HANGZHOU, Zhejiang – Spy photos from a Chinese auto website show that Zotye is developing a new EV model that looks a lot like the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, a five-door hatchback electric car produced by Mitsubishi Motors.
The new model is driven by a 10 kWh motor with a top speed of 80 km/h. The drive range on a single charge is around 100 km.
Analysts said Zotye is likely to enter the micro EV market since its previous products are electric mid-size MPVs and SUVs, which are mainly used as taxis in Hangzhou.
Over the past few years, rentals of small-size EVs have become a more practical business model with a few companies setting out to begin EV leasing service, even on hourly basis.
In August 2012, the first EV leasing project in the Liangchu Village in Hangzhou began to provide rental services that charge the users ¥29 ($4.5) per hour.
Zhejiang Kandi Vehicles Co., a local low-speed EV maker, signed a deal with Henan-based lithium battery maker China Aviation Lithium Battery Co., Ltd. (CALB) to provide 20,000 micro EVs for a massive leasing project in Hangzhou, the biggest of its kind in China.
“Small electric cars, such as the Roewe E50, are the perfect cars for short distance urban driving and are what we want for our hourly rental business,” said Ye Qing, marketing director of a Hangzhou-based car-sharing startup company.
The Evnet, founded several years ago, offers an hourly rental rate for around ¥20. The company is negotiating with Shanghai Automotive Industry (Group) Corp. (SAIC) to introduce the small two-seater Roewe E50 to the service fleet.
As a Hangzhou-based rental company, it had considered introducing EV products made by local manufacturers such as Kandi and Zotye. The company gave up Zotye because its electric vehicles are too big for individual mobility.
“Kandi turned us down because the company is planning to set up its own EV rental business,” said Ye.