The tiny, low-cost EV that is mounting a spirited challenge to Tesla

When it comes to electric cars, big may not always be better. Little wonder then that the little Hongguang MINI EV is one of the best-selling electric vehicles in China, the world’s biggest car market where Tesla cars otherwise have the bragging rights when it comes to battery power.

Tesla has a sizeable lead in the world of electric personal mobility and has found a firm foothold in China as well. Its Model 3 is a hot-selling model and is rolled out of its Shanghai facility, the company’s first outside of the US. But while Tesla has a cult following and Model 3 is a preferred EV option for thousands, it is Hongguang MINI that is looking up, staring and now punching hard.

The Hongguang MINI hardly has the specifications, or the looks, to take on mighty Tesla. With a maximum claimed range of 170 kilometres and a certified range of just 120 kilometres, this EV isn’t going to last the distance on highway escapades. With a 13 kWh battery pack, charging it back to full would be a quick exercise but cabin space also isn’t much to write home about.

The Hongguang MINI measures 2,917 mm in length, is 1,492 mm wide and has a height of 1,621 mm. For only reference purpose, the Alto in India is 3,455 mm in length, is 1,515 mm wide and 1,475 mm tall.

But what may be this EV’s biggest strength is the price point at which it is offered at. The Hongguang MINI is available in Chinese market for between 28,800 yuan and 38,800 yuan. This converts to approximately $4,112 and $5,540 or ₹3 lakh and ₹4 lakh. Even in a market like China where there are multiple options when it comes to battery-powered vehicles, this price point makes Hongguang MINI a really compelling product. In January alone, 36,000 units of the EV were sold in the country, significantly higher than the 13,000 Model 3 units sold. “A lot of consumers don’t need anything fancy, a commute is all they ask from a car,” says Yale Zhang, founder of AutoForesight, a Shanghai-based consultancy. “I’m all for a product like the MINI EV.”

Tesla may still be the undisputed champion with its products selling more over a longer period of time but the Hongguang MINI’s sales performance indicates that a relatively inexpensive price point may also dictate the fate of EVs, especially in bigger markets.

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