China is home to the world largest populace, with over 1.4 billion people calling it home. China is also the number one market for all-electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), as we noted here. Sales of EVs and PHEVs in China dwarf those in the United States, at least partially due to their government’s proactive measures to increase ownership. Much like in the U.S. electric sports cars, motorcycles, and scooters can all be seen on the streets of the PRC.  Conversely, there is an additional category of EV found in China that we don’t see here: the tiny EV.

Tiny EVs are extremely popular with Chinese consumers. These vehicles can cost as little as $1,000 and the operator does not need a driver’s license to use them. Sounds great right? Well there is a catch: none of these cars have a top speed if more than 40 mph, and very few offer any kind of significant crash protection.

While these facts would probably be enough to dissuade most potential buyers in the U.S., drivers in China don’t seem to mind. Sales of tiny EVs in China have grown exponentially since their debut in around 2012. Chinese online sales giant Alibaba even offers a litany of tiny EVs for delivery right to the buyer’s door!

At least one Chinese automaker believes that it can entice buyers in Europe and United States to join the tiny EV club.  Founded in 2015, Kiyun Motors is a wildly successful EV manufacturer in China that will be branching out to Germany, Italy, and the United States later this year. In an interview with Bloomberg, Kaiyun founder Wang Chao was quoted as saying, “Mini-electric vehicles are more than enough to meet consumers’ daily needs. There is a huge market out there around the world.”

Kaiyun’s first offering to western markets will be its “Pickman” EV pickup truck, a tiny vehicle with a 5.5 horsepower motor that looks more like a golf cart than pickup trucks we’re used to seeing here in the states. The Pickman will have a top speed 28 miles per hour and will be able to travel up to 75 miles on a single charge. The company plans on marketing their truck as a commercial vehicle to start, but may attempt to break into the commuter market in the future.

Starting in 2019, EVs must make up at least 10% of all Chinese auto manufacturers’ output. If the companies don’t meet this quota, they are required to buy credits from competitors who exceed that number. The Chinese government has also developed policies requiring car companies to satisfy fuel efficiency requirements. These requirements are raised incrementally every year, thus putting pressure on automakers to develop and produce cleaner vehicles.

As for the future of tiny EVs in the United States, it is anyone’s guess as to how successful they will ultimately be.

What do our readers think about the tiny EV craze in China? Is there a market for similar vehicles in the United States and Europe or will consumers in the west scoff at these cars? Please leave us a comment below and let us know.

Source | Image: Wikimedia Commons