Do you think Jason’s Changli — the cheapest new electric car that you can buy in America — is weird? Well, that’s actually quite a standard kind of low-speed electric vehicle (LSEV). China has got much weirder ones. In this post I’m going to show you the 10 most interesting LSEVs that I met on the streets of Beijing in the middle of the summer. It was rainy and hot — perfect weather for LSEV spotting. Let’s roll.
We start with the Umi YM2000DP, parked next to a tree in front of a restaurant. It is an eye-catching machine, painted in yellow and black, with gray trim, a racing stripe over the hood, and sporty wheels. The YM2000DP is a narrow three-seat vehicle. About eight feet long with a five foot wheelbase. It has a single center seat for the driver and a bench for two in the back. It has a huge single windscreen wiper on the left side of the hood.
Great! A free font allows the manufacturer to keep prices low.
The Umi YM2000DP is a rear-wheel drive car. The motor is located over the rear axle. Will it drift, I wonder, on these wet roads? The motor has an output of 2.0 kW (2.68 horsepower), which sounds like nothing, but the curb weight is only 550 pounds, so it still goes 28 mph. The 60V 58AH lead acid battery pack is located under the front seat. The manufacturer claims a range of 37 miles and a charging time of 8 hours.
The doors are extra long for easy entry and exit, and folks can get in the rear directly without any need for messing around with the front seat. The Transformers Revenge of the Fallen stickers, the reflectors, and the window wind deflectors are aftermarket accessories. Transformers stickers are super popular among LSEV owners and they look great on this Bumblebee-yellow Umi YM2000DP. The Umi brand is owned by Umi Electric Vehicle Technology, an LSEV maker based in Yanjiang Town, Linhai, Zhejiang Province.
LSEVs come in all shapes and sizes. Pickup trucks are nothing new, but Yaolon makes legitimately cool LSEV ones, and that’s rare. I met this Yaolon YL1500DZH-7 tricycle at a local car repair market. An entrepreneur had set up a small shop selling Yaolon vehicles. This green example was priced at exactly 5,000 yuan ($684). [Editor’s Note: WHAT? THAT’S DIRT CHEAP! – JT] The bull bar, roof rails, and sporty wheels are standard. The Yaolon brand is owned by a company called Luoyang Everest Three-Wheeled Motorcycle, based in Luoyang City in Henan Province. The design of the YL1500DZH-7 is surprisingly comprehensive for an LSEV company. Maybe they should make cars.
I LOVE the shape of the rear window, and atop the window is a spoiler with an integrated light. Wow! The bed has a nice cover, and the tailgate swings down. The bumper has two extra reflectors to increase visibility. The Yaolon YL1500DZH-7 is a small vehicle, at 10 feet long, with a seven-foot wheelbase and a 950-pound curb weight. It is rated as a 3-seat vehicle, and it did indeed have a small bench in the rear, but it seemed useless for anything but a baby. The motor has an output of 1.5 kW (2 horsepower), which is a bit low, but Yaolon nevertheless claims a 51 km/h (32 mph) top speed.
This is the YL3000DZK, at the same store, and it sold for the same price. It is a four-door hatchback LSEV with a third-side window extension. The colorful stickers, bull bar, double sidebars, and roof rails are factory standard, but the roof box and wind deflectors are optional. It also has a sunroof, located just above the windshield, but it doesn’t seem very usable with the roof rails right atop of it. It’s almost nine feet long with a six foot wheelbase. The curb weight is 860 pounds.
The motor has a bit more power. Output is 3 kW (4 horsepower) for a speedy 52 km/h (32 mph) top speed. The YL3000DZK has three seats, one center seat in front and a two-seat bench in the back. Unlike in the YL1500DZH-7, the bench looked large enough to fit two adults. The shiny wheel arch extenders look classy, and it has a spare wheel cover at the back. There isn’t a real wheel in there, it is just a box basically, to store round things that you can’t store inside or on the roof.
Dalle DEL K3
This little beauty is a Dalle Del K3. It looked brilliant in light blue with black bumpers and sporty gray wheels. The design of the front was inspired by Mini, with a small gray-colored grille. The cabin is relatively high for extra headroom, with a straight windshield and a single wiper. The K3 is no longer in production, which is sad because it looks much cooler than their current cars. I found a pic of a brand-new K3 on an LSEV show.
The brand name is Dai’er le (戴尔乐). The English brand name is Dalle, but the names Del and Dell are used as well. This kind of naming mess is common among Chinese LSEV makers, and even among car makers in general. (It is best not to let this get to you, just take it as it is, and continue with your life. Don’t go too deep into these naming situations, don’t try too hard to find out how or why, and don’t ever get angry. Or you will go crazy. Trust me, I’ve been there).
The brand is owned by Xiamen Dalle New Energy Automobile, based in Xiamen City, Fujian Province. They use the abbreviation HDK as their company name. Their older cars have an HDK logo on the hood. Their new cars have a logo with either a horse head or a silver crown. This kind of logo mess is common among Chinese LSEV makers. It is best not to let this get to you, etcetera. I have a friend (hello!) who had a database with names and logos of LSEV companies. But you know, these companies are changing names and logos all the time. No way José. Can’t do. So he went crazy. Be careful, just be careful.
More mirrors = better situational awareness.
The bumpers and sidebars are black. It had two seats in the front and a small bench in the back. A four-seater! The A-pillar has a bit of a blind spot. But the manufacturer did think about safety issues: check the reflector stickers on the wheel arches, so folks will see the Dalle Del K3 at twilight.
This one is more a classic LSEV, with 3 wheels, four doors, and a BMW-inspired grille. They don’t make ’em like this anymore! It has great stickers on the sides, very 1990s style, but it isn’t that old, likely from the early 2010s. It looked a bit rusty but it seemed still in use. The BMW grille was made of metal. Try that today. All the ‘grilles’ are made of plastic now.
Sadly, I have been unable to find out who the maker was. It only had a ‘China Tianjin’ badge on the back. Tianjin is a large municipality, so I assume it was made there. An LSEV without a brand name is not uncommon, at all. Actually, for every three branded LSEVs you see one unbranded LSEV. That has to do with how the business works —see my earlier article on this important matter. In short: an entrepreneur can buy any part for an LSEV off the shelf, put it all together in a shed, and start selling them on a parking lot. It is a fast-paced business, so in many cases, folks don’t bother about branding. They may put a sticker on, or a logo, or nothing at all. Needless to say, these non-branded cars make it even harder to follow the LSEV sector. But perhaps I can make a catalog with non-branded LSEVs. If I collect enough examples, I may be able to see patterns. I’ll start right away after this article is finished.
The mysterious Super from Tianjin has notable large door handles, a twin-color body, sporty wheels, and shiny wheel arch covers. The roof rack and searchlights seem factory standard but I can’t be 100% sure. The rear tires are wide for the segment and very racy.
Zongshen X3 Fuxing
I was thrilled when I met this little baby. Sadly, she seemed abandoned, with the tires deflated and one of the indicators falling off. The design is just… just. Mad? Cute? Cute mad. And cool. Very cool. The headlights are like an insect’s eyes, looking angry. The window setup is interesting. The windshield sits high in the body. Then it has A-pillar side windows. And side windows, which are lower. Next, we got windows in the C-pillar. Or is that the B? Finally, it has a rear window.
This is a Zongshen X3 Fuxing. Zongshen is the brand name. X3 Fuxing the model name. It is locked with a bike lock at the front wheel. The mirrors are very large relative to the vehicle’s size. It has a ventilation slot below the windshield. The wiper is mounted neatly in the middle. But it covers only about 2/3 of the windshield. Everything above that stays wet. Forget about airplane spotting in the rain in this thing. The Zongshen X3 was made by Jiangsu Zongshen, a company based in Jiangsu Province. Note the Zongshen logo between the headlights. The X3 doesn’t seem to be in production anymore. When new, it sold for 4000 yuan ($547).
It has an air vent above the rear window. The rear tires are narrow for better range. The blue-white Zongshen stickers are nice. The rear lights are super basic. But it is all we need, and the lights are protected with a rear bar. It had a 1 kW motor (1.3 horsepower) for a 20 km/h (12 mph) top speed. The battery was a 60V20A lead-acid unit, for a 25-kilometer (15.5 mile) range. Size: 1970/1100/1570. A brilliant machine. I don’t think Jiangsu Zongshen sold many of them in Beijing, this was the first one I’d ever seen.
Welcome to the modern era of LSEV! This streamlined tricycle is the Aonew QH-T. Let’s start with the color. Soft-tone pink! Soft-tone colors are popular these days among Chinese real-car makers, especially with models and lines aimed at female customers. And now LSEV makers are following this trend as well. Not sure I like it, I am a hard-tone kind of guy, but the market decides, you know. The front wheel setup seems quite serious, with a large ventilated brake disc and a two-piston brake caliper. The shocks look sweet too, and the tires are wide. I bet it will do nicely off-road.
The door has a two-window design, but there isn’t any side window further back. It’s about eight feet long, and has a 1.5 kW (2 horsepower) motor for a 45 km/h (27 mph) top speed. Electricity is stored in a 60V, 58Ah lead-acid battery pack. The manufacturer claims a range of 80 kilometers (50 miles), which seems wildly optimistic. I have never met an LSEV with such a range. Heck, even with a 70V, 58Ah it wouldn’t do 80 kilometers in one charge.
The light bar would not look out of place on a HiPhi. It even has reversing lights! So much safety on this thing. Enough is enough, isn’t it? But no. Not even close. The Aonew QH-T has seat belts! What?!? Well, seat belts in the front seat are not extremely rare in LSEV land. But the QH-T has a seatbelt for the rear bench! Now that’s wacky. It is just one belt for two seats, but still, wacky as hell. The Aonew QH-T is made by Zhejiang Aonew Technology, based in Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province.
Back to old-school stuff now with the Boma X7, a brilliant four-wheel LSEV with a bull bar and wide wheel arches. BMW has always been an inspiration for LSEV makers. Back in the old-school days, lots of LSEVs came with BMW-kidney grilles, like the Super above. But Boma takes things a little further. The Chinese name is Boma (博马), which is really close to the Chinese name of BMW, Baoma (宝马). Oddly, the manufacturer uses traditional Chinese characters: 博馬. These have been out of general use in Mainland China since the mid-1950s, but they are still sometimes used for branding purposes. The idea is that old characters = old brand = good brand. This is mostly used for booze and watches and pens and such products. Never seen it for an LSEV brand. It also used a font similar to what BMW uses, and the car is called X7, and it has blue-white stripes that are BMW-ish.
The X7 has a stocky design with a high beltline. It has a black bar that starts at the front fender and runs over the doors to the rear lights, The shape of the windows is simple, saving cost. Like many LSEVs, it has a sticker of a power plug on the charge port door to remind folks to power it up with electricity, and not with gasoline.
The Boma X7 is still in production, priced at 5000 yuan ($694!). Here is brand new on an LSEV show. It’s eight feet long, and has a 60V, 58Ah lead acid battery pack for a claimed range of 65 kilometers/40 miles. The top speed is 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph). The Boma brand is owned by Taizhou Mingsheng Electric Vehicle, based in Taizhou City in Zhejiang Province. They use the Boma name and the abbreviation BM.
Check that X7 BMW font. But for the name, well, who copied who? The BMW X7 SUV was unveiled in 2018. I am pretty sure this Boma X7 is older than that.
From the Boma X7 we go to the Dongwei Q7. This too is a modern LSEV, with four wheels and an actual design. Split headlights are a design trend in real-car land, and again we see it seeping through to the LSEV sector. The lights in the bumper seem gigantic, but you can never have enough light in a day. This Dongwei Q7 appeared to be brand new, it still had the dealer plates on and it smelled fresh, like only newly shaped Chinese plastics can smell. Back in the 1990s, when I traveled to China for the first time, the plastics industry was just getting started. They had these rough-looking household items and toys, made of plastics that were as hard as concrete. Very smelly too! That smell, I’ll never forget it. Toys smell differently now, for sure, and a set of spoons too. But the plastics used for these LSEVs smell strangely similar to the stuff they used back in those days. Lovely.
The Dongwei Q7 has a nice orange strip alongside the door and roof. It has orange mirrors too. The stickers say Dongwei Electric Energy Technology. The door is very wide and occupies the whole side, and includes two windows. The 10-spoke wheels look really sporty, with big tires again. Older LSEVs have narrow tires, newer LSEVs have wider ones. I think that is a great improvement in the general look & feel of the entire LSEV product line.
The Q7 has a 1.2 kW (1.6 horsepower) electric motor for a 45 km/h (27 mph) top speed. It has a 60V lead-acid battery and a range of 40 kilometers (25 miles), which seems realistic. It is, like always, a 3-seat car with two seats in the back. There is just enough space there for 3 factory-office workers.
The Dongwei Q7 is made by Henan Dongwei Intelligent Technology, a company that describes itself as: “an internet-based modern vehicle industry company based on the internet and big data platform, mainly engaged in the research and development, production and sales of three-wheeled and four-wheeled electric vehicles.” The company is based in Zhumadian City in Henan Province. They have an English slogan: “I Love I Do“.
Niuben Xiaoke Taurus 2 (HH1200DZK-7)
This is a huge one! The Niuben Xiaoke Taurus 2, with Jeep-branded searchlights on the roof. Niuben Xiaoke is the brand name, and Taurus 2 is the type name. Finally, HH1200DZK-7 is the designation. Some LSEV makers use the designation as the name. Others have separate names and designations. In previous times, all LSEVs had the full designation on the car, as a badge or a sticker, usually at the rear, and sometimes on the front fender. This used to be obligatory by law, just like it once was for real cars. It is no longer required today, except for commercial vehicles.
The Taurus 2 is a long tricycle. It has an extension in the middle for extra space inside. It’s about nine feet long, and the curb weight is 654 kilos (1,441 pounds). It has fancy stickers on the sides, a large roof rack, a bull bar, and a rear bar. The Taurus 2 is officially rated at three people, but I could see two benches in the back, facing each other, so it can seat four passengers. That is a proper car. Make it a bit longer and you get a bus. Niuben Xiaoke is a brand under Shandong Hehai Automobile Technology, based in Heze City in Shandong Province.
On-vehicle celebrity endorsement! Brilliant. Normal celebrity endorsement is everywhere in China, for all kinds of products, from candies to milk to beer to cars to trucks. LSEV makers often have celebrity endorsements from local stars from their home provinces. Celebrities may include TV hosts, singers, and sportspeople. Endorsement advertising is normally only visible on websites and in shops, but some LSEV makers do sticker the endorsements on their vehicles. I have seen it more in smaller cities and not so much in Beijing, so this is a great catch. The neatly dressed fellow is He Zhengjun, (何政军) a movie star. He was born in 1963. He has starred in over 40 movies and television series. This year, in 2023, he played/plays in three television series and three movies, and he was the singer in a movie song. Asian actors are always busy. Some Chinese movie stars have been in over 100 films. He Zhengjun was hired by Shandong Hehai Automobile Technology in 2020 and he is still with the company today. I wonder if he demanded a Taurus 2 as part of his payment package.
Power comes from a 1.2 kW (1.6 horsepower) electric motor, good for a claimed speed of 54 km/h (33 mph), which seems fast for such a big vehicle. The E-pillars [Editor’s Note: This may be the first time we’ve mentioned E-pillars? – JT] are covered with a black piece of trim, which looks nice with the darkened windows. A modern look. Well. That is about the end of this story.
Is this the end?
The rules for LSEVs in China are set at the city level. This is about the situation in Beijing. LSEVs have a complicated history in the Chinese capital. Officially, only the disabled and elderly are allowed to own and drive an LSEV. But in reality, everybody can have one. In the suburbs, the larger kind of LSEVs are used as short-distance illegal taxis, for shipping people from their compound to the mall and back.
For the last decade, the Beijing city government has largely left the LSEV sector alone. It is an affordable form of clean transport, and the industry employs a lot of people. But in recent years, things have gone a bit out of hand. With living standards improving, more and more folks can afford an LSEV, so suddenly the streets got full of them. And since they are not really regulated, owners don’t need a driving license. Even worse, they can drive and park wherever they want, blocking roads and bicycle lanes.
The Beijing government has tried several times to bring the LSEV sector under some sort of control but without success. Seemingly out of desperation, the city announced a full ban on LSEVs starting on December 31st. From that day, 3- and 4-wheel LSEVs are no longer allowed on the road, and no longer allowed to be parked in public places such as roads, squares, and parking lots. The ban is total within the Sixth Ring Road of Beijing. Outside the Sixth Ring Road, people can still operate LSEVs, but only with an official license (like for disabled folks), a driving license, and only if the manufacturer of the LSEV is officially registered (so forget about the un-branded stuff). Folks who still drive an LSEV within the 6th ring, or outside the 6th without a license, will have their vehicle impounded and will face steep fines. At the end of the year, all LSEVs may be gone from the streets of the capital. Whether this will really happen is still unknown, but perhaps this year is the last year one can see LSEVs roaming freely in the wild in Beijing.
Posters announcing the ban are everywhere, like on this public bulletin board in a compound in south Beijing. I have never seen that before, so it seems serious indeed. The ban will have huge implications. Folks will be without transportation, shops will close, people will lose their jobs, and manufacturers who mainly rely on Beijing may go bankrupt. A terrible idea. Like a nightmare. Let’s hope this ban will fare as the previous ones: lots of talks but not much happening. But I am a little scared that this time things won’t end well. And there are similar bans in other big cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou already. Happily, China is big, and LSEVs are still essential for getting around in smaller cities and down the countryside. Speaking of which:
Ducar Challenger 2
I was in the countryside this summer, about a three hour drive from west Beijing. They got all kinds of cool cars there that one doesn’t see in the capital. This is a large electric pickup truck tricycle. I met it in a small village where folks were sitting around, chatting about things, and minding their village business. Until just a few years ago, these kinds of farm vehicles were all petrol-powered, but nowadays most are electric.
That’s art. A navy boat with six canons and two satellite dishes, facing a challenging sea.
The Ducar Challenger 2 is powered by a 3 kW (4 horsepower) electric motor, and it has a top speed of 52 kilometers per hour (32 mph). Not 50 or 55. Nope, 52. It’s about 10 feet long, with a curb weight of 265 kg (582 pounds) and max load of 100 kg (220 pounds). It has a 72V, 58Ah battery pack. The Ducar brand is owned by Hebei Zhufeng Ducar Three-Wheel Motorcycle, based in Renqiu City in Hebei Province. Ducar is a well-known brand, I’ve known them for many years, and I have seen many of their older gasoline cars. The basic design is still the same as it was, just like the villages and villagers will always be what they were.
Living the LSEV life. With mud flaps.
All right, that is the end of this post. LSEVs are just cool, no matter where they are. More on my countryside adventures later on!