Call it a mini Tesla, a cross between a smart and QQ or a high-tech low-speed electric vehicle, the Zhidou D2 micro EV launched on June 23 is trying to fill a void in China’s EV market: a legitimate, cool, generously equipped yet affordable urban mobility alternative catered to the young.
Produced and sold by ZD Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd. which is 50-percent owned by Geely, the two-seater model has a maximum speed of 80 km/h and a range of 180 km, but cost only ¥49,800 ($8,032) after national, local and OEM subsidies.
That makes it the cheapest battery EV listed on the national vehicle production catalogue authorized by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) available for sale. It is essentially positioned as a BEV that meets national EV standards in battery, speed and range requirements but priced similarly to low-speed EVs, which are not recognized officially as automobiles.
But ZD is trying to market the D2 as anything but a low-speed EV, which has an image of illegal “shanzhai” or knock-off vehicles often used by the elderly, and accused by many as unsafe, poor in quality and technology, and causing much pollution with the use of lead-acid batteries.
The D2 is being touted as originally engineered and developed, Italian designed and crash-test approved. It even offers high-tech features such as 3G WIFI connectivity and voice recognition and driving recorder, and owners receive a free charging pole.
“The D2 is a small but stylish urban micro EV that is perfect for Chinese urban conditions. This is a segment that has demand but lacks competitive products,” Bao Wenguang, president of ZD EV and founder of Xindayang, a low-speed EV manufacturer from Shandong Province, told the media.
Bao is staking a huge bet on the micro EV segment, which he believes will take off and reach 1 to 2 million units in five years. ZD’s goal is to take 20-30 percent of that market with the D and future Z Series micro EVs.
“It’s better to drill a deep well than dig 10 shallow holes” was how Bao described about his commitment to cultivate the micro EV market.
Surely, Bao has been drilling a deep well for low-speed EVs for nearly 10 years and to be able to receive official license to produce the D2 with backing from Geely and sell it nationally as a legitimate EV is an exciting feeling no less than when Geely chairman Li Shufu got the license to produce cars years ago.
The affordability, efficiency (speed and range) and convenience (charging and parking) of the D2 may finally make micro EVs an attractive alternative for city dwellers and young people who seek alternative forms of mobility.
It is now up to the market to decide whether such vehicles can finally “encircle the cities from rural areas.”