See What It’s Like To Own And Drive A “Cheap” Chinese EV?

White Beijing BAIC EV160


Perhaps you’ve been curious how these extraordinarily inexpensive Chinese electric cars stack up, not to mention what the “rules” are in China surrounding a driver’s license and driving?

One of our avid readers that tends to share about the Chinese EV market on a regular basis recently shared a video of an American living in China and owning/driving a new “Beijing” BAIC EV160. Whether or not it interests you, we were truly fascinated by the information gleaned from the share.

RELATED: Here Are The 8 Cheapest Electric Vehicles On Sale In The U.S. Today

Beijing BAIC EV60 interior

Spartan interior yes … but it does the job, and no American company can even come close on price!

We don’t know everything, and there is such an immense amount of information out there, especially on a global level, that we can’t possibly track it all down.

Anyhow, we’re not here to say that this car is luxurious, spacious, or has a long range, but it does what it’s set out to do, and does it well. The American market has not trodden in this territory whatsoever, though it could and should.

For ~$9,000 USD, it’s actually pretty incredible. Yes, it has a Spartan interior and exterior and not a lot of bells and whistles, but that’s not the point. There’s not a single new ICE car in the U.S. for that kind of money, and in terms of EVs in America, it’s a whole other story.

The 2018 Nissan LEAF, which is considered very inexpensive in American terms, costs over three times as much. The cheapest BEV on our shores is the smart fortwo ED ($23,800), and it’s over 2.5 times as expensive as this Chinese model. Not to mention it has only two seats and is a budget-friendly city car.

According to Reuters:

“In Shanghai last year, a two-door battery electric Chery eQ cost around 60,000 yuan ($8,655) after subsidies. Without subsidies, the eQ would cost an additional 100,000 yuan or so. At this week’s Detroit auto show, General Motors showed off its latest Bolt EV, which costs around $30,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit.”

It seems that if a Chinese EV company can pull this off, any huge American company could also do so if they choose. But, sadly, it’s just not the same.

The best part about this lengthy video and comprehensive review is that he shares intimate details surrounding the situation in China, purchasing the EV, driving it, getting a license, rules and regulations, etc. No matter what your country, interests, financial situation, or overall background, as an EV advocate this is truly informative. At InsideEVs, we take pride in these deep-dives, to bring you information that other publications refuse to cover. Let us know your thoughts.

Nonetheless, we found the video very enlightening and chose to share it with you. Please … if you track down an interesting story or video, share it with us in the comment section or via email. InsideEVs has an unmatched community and we can all learn from each other.

Keep the conversation going in our Forum. Start a new thread about this article and make your point heard.

Video Description via Extraordinary Ugly Couch on YouTube:

This is the Beijing EV160, an electric car made in China. China is doing what American EV manufacturers by and large aren’t: making a simple, practical electric car for normal people. Affordable and not fraught with all kinds of fancy technology and driver aids, the EV160 is an unpretentious electric car that’s still a joy to drive.

Hat tip to Alaa!

Category: ChinaGeneral

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39 responses to "See What It’s Like To Own And Drive A “Cheap” Chinese EV?"
  1. RickeyG says:

    Hmmm…incentives bring a $25,000 car down to $9,000. So it’s about the same price as a Smart EV in the US before government incentives. How will it perform in a US crash test, and if it can’t pass such a test, how much more will it cost to meet those standards?

    1. R.S says:

      Right… the article even says:

      “It seems that if a Chinese EV company can pull this off, any huge American company could also do so if they choose. But, sadly, it’s just not the same.”

      Sure, any American car company could and would sell a 23k EV, if the government subsidized it down to 9k. Pretty sure Nissan could sell the new Leaf for that money and it would still be a much better car.

    2. Alaa says:

      If I remember right, he bought it used from for Yuan 60,000. He did not buy it new. Also the new version has a a 200 km range not 160 km. So maybe that is why there is pressure on the 160 km price wise. At any rate 160 is more than enough for almost any city in the world. If you consider that the average speed in side a city is less than 35 km/h then you will have to sit in this car for 160 / 35 = 4.5 hours every day! Who does that? Also the battery pack is just perfectly sized to be topped up easily at any home or slow charging point. Hardly any need for fast charging.

  2. Mark N says:

    That’s what I was going to say, that it is actually a $24k car with very heavy incentives. I doubt it could pass much US or EU testing safety testing. Crash or non-toxic materials.
    I actually drive a much better $9000 EV in the US. The trick? Buy used! You actually get better quality and safety than a $9000 new car, just like a used $3000 car was better than a new Yugo in the 80’s.

    1. WadeTyhon says:

      The owner in the video says the car comes with a fire extinguisher.

      A fact the owner described as “kind of alarming.” XD

      Still, overall it seems like a decent little car.

      1. JDWTC7 says:

        Fire extinguishers in cars are required in my state so not that alarming.

        Also almost all commercial vehicles requiring a CDL require one according to DOT regulations.

        1. Clive says:

          What state do you live in ?

  3. WadeTyhon says:

    From the video:

    “(In Shinzhen) because there are too many cars on the road right now, they have increased the price of registering right now between $8,000 and $9,000 USD. So before you even get the car, the piece of aluminum that you hang off the back of it costs you nearly $10,000”

    Seriously!? Yikes!

    The incentives + the lack of registration fee on EVs makes going with an EV a no brainer. At least where this guy lives.

    Also, overall the car seems relatively nice. I did not know that the car was just a Mercedes B-class on the outside with a more utilitarian interior. Very interesting.

    1. Asak says:

      The whole thing is basically madness. The population density of Chinese cities is too high to rely on cars for transportation. It’s not going to get better, it’s going to keep getting worse as more cars are added to the fleet.

  4. dan says:

    Practical and affordable? That’s a deal breaker in California.

    1. Get Real says:

      Well you can always move to China dan with a very little d.

      1. dan says:

        China is a very interesting country. I’d love to visit again. You should try out travel sometime. It opens your mind. In fact, you should try visiting the entire country that exists east of the billowing clouds of LA and SF smug-cloud that the rest of us call home.

        1. says:

          Just move man, don’t visit. Their dictator is better looking too.
          As for travel destinations, what are your suggestions?…for later in the year after the East gets from under the mountain of snow.

          1. Get Real says:

            I have been all over Asia including China twice. Spent a year in SK with the Army and I have lived in 13 different states for the same reason during my 30 year career.

            The 3 years I spent in Europe was the best.

        2. Stimpacker says:

          Yes, please do visit China again. Why not just move there?
          Food’s great.
          Traffic’s terrible but public transportation is everywhere.
          No smug-clouds.
          Only smog-clouds.

          No need to sing praises about their EV policy. They know ICE is one big reason for their smog-clouds. Know that every single public policy is setup to only benefit their greater good. So no American EV’s will get any subsidy. No American autos can be built in China without being forced to give away the entire design and manufacturing know-how (i.e. the 51% Joint Venture). Then when their cheapies (I mean cheap-evs) are good enough, they’ll be exported.

        3. Asak says:

          Are you serious? You’re complaining about CA smog and then talking up China. It makes me think you’ve never even set foot in the country.

          1. says:

            He’s trying really hard to troll but he’s not smart enough, obviously.

  5. Bill Howland says:

    Wish he’d give the basic specs of the car in an overview.

    The video was too lousy to see what the battery range was. Too painful to watch to the end.

    But its similar to either a Mercedes B or a Bolt ev. So for people who say GM doesn’t make money on the Bolt ev hasn’t seen this vid.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        Ok thanks. Kinda like a new Leaf.

  6. Alaa says:

    At last we get to know about the Chines cars. More please.

  7. KevinZ says:

    In the US, the Big Three better take note of the soon to be Chinese invasion and get on board with electrification, or they will be crying in their soup like they did in the 80’s when the Japanese cars caught them off guard.

  8. Alaa says:

    I did not see that “Hat tip to Alaa!” All I can say is Thank you. And best regards from Cairo Egypt.

    1. Steven Loveday says:

      Thank you! Very interesting to watch and learn.

  9. William L. says:

    Not bad for 25 to 30 kWh battery car.

  10. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    The article claims:

    “It seems that if a Chinese EV company can pull this off, any huge American company could also do so if they choose.”

    Any “huge American” auto maker could choose to make and sell a 3-wheel microcar, so that it could avoid the stringent safety restrictions of highway-capable, four-wheeled, street legal cars sold in the highly competitive new car market in the USA.

    And in fact, several not-so-large companies sell them. The reason why you don’t see more of them is not that nobody is selling them; it’s that most Americans don’t want to ride in cars with significantly lower safety standards. And those who do, mostly ride motorcycles.

    The problem, for 3-wheeler EVs sold in the USA, is the price. With very low sales, prices are rather higher than they ought to be. For example, Electra Meccanica’s “Solo” is touted at at $15,500, and supposedly will go on sale at the end of this year.

    The problem with pricing is the same problem which has plagued previous EVs from startups or small auto makers, such as Coda (RIP) and Th!nk (RIP). Cars which ought to be cheap, are not simply because they are made in such small numbers.

    It seems inevitable that sooner or later, some Chinese auto maker (perhaps BYD) will penetrate the American market. But apparently, it won’t be sooner — it’s already later! (BYD’s repeatedly delayed attempt to test market the e6 in the USA was put off several times, and apparently never went past shipping a very few dozen units starting in late 2012 or early 2013.)

    Most likely some Chinese auto maker will enter the American market at the bottom, the way Japanese auto makers did in the late 1970s and 1980s. But that won’t happen until they can pass U.S. crash testing.

    1. G2 says:

      I saw a BYD CUV/station wagon in Victoria BC with California plates two weeks back. I was surprised but also pleased.
      Anyone from California got info?

      1. Acevolt says:

        I see the BYD cars all the time. I think they are company cars at the Lancaster CA bus factory.

    2. Roy_H says:

      This is not a 3 wheel car, am I to take your comparison based on a perceived lack of safety standards on Chinese cars? Do you have proof? This car has air bags, arguably the most expensive part of meeting US safety regulations.

  11. zzzzzzzzzz says:

    There was very similar article on EV blogshpere a year ago. OK, check again.
    BAIC EV160/EV200, max speed 125 km/h, 25.6-30 kWh, 0-100km/h 13? sec.
    Standard version: 226,900 Yuan ($36k); deluxe version: 246,900 Yuan ($39k).

    No, Japanese or US automakers can do way way better car for the same money. That is why they have good demand in China – local competitors are not very sophisticated yet.

    Sure, buyers get a full bag of free money by buying such car. But you need to live under the leadership of the glorious Communist Party of China to qualify, with all other consequences. Any takers? /s

  12. CDAVIS says:

    Insightful video… interesting low cost EV… thanks for posting.

    More EVs were sold in China last year than the rest of the world combined. China has forced Daimler into providing BIAC much of the vehicle frame & manufacturing (and manufacturing IP itself allowing BIAC to eventually go it alone) as a compliance condition to allowing Mercedes-Benz to continue selling ICE in China. If the Chinese have it their way BIAC eventually won’t need Mercedes and Mercedes won’t be able to sell ICE in China… writing on wall where that’s heading.

    1. CDAVIS says:

      typo: “BIAC” should read “BAIC”

  13. Roy_H says:

    Another thank you for posting this video. Looks like a perfectly reasonable low-cost car and I think we need this kind of minimalist approach for the large part of the public with low budget for auto purchase. It looks like this car covers all the basics quite nicely.

  14. Gary H says:

    I really enjoyed watching this video, not just about the car, but also to tour Shenzhen! A couple of standouts: motorcyclists/scooter riders carrying big umbrellas (shows they don’t ride really fast); big solar panels to power the streetlights in some areas; generally predictable driving behavior/traffic conditions (only one near miss with the truck, note that’s the same move the Tesla semi driver did in an adjacent insideevs post).

  15. Murrysville EV says:

    Communism… just imagine being fined by the city police for driving your car from the suburbs into the city.

    Nice car, excellent review.

    I like the real gauges – something Tesla thinks we don’t need.

    How about the accurate gas gauge? – something Nissan couldn’t do on the 2011-17 Leaf.

  16. Ron says:

    With the goal of the Chinese govt to be a world power and the technology that they have and will continue to steal from us, we will be lucky to drive these very cheap cars we look down at.

  17. Clive says:

    It might look like a Mercedes B250e but it’s not made the same or with the same materials.

  18. silversod says:

    I wonder if we will see this kind of expensive car registration in Europe If the banning of diesel cars from towns & cities doesn’t reduce the emission limits enough!

  19. Aaron says:

    Buy a used i-MiEV and get a bigger, better car that can actually pass US crash tests. You can occasionally find them for $6-8K in very good condition.

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