It will hit 60 mph... if you throw it out of a plane.
General Motors is currently on a mission to electrify America. It has tried several times before, but with minimal success. The Volt was an engineering triumph but way ahead of its time, and the Bolt has a rather unfortunate reputation. Instead of giving up, GM is trying again, most notably with Chevrolet.
But did you know that GM's EVs are already quite successful in China? Specifically, the SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co.'s EVs are selling up a storm. This oddly named automotive company is a joint venture between the state-owned SAIC Motor Corp and GM, and it offers a host of quirky EVs. One of them is the unusual drop-top you see before you.
The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is one of the consortium's most successful products in traditional hardtop form. Sales started in 2020, and the conglomerate has already sold more than 500,000. It's the same platform Dartz uses to build the Freze Froggy, which will retail for $20,000 if it ever makes it to the USA.
Last year, the company showcased a Mini EV Cabrio concept at the Shanghai Auto Show, and the response was so positive that it was greenlit for production. It was expected to be a big seller, but it has been revealed that the convertible will be built in limited numbers.
Because Chinese car dealers aren't allowed to pull the same greedy stunts as American dealerships, this tiny convertible will be sold for its recommended retail price. So how do you decide who gets to own one without charging crazy markups until a willing customer finally caves?
The answer is remarkably simple. You hold a lottery. If your number is chosen, you get to buy one. And they will be scooped up quite quickly considering the estimated retail price. The entry-level model with a 9.3-kilowatt-hour battery will go for the equivalent of approximately $5,805, while the 13.8 kWh powerhouse will sell for around $8,707. The claimed range for the entry-level model is 75 miles, and the larger battery pack offers 106 miles, partly thanks to a curb weight of well under 1,500 pounds.
It would help if you took these claimed figures with a grain of salt, however. The Chinese government is notoriously good at pushing the EV agenda, and it owns the majority of the conglomerate.
There is also another huge problem with the Mini EV Cabrio. The battery can only connect to a household socket, and no provision has been made for fast charging. If the battery runs out, you'll have to wait nine hours.
Despite all its shortcomings, it is the perfect car for congested cities. Currently, Wuling only sells a 20-horsepower model, which can do 0-60 mph in never, but a high-performance derivative with 40 hp is coming later in 2022. It will also send the power to the rear wheels via a direct-drive system. All of this means it should eventually reach 60 mph if you find a massive downhill. This model's electric motor will be driven by a 26.5 kWh battery, good for a claimed 170 miles.
The Wuling Mini EV Cabrio will never be sold here, not just because the EV uptake is relatively low despite the government's best efforts. Small cars just don't work well in the States. Victims that prove this include the Chevrolet Spark, Fiat 500, and the Smart ForTwo. The smallest you can get away with is a Mini Cooper Hardtop.
The SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co is claiming game-changer status, however. While it seems silly to us, it might be true in a country where the average commute is less than six miles per day.