VinFast, the Vietnamese automaker, has begun delivering its first battery-electric SUV — the VF-34 — to customers in its home market. The company already offers a full line of conventional automobiles in Asia. The VF-34 is not the car the company plans to introduce in foreign markets, particularly Europe and the US. The VF-34 is a C segment car. The cars for export will be the VF-35 — a D segment car — and the VF-36 — a larger E segment car about the size of a Volkswagen Atlas.
What is most interesting about this is not the VF-34 itself but rather the novel battery rental program the company offers its customers. For a monthly subscription fee equivalent to 26 euros, ($30.00) customers can drive up to 500 kilometers. Additional kilometers cost 0.04 euros each. Here’s the beauty of that arrangement. If the battery degrades to the point where its capacity is reduced below 70% of new, VinFast will replace the battery at its own expense. For the first 25,000 customers, the battery rental is free for the first year. The monthly fees are to be adjusted every year on 1 September based on current electricity and gasoline prices, according to Electrive.
VinFast also has its own EV charging network where customers pay to recharge their batteries for the equivalent of €0.10 per kWh. Once the battery is fully charged, drivers have 30 minutes to disconnect, after which a fee of €0.04 per minute. The charging costs are billed together with the battery rental.
The company has not specified whether it will offer battery rentals and charging services in Europe or America when it begins selling cars in those markets. One of the biggest fears prospective electric car purchasers have is that the battery will die after a few years and replacing it will be outrageously expensive. Anything a manufacturer can do to reduce those fears will pay off in higher sales.
VinFast has said it plans to begin producing and selling cars in the United States in 2022. So far as we know, construction of a factory has not yet begun, so those plans may be a bit ambitious. But electric cars from Asia are surely coming to American shores in the not too distant future. We always assumed Chinese companies would be leading the charge, but VinFast could be the firstest with the mostest. Stranger things have happened.