The low-speed electric vehicle (LSEV) is getting a major boost after the approval of one of the leading and most prominent LSEV manufacturers and an official response on their future administration), both coming from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), which oversees the production approval of automobile manufacturers and their products.
In the No. 301 batch of Road Motor Vehicle Manufacturers and Their Products released by MIIT on November 1, Lanzhou Zhidou Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd. was listed as a passenger vehicle manufacturer that has been granted battery electric vehicle (BEV) production approval from MIIT. Three of its BEV models were also listed in the No. 10 batch of the MIIT’s Suggested Model Catalogue for New Energy Vehicle Promotion and Application on the same day.
Zhidou becomes the fourth BEV manufacturer after BAIC BJEV, Yudo NEV and JMC NEV to gain production approval from both the MIIT and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). In March, it became the 11th of 15 companies that have so far received production approval for BEVs from NDRC.
The legitimization of Zhidou from an LSEV manufacturer to a battery electric passenger vehicle manufacturer is significant due to the long history (12 years) of the brand and the trials and tribulations company founder Bao Wenguang has gone through over the years trying to convince policy makers to grant Zhidou that coveted production license.
The MIIT approval comes a week after the government organ issued a notice clarifying that LSEVs will be treated as special types of motor vehicles, in response to a proposal submitted at the Fifth Session of the 12th National People’s Congress in March by several NPC members suggesting that they be classified as special motorcycles.
MIIT’s response basically means that LSEV manufacturers are expected to go through similar approval process as existing licensed automakers, and adhere to special national standards on LSEVs, which are being ironed out. What likely will happen, as MIIT terms it “upgrading a batch, standardizing a batch and eliminating a batch” process, is the legitimization of additional LSEV manufacturers like Zhidou but also elimination of many more that do not meet the upcoming new standards.
LSEVs, which roam the roads of China’s rural areas and the countryside and recently have been increasingly used even in large cities such as Beijing, have been controversial due to the fact that they do not require automobile insurance or a driver’s license, are widely criticized for occupying roads and irregular usage, and have potential safety hazards due to their low prices and relatively poor production processes. Yet they offer a convenient form of transportation and are perfect for on demand mobility which is gaining traction in China. The problem lies in the lack of proper administration on both production and operation.
The approval of Zhidou and MIIT’s recent stance at least mean that LSEVs will become a key feature of China’s EV market.