China’s Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, which debuted in summer 2020, quickly gained popularity in the local market with its $ 4,500 price tag. It even surpassed the Tesla Model 3 in terms of sales. In October, 40 thousand cars of this model were sold in China. Japanese experts from Nikkei Asian Review took apart the car and shared their findings.
The approach applied to the design and production of such electric vehicles, according to Japanese experts, has a right to life. Naturally, when it comes to budget solutions, you have to make compromises in the design of the car. First of all, this concerns the power reserve, which for Wuling Hongguang Mini EV does not exceed 170 km, although the capacity of the standard battery (13.9 kW • h) could well provide a higher autonomy. As the Japanese experts found out, the whole point is in the refusal of the developers of the Chinese car from the regenerative braking function – the electric car does not recharge the battery when the car is braking, as is the case with many more expensive cars. This simplifies the design, reducing the cost of the same inverter from $ 530 to $ 140, but reduces the efficiency of the power supply.
Many of the electronic components used in vehicle construction are borrowed from the consumer electronics segment. Automotive grade components are generally more reliable and durable, but cost more. The creators of Wuling Hongguang Mini EV have corrected this by making it easier to access replacement parts and making repairs as easy as possible.
The standard inverter of this electric car is content with air cooling instead of liquid cooling, which is traditional for more expensive cars. This simplifies the design, but reduces the resource of the unit – it is expected that before replacement it will pass no more than 120 thousand kilometers, compared to 200 thousand kilometers for other electric vehicles. The design of the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV makes the most of standard components, and the number of specially designed components is kept to a minimum.
According to Japanese experts, the creators of the Chinese bestseller have probably analyzed the needs of the target audience, most of which live in rural areas and small cities without public transport. An alternative to walking in such places is all kinds of electric cars that resemble golf carts. The limited service life in this case is compensated by the ability to quickly and inexpensively repair the vehicle. The high popularity of the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is underscored by the fact that the electric car was recently released as a convertible.