CHJ Automotive, a Chinese startup and rival to Tesla, has become the latest entrant in the race to capture a piece of the electric vehicle (EV) market. CNBC reports, from Co-Founder Kevin Shen, that CHJ is planning to launch two vehicles which are now in development: a hybrid SUV and an ultra-compact car. The ultra-compact car, slated for a March 2018 release, is targeted for the Chinese market.
“In China, there are 340 million people (who) daily commute with e-scooters, but there is a strong demand for them to upgrade to something,” Shen told CNBC. “But we cannot imagine all of them driving cars, so we want to give them something else, which is an ultra-compact car.”
That diminutive size may seem odd in the U.S., but in urban areas all over the world, this kind of ultra-compact, electric vehicle is the ideal affordable solution to traffic, pollution, and parking problems.
CHJ has yet to release official images of the car, but did show preliminary designs of the ultra-compact vehicle to CNBC. The car’s tiny size, at 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long and 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide, makes it lighter and easier to power. It will run on two changeable batteries, which means that it can quickly stop for a battery swap and then keep going. It will come with Google’s in-car operating system, Android Auto, and will cost between €7,000 ($7,824) and €8,000 ($8,911.04).
CHJ is targeting European markets as well, but for ride-sharing projects, not yet for consumers. CHJ just entered into a joint venture with Clem, a French car-sharing platform. Together the companies will trial a car-sharing service using the ultra-compact vehicles in Paris.
This kind of car is critical for China’s goals under the Paris Accord — goals which the country sees as directly tied to its own public health concerns. Beijing is already moving to replace 70,000 taxis with electric cars, and the nation has relaxed its protectionist laws to encourage the use of EVs. The availability of an ultra-compact option that’s both local and affordable, and charges without a wait, is going to do very well in China, and probably all over the world, to the benefit of our planet.