A brand new electric car is preparing to hit the U.S. and it’s either going to take EVs by storm because it’s super cheap, or it’s going to meet the same fate as the Yugoslavian “Yugo” in the early 1990s, which began the butt of every good car joke. Chinese electric carmaker Kandi has announced its official American debut, and the price tag will make these EVs the cheapest in the country. The only question now is: Do you get what you pay for?
Two models, currently ready to pre-order, are arriving as early as the end of 2020, starting in a limited area in Texas and sold through Texas-based Kandi America, the trade name of Kandi’s wholly-owned subsidiary SC Autosports, LLC.
The model K27 comes with a 17.69 kWh battery and a range of up to 100 miles and starts at $20,499. It’s also eligible for the $7,500 federal income tax credit, which would put it at just under $13,000.
The larger K23 has a 41.4 kWh battery and a driving range of more than 180 miles with starting price just under $30,000, again, before applying federal incentives.
Both of the models, even without the federal incentives, are less expensive than other EVs sold in the U.S.
Kandi says it is now actively looking to build an electric car factory in North America. And while it’s largely unknown to most Western consumers, Kandi is a big name in China. It’s a joint venture between Kandi Vehicles and one of China’s largest automakers, Geely Group, which in turn is the parent company of Sweden’s Volvo.
Kandi Chairman Xiaoming Hu said in a statement that the target group is middle-class American who have few affordable EV choices.
“…owning the (EV) car often eluded consumers who desired a great EV alongside all the other comforts of modern living. Kandi is changing that by revolutionizing the EV-buying experience for many. Kandi’s mission is to make electric cars accessible to all,” the statement said.
So while the affordability boxes are ticked here, reliability and performance remain big unknowns.
Kandi launched EV production in 2007 and on the domestic market their cars are mostly used by the car-sharing companies. However, China has a different set of safety standards.
So far, it has been difficult for Chinese automakers to break into the U.S. market as vehicles sold here require approved safety equipment, such as anti-lock brakes, airbags, traction control, and exterior lighting. In addition, all vehicles sold in the U.S. are subject to crash testing by the NHTSA.
In February last year, Kandi announced it had received approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to import mentioned two models which are still not being sold on the Chinese market.
However, Kandi is not listed on the EPA’s fuel economy website or among the NHTSA’s crash tests, so progress on certification is not clear.
CNN wrote that its reporters in China were unable to find any records of crash tests of those two models or other Kandi models.
As for Yugo, in the early 1990s, UN sanctions on what was left of Yugoslavia halted exports and that was the end of the Yugo in America. Despite the fact that Yugo was labeled as the “Worst Car Ever” and “Worst Car of the Millennium” but also the cheapest, it still sold almost 140,000 cars in the U.S. during its 8-year tenure on the market. Due to the popularity and tech features, none of them are on the U.S. roads now.