China is the largest market for electric vehicles in the world. Not highway-speed passenger electric automobiles but low-speed electric vehicles, which in China do not qualify as automobiles.
There are literally hundreds of low-speed electric vehicle manufacturers in China and they manufactured over 200,000 four-wheel low-speed EVs in 2013. This low-speed electric vehicle revolution has put over half a million EVs on the roads in China while nobody was looking. Even in China, most people don't realize how invasive these vehicles have become or how powerful the low-speed EV industry in China has become.
The cheapest low-speed EVs sell for $2,000 while a top-of-the-line vehicle can sell for $12,000. Luxury models include power steering, power brakes, heating and air conditioning. Keep in mind that a cheap new gasoline automobile sells for only $5,000 in China. Low-speed EVs in China are usually based on a welded steel frame with a stamped steel body on top. These vehicles combine automobile design practices from the 1930's with modern manufacturing processes to produce the cheapest electric vehicles in the world. Bodies are stamped using low-cost, low-volume stamping dies and then cut using three-dimensional laser cutting robots.
Low-speed EVs in China combine automobile design practices from the 1930's with modern manufacturing processes to produce the cheapest electric vehicles in the world.
An entire stamped steel body for an electric vehicle can now be tooled up for less than $1 million, which is incredibly cheap and unheard of in the automobile industry outside China. An entire metal stamping industry has grown up to service the low-speed EV market. Amateur car designers are now financing their own EV projects, creating some cars which just three years ago would have never seen the light of day, as you can see in our accompanying gallery.
The low-speed vehicle market has also fostered the growth of component manufacturers for electric automobiles. China is home to a half-dozen electric heating/air conditioning systems manufacturers and another half-dozen manufacturers of electric power brake systems. Five years ago there were none. This supplier growth will benefit China's electric automobile industry in the years to come.