The cheapest electric car: Chinese electric cars are built with price in mind. But these days the quality and the engineering are far superior to that which was turned out years ago. Chinese build Tesla, BMW, Volvo, Smart, Polestar, Dacia, Buick, Chevrolet, Lincoln, and Lotus. They know how to build cars.
Below: A Chinese built Volvo
Think about it for a moment. If the technology to build the best European and American cars is already in China, then why should their cheaper products not be made from the same materials but to a lower specification.
The value analyist and the cheapest electric car
As a value analysis engineer, I spent years working for one of the biggest UK companies, finding ways to make something cheaper whilst retaining the original function. The Chinese have perfected it in their cheapest electric cars, have less costly production and wages, and have subsidies for smaller companies which all lead to the production of the cheapest electric cars without losing the desirable functions. The value analysis strategy is to start with a piece of string to do a job, then build back in only those components necessary to complete the function reliably. I can appreciate the work of the Chinese engineers.
The demand for electric cars at the bottom end of the market has to be met. That does not mean that the cars at that level are bad products. The search among the engineers has to be for ways and products to build the car with the best materials available in that price bracket.
First, they have to identify the major costs, so it is broken down into areas. The body, the mechanics, and the batteries. The batteries account for between 25% and 50% of the overall cost of the vehicle, so as is to be expected, a lot of work has to go into identifying battery manufacturers with the best prices who can supply battery types as required for a vehicle. But this all depends on the purpose of the vehicle. The purpose of the vehicle depends on the identified market for it. Now I am not going fully into this as an engineer. I could fill a ream of paper with this job and take weeks doing it.
Let’s build a cheap affordable car and see where the costs are.
We have decided from market research that we want to build a small car for town and village shopping and general town commuting. No intercity highway use is contemplated. In this case, we first need to decide how big the car will be. For shopping, we need a luggage compartment. We have to decide how many people will need to occupy the car. In town, we don’t need high speed or fast acceleration. We do need excellent maneuverability and easy parking which means a short car with a good turning circle.
A shoppingmobile probably doesn’t need more than two seats, although 4 would be a bonus. Three doors would be OK but like the number of seats, 5 would be good for marketing. Note: Identify the difference in cost to produce a 3-door body and a 4 door body. Body type. Do we go with a steel monocoque or do we use a glass-fibre body? Note that the 5-door, 4-seat version will put the car into the higher bracket of the cheap car market. If we go with this version, we need to add all the mod. cons. The motor will need to be at least 4kW at this spec. as weight will be higher than the cheapest car and will necessitate a set of batteries to match.
If we go with the lowest price bracket, we will probably go with a two-seat, glassfibre body with minimal interior This can comprise a steel chassis with a lightweight body or even a complete monocoque glassfibre body shell without the steel chassis. This was used many times on “specials” which were amateur built and fitted with a subframe mounted engine and a beam mounted at the rear of the body with trailing arm suspension. Due to the low weight, a 3 kW motor or lower, will be adequate along with a cheaper set of batteries. This will allow a reasonable distance to be traveled.
We don’t need power steering and windows may be simple sliding glass windows in a horizontal channel as per early BMC Mini. Interior furnishings can be minimal as the customer for this type of vehicle will not be expecting top-of-the-range fixtures and fittings. The seats can be rudimentary with seat belts and the interior door cards and headlining can be a simple foam-backed material fitted by the use of spray adhesive.
Electrics are simply taken care of. A direction indicator switch, A power on/off switch, a rotary two-way and off switch for lighting. A speedometer which runs from the motor speed is fairly cheap. The running electrics are supplied as a complete package as The rear axle with brakes, motor, motor controller with all wiring and fittings are third party. Front suspension by a pair of cheap McPherson struts and brake discs fitted takes care of front braking. A small voltage inverter supplies 12 volts fro the battery input for the 12 volt lights. If the body is made from glass-fibre this avoids any cost related to painting as the body colour is added in the gel coat when laying up the fibre-glass in the mould.
Tyres can be of a type designed for low speeds which will make extra saving but those savings may be spent on a better set of wheels for a little extra bling on the vehicle.
The little cars below cost only 900 US Dollars at the factory gates in China, but sell from American distributors for as much as 6,500 US Dollars