At last October’s Challenge Bibendum (earlier post), China was notable in its focus on electric vehicles—20 of the 24 EVs at the Shanghai event were Chinese.
Not that generating more electric demand is a good short-term strategy for China, which is suffering from its grid’s inability to keep pace with rapid growth. But planners are paying attention to the benefits of electric vehicles from an emissions point of view, especially in China’s large cities and industrialized areas. The country, to judge by the activity at the Challenge, is working hard to develop strategic competence in this area.
Now, TianJin QingYuan Electric Vehicle Company, which participated in the Challenge with two earlier EV car models, announced that it has shipped six of its Happy Messenger electric autos to the US.
The Happy Messenger is not going to wow buyers. It is rather slow, and has a limited range (although certainly sufficient for in-city excursions). Nevertheless, the basics are all there (see under-the-hood, above), functional and developed indigenously.
In 1972 (or thereabouts), other Asian firms (Japanese, that time) sent over odd, clunky-looking little vehicles that were timed perfectly for the onset of the oil crisis. The rapid shift in buyer demand from large, gas-swilling American cars to fuel-parsimonious Japanese compacts was dramatic, and provided the salient into the US market the Japanese manufacturers needed. Once given that toehold, the manufacturers rapidly improved their offerings—and their marketshare. And now look where we are today.
|Honda 600 Coupe, 1972||Happy Messenger, 2005|
In this market, it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion that China will be able to replicate the Japanese reshaping of the US auto market. (That said, the lower cost of labor in China makes it likely that Chinese-made vehicles (especially small vehicles) will be sold in the US—by US-based vendors if not by Chinese. Both outcomes are already being openly discussed.)
But the concentration on the electric powertrain and the necessary support systems (power management, energy storage, etc.) will give Chinese engineers a broader base of experience. Experience that is also applicable in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. When another opening in the market appears as did in the 1970s, it’s quite likely that Chinese manufacturers will push to step into that breach. And they may do it partly with electric vehicles.
|TianJin QingYuan Happy Messenger Specs|
|Length / Width / Height (mm)||3,395 / 1,475 / 1,695|
|Gross weight (kg)||<1,400|
|Curb weight (kg)||1,050|
|Max speed||100 km/h (62.15 mi)|
speed: 250 km (155 mi)|
City driving: 150 km (93.2 mi)
|Motor rated power/peak power (kW)||20 / 60|
|Motor Rated torque/maximum torque (Nm)||53 / 160|
|Cycle life (80% DOD)||500|