Why Do I Find GM-Wuling’s $4,500 Mini EV So Compelling? How About A Free One For Any American Who Wants One?

I’ve been saying it like a mantra for many years: EV’s are most compelling and effective as city cars, for all those short runs to the store, errands, work, etc..  Leave the big gas guzzler at home and use it for long trips, where it still has a decided advantage over EV’s. The Chinese have figured this out, and the GM/Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, which starts at some $4,500, is the world’s best selling EV as a consequence, handily outselling the Tesla Model 3 by almost 2:1.

I would snap up one of these in a heartbeat if it were available here. Built domestically at high volumes and with improved safety features, I’m pretty sure it could be sold for $10,000 or less. So how about just offering a Mini EV for free to any household under a certain income level instead of—or as an alternative to—subsidizing big and much more expensive EVs? “A Mini EV For Clunkers”.

Let’s keep in mind one very important fact: Even though EV’s have no tailpipe emissions, there’s still a lot of carbon being expended to make electricity. I don’t have the resources to do the math, but there’s no doubt that giving away—or drastically subsidizing—these would result in vastly reduced CO2 emissions than much larger and heavier EVs. Unless charged by 100% renewable sources, “fuel” consumption is still relevant, regardless of whether it’s gasoline or electricity. And then there’s the ease of parking, as a bonus.

The Wuling Mini EV weighs some 1500 lbs, seats four (rear seat flipped down in this picture), has a range of up to 110 miles, and a top speed of 62 mph, which I realize is not exactly going to endear it to our freeway warriors. OK; there’s plenty of folks who don’t spend a lot of time there, and it would probably be a fairly easy upgrade to get to 70 mph. Charge the 13.8 kWh battery anywhere with just a 110 V outlet.

It does have air conditioning, but bring your own screen. It’s about as basic as an old-school VW Beetle, which it rather reminds me of.

Just the thing for the quick run to the store.

In China it’s available in a wide range of customizing options.

Express yourself! That includes options like this fake-fur interior with twinkling stars embedded in the headliner. As you can see, it’s actually quite roomy, thanks to its tall and boxy dimensions.


PS by Chris Cieslak

Here’s the other end of GM’s EV spectrum: the 9,055 pound Hummer EV. That’s not a typo. It’s going to take a huge 200 kWh battery, and although GM has so far said its range will be “up to 350 miles”, I suspect it will be closer to 300 EPA certified range. That’s the price of accelerating almost 5 tons from 0-60 in three seconds.

If you make the calculations, based on a national average of CO2 created in electricity generation, the Hummer EV is still going to be able to “roll coal” quite effectively, at the rate of some 300 grams of CO2 per mile. That’s only some 10-15% better than a gas-powered Ford F150 (363 grams).  Is this really progress? Folks driving 10,000 lb behemoths and feeling smug about it?

I get why GM is building the Hummer EV and not the Mini EV: profits come first, for corporations. But if there’s going to be a concerted effort to reduce CO emissions, we also need to stop pretending that the American love of bigness is going to be a magic solution in the form of really big EVs. It’s going to be decades before our electricity is carbon-free. In the meantime, there are other solutions to expedite the way.

An American Mini-EV is worth considering. But then that’s just me, and I know my feelings on the subject of little cars in our big-loving country may well just be a (exhaust) pipe dream.