China Watch : SAIC Motor’s electric car to be based on E1 Concept?

Miranda Shek, Global Times, 8th March, 2011  


China’s largest automaker, Shanghai-based SAIC Motor, plans to roll out its pure-electric car by late 2012, although industry analysts have raised concerns about the lack of government initiatives and infrastructure for private electric vehicles in the city.  

SAIC Motor President Chen Hong told Labor Daily in Beijing that the automaker will put a three-door pure-electric hatchback on the market, priced somewhere between 170,000 yuan ($25,902) and 180,000 yuan ($27,426).   

Chen added that the anticipated National Government subsidies of between 60,000 ($9,142) and 80,000 yuan ($12,189) per electric vehicle mean consumers could get hold of one of the cars for around 100,000 yuan ($15,237).   

China launched a pilot programme last June in five cities, including Shanghai and Shenzhen, to offer subsidies for hybrid cars and financing for charging infrastructure construction. Currently, there are no charge points in Shanghai for private electric cars.   

The specifics of the new car are similar to SAIC Motor’s electric concept vehicle, the E1 (pictured above), introduced at the Beijing Auto Show last year. It will be able to travel over 150 kilometers per charge of its lithium-ion battery.   

However, the range-per-charge of the new vehicle will be far below that of GM’s pure electric car, the Volt, launched last year, which can run up to 450 kilometers per charge. GM China’s Communications Manager Zhang Yinghua told the Global Times that the Volt will be available to local car buyers at the end of this year. However, she would not give details of the pricing of the vehicle.   

Automotive Market Analyst Chen Wenkai from Gasgoo, a car information portal, said automakers must overcome anxiety among consumers over the low mileage-per-charge of electric vehicles, and said that government initiatives to support the industry are key to achieving this in Shanghai.   

“Consumers in China buy a car for convenience, and the Government has to provide more than just tax rebates for them,” said Chen. “Also, only the Government can provide large-scale charging facilities.”    

The two major challenges are the availability of charging facilities and limitations on battery capacities, according to Chen. He said the greatest fear among drivers is that an all-electric car’s battery will run out before they can reach a charge point, stranding the driver. “Until those two problems are solved, it is very hard seeing the pure-electric car market expand,” said Chen.    

The Central Government has a goal for 1 million electric cars and buses to be produced each year in China by 2020. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has pledged to invest more than 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) to support the new energy vehicle industry by 2020 in order to make China the world’s largest new-energy automobile producer.   

Jiading District is setting itself up as a centre for clean energy vehicle centre. District Governor Sun Jiwei said last October that the district will have 13,000 charging points for electric vehicles by 2012.   

Shenzhen-based BYD will launch its e6 electric car by the end of 2012.    

[Source: Global Times]    

Clive Goldthorp


  1. OK, I will comment as nobody else so far.

    Despite my sometimes misguided enthusiasm and general ‘Gung Ho’ support for the under dog that is the fledgling Chinese Automotive Industry, even I can’t find anything positive to say about the styling on this car.

  2. @Simon Woodward
    It would be handy if the styling actually came out of Longbridge – the lower door swage looks familiar. I’m not sure that the wiper would cope with such a curved windscreen.

    I still think the original BMW E1 was better. See, for example, these two photographs.

    It’s a shame that BMW can’t blow the dust off the E1 for the sub-MINI model if they aren’t brave enough to reconsider the Spirituals.

  3. @Chris C
    I agree that the BMW E1 was great looking car. I have said this before: in order to tempt people into ecologically friendly small city cars, whether electric or hybrid etc., manufacturers have to make them appealing. They have to bridge the gap between geeky and gorgeous – having a conscience is just not enough.

    Lotus have a fantastic City car which they revealed a few months ago – the Ethios(?) is just perfect for City driving and yet trendy enough to appeal to the fickle fashion-conscious at the same time doing its bit for the environment.

    Trendy clever City Lotus v Aston Martin Cygnet – I know which I’d choose and it wouldn’t be a rehash of an already ugly car made even uglier somewhere in Warwickshire!

    The States has a lot going on with Eco cars like the ‘GM Volt’ but the one to look out for is the US car maker Fisker – they are trying to launch a range of cars which look fantastic. These upmarket cars wouldn’t look out of place in a car park full of high-end European brands.

    The range they can cover is limited but ideal for large cities where mileage is less important but prestige still is. It’s clever as well because it is a premium product and so they can afford to sell it at a higher price and, at the same time, retain a healthy gross profit margin.

    Remember that, for a long time, the original Mini made very little profit for BMC/BL whereas the simple Marina made a healthy profit from day one. That was partly because it used a lot of parts already kicking around BL so the build process was quick and cheap but mainly because it could be sold with a larger showroom ticket.

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