Whether toting the neighborhood kids home after soccer practice or loading up for a road trip, SUVs offer the ultimate in vehicle utility. If you’re in the market for an electric SUV though, the options are both few and pricey.
Unless of course you head on over to the coolest little corner of the web, the electric vehicle market on Alibaba. That’s where I found today’s entry for the Awesomely Weird Alibaba EV of the Week: A pint-sized SUV that offers all of the charm and none of the utility of a full-size electric SUV!
The cheapest electric SUV?
Ok that might be a bit harsh – it’s not that it offers none of the utility of a larger electric SUV. It’s just a bit… on the smaller side.
Measuring 2.9 meters (9’6″) from bumper guard to bumper guard, the Lesheng K2 electric SUV is short in stature but big in heart.
As long as the heart isn’t the motor, as this cute little runabout is only packing a 4,000W motor. But that’s enough to cruise at a solid 52 km/h (31 mph), so it already beats the top speed of the $4,000 electric pickup truck and the $1,700 electric Jeep I found in previous weeks.
Weighing in at approximately 615 kg (1,355 lb), the four seater electric SUV likely isn’t going to win any traffic light drag races with that 4 kW motor. But these little Chinese electric cars are all about utility, not speed.
This is a glorified NEV, or neighborhood electric vehicle. You may be tempted to dismiss it as a souped up golf cart, but you’d be wrong. The Lesheng K2 is loaded to the roof rails with features. We’re talking true air conditioning, backup camera, 9-inch LCD display, stamped frame, adjustable seats, remote key fob lock, multimedia player, windshield wiper (singular), power windows, spare tire on back and even something called a “special controller”. I don’t know what that last one is, but it sure sounds special!
You can see the full specifications in the tech spec sheet that I scored here.
The charger type is listed as “normal charge”, which I’m not quite sure what to make of. I suspect that means you won’t be pulling up to a Tesla Supercharger in one of these. More likely you’ll be backing in next to a 7-11 ice box and guerrilla charging with an extension cord while you pour the world’s slowest cup of coffee.
With a 60V and 100Ah battery, the 6 kWh of capacity is rated for a range of 100 km (62 miles). For a city runabout, that’s actually pretty decent range.
Considering its max speed is half of the range number, you could presumably be looking at around two hours of continuous driving time. And does it really look like anyone is planning on driving for two hours in this thing?
That 159 kg (350 lb) battery pack is quite portly due to its old school lead acid bricks. You could do your own Li-ion upgrade with four of these 60V 25Ah Li-ion batteries for $1k total, shipped.
Alright, so it’s small, cute, nicely outfitted with creature comforts and even has that “special controller”. I’m sold. Now let’s get down to brass tacks.
I got in touch with the company to see how I could become the proud new owner of a Lesheng K2.
My man Michael Du is a knowledgable sales rep who walked me through the vehicle details, hammering home how proud the company was of their air conditioning system.
Like, seriously. He went on and on.
He even sent me this weird video of the air conditioning unit being tested (below). I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the dang thing could literally blow hot and sandy Sahara air in my face, I wanted the car mostly because of how funny it looked.
Once we both agreed how amazing the air conditioning was, we started talking numbers.
Michael told me that he could hook me up with my own fleet of K2s for just $3,200 a pop! But when I told him that it’d probably be better to start with just one sample for evaluation, he had to ding me with a $1,000 sample fee. Ouch.
I’m still waiting on the freight estimate – pretty much all of China is shut down right now while they celebrate the Lunar New Year (happy new year of the Ox to all of our celebrating readers!), and so I can’t get a freight quote anywhere. In fact, props to Michael for helping me as much as he has during the holidays.
I had been quoted a sea freight charge of $195 a few weeks ago for that $1,700 electric Jeep thing I found, and the K2 electric SUV isn’t that much bigger than the Jeep. So hopefully freight charges won’t rocket the price too terribly high on this thing.
Would I really buy it?
As my regular readers know, this Awesomely Weird Alibaba EV of the Week series is largely just a fun exercise to discover some of the cool, weird and just plain oddball electric vehicles available.
Sure, I’ve made plenty of Alibaba purchases before, and probably hundreds of purchases on the AliExpress platform, which is Alibaba’s more retail-focused (and easier to use) shopping portal.
Despite how cool it looks, I don’t think I’ll be adding a Lesheng K2 electric SUV to my order history list any time soon. And I’m not advocating for anyone else to buy one either. It’s mostly just fun looking at what is out there.
But if you do decide to take a risk on something like this, you should know that shopping on Alibaba isn’t for the timid. It can be risky due to the difficulty in communicating with vendors to ensure you know exactly what you’re buying. The wait times are long and the cheap prices are often inflated by unexpected fees from port charges, customs brokers and other fun surprises along the way.
The vast majority of my own Alibaba purchases have been quite positive experiences though. So if you are careful, patient and well researched, you just may find something weirdly awesome for yourself.
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Buying any car off the web, site unseen is not a wise decision in most instances (if ever), and buying one from a listing on a site like Alibaba and have it shipped to your house all the way from China sounds like an even worse idea. But that’s what The Inja did - he found a listing for a decent all-electric sports car for which he paid no less than $31,000 to have it delivered to his house.
Much to his surprise, when he took the vehicle that he had received out of its box, he discovered a radically different vehicle to the one he had ordered. The vehicle in the listing was essentially a Qiantu K50, a real electric sports car that is designed in China but is set to be assembled in the United States; once it goes on sale, it is expected to cost around $125,000.
So the fact that he found that very car for sale on Alibaba, with its logos and model name removed in PhotoShop should have been a red flag for him. The Alibaba seller was actually calling the car something else and the photos in the listing were all the official photos put out by Qiantu, but without the logos.
The vehicle he actually received was a tiny golf cart-like electric vehicle, not too dissimilar to the one purchased by Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky (who also got his vehicle from Alibaba, although he got exactly what he ordered and for way less money).
In the end, the shady seller offered a partial refund, but only after making threats and asking the YouTuber to take down two of the videos that he had posted. The moral behind this story (which is detailed in the videos we posted here), is that you should be wary of buying an entire car from another country (especially China) and always keep an eye out for red flags in your interaction with the seller.
This Is How Much Buying The Cheapest New Car In The World Really Costs
As you may be aware, I’m in the process of buying a new car for the first time in my life, and I’m probably in my 70s. The car is, of course, the Changli NEMECA, which has been called by websites I don’t work for the cheapest car in the world. It was listed as being $930 on Alibaba when I bought it; of course, like everything else, it’s actually way more expensive by the time you factor in batteries and shipping and customs and all kinds of tedious handling stuff. It’s still pretty cheap, though. Let’s figure out exactly what all this is costing.
What’s frustrating and amazing about all of this is just how difficult it is to find any accurate information about the total cost of shipping something like this from China to America. There’s more information out there for “real” cars, which, legally, the Changli is not, at least in America.
Even though for many elderly rural Chinese people this car—and many other ones very much like it—are absolutely used like real, usable cars, the truth is it’s far closer to a golf cart. It’s only got a 1.1 hp (possibly 1.6? I’ll try to dyno it when it arrives) motor and is much smaller and lighter than even the smallest and lightest of cars you can imagine.
It’s about 800 pounds, about half the weight of my Nissan Pao, which is about half the weight of almost everything else out there. It’s small.
In fact, on official documentation, it’s described, bafflingly, like this:
Yes, a four-wheel electric tricycle. You know, like a biped with a third leg, or a five-legged quadrupedal dog.
I should mention before we get into all the details about money that Jalopnik’s corporate overlords have been very supportive of this project, and, yes, that’s where all this cash is coming from.
Since the quarantine is keeping us from shooting our usual Jason Drives season this year, I was able to convince them to put those resources here, bringing the weird cars to me, instead of me to them, and, incredibly, it worked. So please click on these stories so they’ll see crazy shit like this pays off. Big time.
We’ll start with the charges through Alibaba and to Changli, which you can see broken down in this invoice:
Oh, and that’s not my address, that’s the address of the Port of Wilmington. I do not live at the Port of Wilmington like some kind of CG-animated wharf rat from an upcoming Pixar movie.
The car itself is listed at $1,235 because the batteries are separate, which is sort of disappointing, but it’s just $305 for some amount of what I believe are lead-acid batteries. Maybe I can swap some old lithium laptop batteries in there at some point and save some weight? We’ll see.
Next, we have the shipping charges from Shanghai to Wilmington, NC, which, at $549, actually seem pretty reasonable. That’s really not that bad to haul 800 pounds halfway across the globe.
So, now we’re at a total of $1,784. That’s almost double the original $930 advertised price, but, compared to other new vehicles, even limited electric vehicles like golf carts, it’s still cheap.
Remember, golf cart prices are insane. Look at this EZ-Go electric 3.3 HP golf cart that has about the same top speed (20-25 MPH or so) as the Changli and a much more rudimentary body:
Over eight grand. I still can’t wrap my head around that.
We’re not nearly done with the Changli costs, sadly. That almost $1,800 is just for the vehicle and getting it to America. Getting anything into the country from overseas is a colossal, nerve-wracking hassle, especially for me, since I seem to have some sort of deep-seated, innate fear and hatred of paperwork.
I don’t know why, but lots of paperwork always makes me feel confused and anxious, Kafka-style, so this was no fun for me. Luckily, the Changli representative, Amy, was in nearly constantly-available contact with me via Alibaba’s integrated chat support system, and she was very good about talking me through the process and helping me get the paperwork I needed.
If you’re considering buying something like this from Alibaba, the direct support from the suppliers is easily one of the best parts about this. I’m not sure it’d be possible at all without a representative on-call to help with all the questions.
Of course, even with a representative there to hold your hand, individuals can’t really do everything you need to get something in the country; you need a customs broker to handle all of that, and they like to get paid in money, which, I’m told, they exchange for goods and services, much like you or I.
And even before you get to the customs stage, you have to pay for port fees and handling and unloading costs. In the case of my Changli, even though I was hoping the container ship would go right to the Port of Wilmington, it actually docked in New York, and would then be trucked down to Wilmington.
That ship, by the way, was the Cosco Shipping Lotus, and you can actually find pictures of it and information about it online! What a glorious world we live in!
My, she’s a majestic sea bird!
Here’s what we had to pay to the company that handled unloading the container from the ship:
By the time you add up handling, warehouse fees, security, docking, loading onto the truck, fuel, and so on, it’s another $528.60.
Okay, that brings our total up to $2,312.60. A hell of a lot more than that $930, but still well below our baseline competitor golf cart.
During all this time, I’m having to make sure documents get sent from the Chinese exporter to the American customs agencies, the most nerve-wracking of which was a form called an Importer Security Filing (ISF) form, because if that one is wrong or missing or not filed in time or properly or out of order in some way you’re on the hook for a $5,000 fine.
After some initial confusion and panic about the form, it was located and sent via my customs broker who took care of the filing, so I could quit worrying about a $5,000 fine on a $900 ridiculous electric shitbox.
Next, there were multiple DOT forms where I had to be sure this was classified as something other than a conventional, street-legal motor car. The particular classification for mine is similar to what is used for factory or campus utility vehicles, and can then be registered as a low-speed neighborhood electric vehicle at the state level, which I’ll tackle once it arrives.
The important thing for this part is making sure the DOT knows it’s not something like a gray-market Skyline or Land Rover or something like that. There’s an awful lot of confusing customs paperwork involved, and it all seems to have high fee stakes and particular timeframes and requires a knowledge of the byzantine machinations of the customs system, which I suppose is why this part was so expensive, the next most expensive cost after the car (plus batteries) itself: $1,018.67.
Here’s how that broke down:
A lot of that money goes to the government for import duties and other U.S. Customs fees, and that import duty is based on the value of what you’re bringing in—so, if you want to import a more expensive weird-little Chinese EV, you’ll end up paying more than the $339.63 we had to pay.
With the $1,018.67 customs fee we’re at a grand total of $3,331.27.
I expect another couple hundred I’ll have to pay at the warehouse for handling fees and likely a disposal fee for the bulky cage-thing it ships in, since I don’t think that’ll fit into the Jeep J10 pickup David Tracy is driving over to help me collect the Changli. Let’s just guess and call it an even $3,500 by the time it’s all done.
You can think of the fees as having three main parts: the initial cost of the vehicle or whatever you’re buying, along with the shipping, paid to the actual vendor; then the arrival and unloading charges when it arrives at the port; and then the charges to the customs handling agency for dealing with the vast amounts of paperwork.
So, there you go. The real cost of a $930 electric car from China is over three times that amount, at least if you want it actually moved across the world and entering America legally. That’s still a hell of a lot less than the golf cart, and I still think this could prove to be a viable option for people with some very, very specific sub-actual-real-car transportation needs.
Remember, this thing has lights and turn signals and wipers and doors and all that real-car candy, just unimaginably cheaper and hanging on a likely flimsy frame, powered by a 1.1-horse electric motor.
I’m very excited to get this thing, which should be available for pickup early next week. We’ll do a full unboxing video, technical overview, first drive test, anything and everything we can.
Get excited, people. It’s almost Changli-time.
These cheap, Chinese mini vehicles are just too hard to resist. Yeah, there is not much you can do with them in the US. But what can you do with baseball cards or VHS tape player? Not much! But you can drive around, albeit at a maximum of 25 mph, in your Alibaba Mini Jeep.
And the folks at Electrek found someone who actually bought one. If you’re gun shy about plopping down over a grand without anything to show for it, don’t worry. This is all legit and here is how one person did it just to prove it.
Some assembly of the Mini Jeep is required but you’ve got this
Electrek found Kyle Day, who was looking for a customs broker to help out. First, keep in mind that there is some assembly required. Just like with Ikea furniture and your baby’s playpen, you’ll have to do a bit of wrenching. But it is basic bolt-on stuff, nothing MotorBiscuit readers can’t handle.
Downloading the Alibaba app helps with communication. It converts anything in Chinese to English for you, and vice-versa for the contacts in China. Once you’ve got it you can choose from a menu of options for your Mini Jeep, or other vehicles sold on Alibaba’s site. Usually, the options are fairly cheap relative to the overall price.
In the case of this Mini Jeep purchase, the price of the vehicle came out to $1,590. There is a $200 “sample fee” that gets waived if you buy in quantities. So you’ll save if you want a fleet of Mini Jeeps. The shipping was $180. The grand total was slightly under $2,000.
For $2,030 the Mini Jeep got shipped via ocean carrier to the nearest port
Using Apple Pay gives you fraud and chargeback coverage and adds an additional $60. So for $2,030 the Mini Jeep gets shipped via ocean carrier to your nearest port. You’ll be notified at every stage of the shipping, which usually takes 15 days to complete. A bill of lading gives you the details of your order and when and where to pick it up at the port.
Once it is US-bound you can track your purchase through updates on several websites. Once it gets to the port, that is when and where customs, tariffs, and miscellaneous fees enter the picture. The big bite is the 25 percent tariff-thanks Trump!
You’ll want a customs broker to handle forms and general processes getting it shipped
With a customs broker, most of the forms and general processes are handled by them. You’ll fill out some paperwork, pay your fees, and then wait some more. You’re notified when your vehicle arrives at the deconsolidation warehouse. The broken-down vehicle is loaded into your pickup or van, and you’re on your way.
But first, you must assemble it. In Kyle’s case, it was not strictly a bolt-together deal. Some adjustments were needed. A couple of mounts had to be cut out with a cut-off wheel and rewelded in better locations. And one wheel was bent, which he got replaced. In the short term, he ground the wheel where it made contact with the brake.
If you encounter problems like this and can’t weld there are local welders that can do it for reasonable prices. There are even traveling welders that will come to your home or shop. So while it is disappointing, it isn’t the end of the world. Nor will it cost a bunch to take care of any welding problems.
A lot of “extras” are standard with the Alibaba Mini Jeep
Included with the Mini Jeep were a horn, speedometer, battery charge indicator, blinker and brake lights, headlights, a D/N/R switch, and a fast/slow speed selector. With the optional lithium-ion battery he figures he gets about 10 miles between charges. The range is supposed to be close to 50 miles, so there is something off in the range department. The Mini Jeep is mostly used by his kids when camping.
Yes, the “$1,280 Mini Jeep” took more than that to actually get here, and it needed some massaging to get it all together. But based on his comments he seems happy with the purchase. Plus, he and his family do have fun with it. Two adults can be accommodated if it is for you and not your kids.
There are other interesting vehicles on the cheap available via China. While not the most practical they look like they would be a lot of fun.
RELATED: Here’s Where All the Cheap Electric Vehicles Are
Cars alibaba cheap
World's Most Affordable EV electricKar K5 Goes on Sale in China on Alibaba, Priced at Only $2100
A relatively basic electric car is on sale in China on Alibaba. Produced by electricKar, the K5 is presented as an electric quadricycle that can accommodate two people and is offered at the unbeatable price of 2100 dollars. At this price, one should obviously not expect much in terms of comfort or extraordinary performance. The electricKar K5 can’t go faster than 40 km/h, and its range is estimated at between 52 and 66 km on a single charge. It should also be noted that it takes no less than 8 hours to fully recharge the battery.
ElectricKar is produced by Regal Raptor Motors, a manufacturer specialized in the production of electric motorcycles and scooters. Keep in mind, however, that this “car" may not be able to be driven in every country, as it would be subject to being approved for the road.
In the US, one of the most affordable electric cars is the Nissan Leaf, priced at $27,400 and qualifying for tax credit, which for some could bring it to around $20,000. Meanwhile, in France the AMI by Citroën starts at 6090 euros, also with an eco bonus.
Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here
Alibaba will soon begin selling cars using these gigantic vending machines
Alibaba last week announced a deal to help Ford sell electric vehicles in China but, aside from the big names involved, the most intriguing part was a proposed vending machine for sales. Now the firm has spilled details of what exactly that will look like.
The ‘Car Vending Machines’ are futuristic buildings that look like a gigantic version of something you’d find in Toys “R” Us.
Alibaba has made a push to integrate its online sales platforms with offline retail, including a recent $2.9 billion investment in hypermarket operator Sun Art, but this new project is one of the clearest examples of its strategy to date.
The process starts when a customer uses Alibaba’s Taobao app to scan a car that they want to test, and potentially buy. Once the system recognizes the vehicle it lets them pick a color and, once they enter basic information and snap a selfie, arrange for a test-drive if the vehicle is available.
The customer then heads over the unmanned vending machine facility and, after showing their face (hence the earlier selfie), their order is retrieved and the car is dispatched.
The test-drive is for three days, after which they can buy the vehicle outright via Taobao or arrange to test a different model.
Alibaba said it will open two stores in January, one in Shanghai and the other in Nanjing. The ultimate goal is to make buying a car as simple as a can of coke, and it plans to open “dozens” more outlets across China in 2018.
Allowing anyone to just take a car for three days is risky business and, alongside some T&Cs such as a limit of five test-drives per two months, Alibaba is relying on its own financial services to vet and identify who is borrowing the vehicles.
Users only qualify for a free test drive if they have reached a certain level on its Zhima credit-scoring service, while they must also be Alibaba Super Members.
This isn’t the first time Alibaba has sold vehicles — or other large ticket items like airplanes — online, but in this instance is on blending it with a physical retail experience. It looks good in a three-minute video, but the key test will be real life.
Vending machine car showrooms aren’t a new concept. One launched in Singapore this year, and other projects in Germany and Nashville have been around longer still.
Hat tip Tech In Asia
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Here Are Four Electric Cars You Can Buy On Alibaba That Are Eerily Similar to American Versions
Want to drive an electric Model T? How about a "Jeep Explorer" or an electric Smart Car?
On the Chinese e-commerce hub Alibaba, all of this and more is possible. Of course, you can buy them and have them shipped to you, but none of these are legally drivable on U.S. roads
A combination of ingenuity and intellectual property theft have allowed companies across China to pilfer U.S. designs and trademarks with few repercussions.
A 2017 report issued by the U.S. Trade Representative estimated that Chinese theft of American IP costs between $225 billion and $600 billion every year. China's enforcement on IP theft has been lax and was one of the major sticking points behind the Trump administration's trade disputes with the country.
Here are a few copycats that we saw perusing the Alibaba website.
2020 Changli Four Wheel "Jeep"
For a bargain price of just $2,325 (plus shipping), you could get your hands on this "Jeep Explorer" from the Alibaba site. The lead-acid 30 kilowatt-hour battery powers a single motor that's capable of 98 horsepower. The car has a single charge range of about 62 miles.
Despite it being a truck, an Explorer and a Jeep, this vehicle is officially designated as a hatchback.
High-Speed Electric Four-Wheeler "Smart Car"
On offer from the Shanxi Huayu Technology Development Co., Ltd. is a very compact car that looks pretty close to a Smart Car. Despite it being electric, the car has a manual transmission. The car also boasts a top speed of about 105 miles per hour and a range of up to 310 miles on a single charge.
A 2017 Smart Fortwo has an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 34 mpg. The engine gets 89 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque.
New Style Retro Electric Car "Ford Model T"
Making a variety of electric cars for several purposes, Guangdong Yatian Industrial Co, Ltd. has put an electric Model T clone up for sale. Promising just above 6 hp, the car has a range of about 49 miles but also lists an "endurance mileage" of about 62 miles. You'll have plenty of time to enjoy that range with its top speed of about 18 mph.
According to Ford, the original Model T got 13 to 21 mpg and offered a 45 mph top speed.
2017 EEC Electric Car "Porsche 356"
Eerily similar to the Porsche 356, this offering from Kingwoo Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd. in Henan province offers an electric alternative to the classic sports car.
Available in either a 7.5 kilowatt or 10 kilowatt motor, the higher choice allows a top speed of 62 mph and about a 124 mile range.
The original Porsche 356 was produced from 1948 to 1965.
While the electric version can be bought for as low as $10,000, a classic 356 can garner anywhere between $20,000 to $100,000 at auction.