Chinese Startup Enters EV Market With 'Ultra-Compact' Car For Commuters

A Chinese startup is looking to compete with Tesla in the electric vehicle industry, but it's doing so with two unique models -- a hybrid SUV and an ultra-compact car. The latter is expected to come out next March and is targeted for commuters in China.


May 24 2019, Updated 4:25 a.m. ET

Tesla is the dominant leader in the electric car industry, but that won’t deter new competitors from entering the market. A former designer, Henrik Fisker, is getting a second chance with a newly-designed EV with fast charging times. Another company on the radar is a Chinese startup that will be releasing a hybrid SUV and an ultra-compact car.

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CHJ Automotive is the company behind these new vehicles and the compact version is expected to be out in March 2018. There aren’t any images of either EV just yet, but co-founder Kevin Shen told CNBC that it measures at just 2.5 meters long and 1 meter wide (8.2 feet long and 3.2 feet wide). The price is expected to around the $8,000 US mark.

It’s an extremely small vehicle, but the car is intended for the Chinese consumer. Shen explained that commuters use “e-scooters” to get around but there’s a desire to have something better, saying, "In China, there are 340 million people (who) daily commute with e-scooters, but there is a strong demand for them to upgrade to something.”

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This new compact car gives all these people a little more protection and the comfort of a vehicle despite its size. It’s also easy to keep moving. The car requires two rechargeable batteries that can also be swapped out. For instance, think of needing to replace double-A batteries in a remote control or an old video game device and doing that for a vehicle.

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Obviously, that would be a very annoying feature if these vehicles don’t have a long range. The good news is battery technology continues to improve and the smaller the EV is, the longer it should be able to drive. It also beats having to stop and charge these cars for an extended period of time.

Shen also said on CNBC that these cars will have Google’s Android Auto operating system installed. Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord are a few examples that have this operating system. Last year, Google gave the option for everybody with an Android phone that could be mounted in their older car to use the same OS as in these newer vehicles.

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There’s no announcement for shipment in the United States, and Europe’s introduction to CHJ Automotive products will be limited. These vehicles will only be used in ride-sharing services. It’s unknown whether the SUVs will be apart of this, but the compact edition will be tested out in Paris, France.

Should the compact vehicle take off, it would be a huge boost in reducing carbon emissions in China. Beijing is spending over $1 billion US to convert all of their existing taxis over to electric vehicles, but these smaller compact cars from CHJ Automotive could cut costs should the startup be able to meet up with demands.


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