly under 35 years old) are usually a hard-to-capture audience.” This approach has opened up a whole new market in China, with several firms now bringing out small EVs in the same class as the mini EV.

SAIC, GM, and Wuling should be commended for making an effort to sell the Wuling HongGuang Mini EV. It has only been on the market for less than two years, but it has already sold almost 400,000 units in China alone. 400,000 units in under two years in one market is really impressive when you consider the fact that it took almost 10 years for the Nissan Leaf to sell 500,000 units globally. Of course, the mini EV’s affordable price tag has played a major role in its success, but SAIC, GM, and Wuling have also done a great job in promoting it.

The Mini EV now has a trendy refreshed Macaron edition. The Macaron edition comes in three fashionable new colors: Avocado Green, Lemon Yellow, and White Peach Pink. An optional solid-color roof is also available. The HongGuang Mini EV Macaron also received additional safety features through a standard driver air bag along with the anti-lock braking system with electronic brake force distribution, tire pressure monitoring system, low-speed pedestrian warning system, and other functions. The car is equipped with a back-up camera and reverse parking sensors as well.

Now, China’s top selling EV is getting a remix! The blockbuster Mini EV’s latest upgrade will give it a slightly longer wheelbase, a 26 kWh battery, up from the 9.2 kWh and 13.8 kWh in the current models. It is also getting a more powerful electric motor upgraded to 30 kW from the previous 20 kW. The upgraded Mini EV will now qualify for subsidies thanks to the much improved range of more than 300 km on the NEDC cycle. This means consumers will be able to buy the new Mini EV with almost double the range for almost the same price as the previous 13.8 kWh version. Not bad for a 26 kWh LFP battery-powered ~$5,500 EV. To put that into perspective, the first generation Nissan Leaf had a 24 kWh battery when it was launched 10 years ago, and it was priced from well over $35,000. The upgraded Mini EV will surely sell like hot cakes if SAIC, GM, and Wuling can make as many of them as they can. The current version has already been averaging 30,000 units per month and in August it sold over 41,000 units. This longer range model would be a good candidate for exports.

SAIC, GM, and Wuling are not stopping there. They are about to unleash yet another remix, this time targeting another new market segment in the younger Tik Tok generation. SAIC, GM, and Wuling are about to release a smaller 2-seater EV. What could possibly be smaller than something that is the already small mini EV? Well, the Nano EV is coming! The new Nano EV is essentially an upgraded/refreshed/remix version of the Baojun E200. The Nano EV will have a 24 kWh LFP battery and a 29 kW motor. Although the Baojun E200 was initially released over 3 years ago, refreshing it and rebranding it in the “Mini EV” style will surely ride on the wave of the blockbuster Wuling HongGuang Mini EV. With the Nano EV said to be starting from just over $3,000 — yes, an EV with a 24 kWh battery for a tenth of the cost of the first gen Nissan Leaf when new, it should definitely sell like hot cakes. Will it outsell the Mini EV? Let’s wait and see what happens. I wonder if Wuling will release an even smaller “Pico EV.”

Just like in the mobile phone industry, affordable EVs from China will continue to get upgrades and over-the-air updates with time and hence they will get better and better. Affordable EVs coming out of China present the best pathway at the moment to catalyze the adoption of electric mobility globally. 90% of vehicles brought into Africa every year are used vehicles. A lot of them are over 8 years old and priced from about $6,000 including import duties. Affordable brand new EVs from China will help countries substitute these old ICE vehicles with cleaner EVs. Let’s hope we start to see more of these affordable EVs exported in large numbers. Increasing the penetration of these affordable EVs will help African countries save a lot of the much needed foreign currency that is currently used to import fossil fuels.

 
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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.

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