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In China, an electric car lifestyle (cbsnews.com)
66 points by prostoalex 53 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

Just a bit of anecdotal side-data: I've recently switched to a full electric transportation lifestyle, having replaced my much-loved Vespa with an Unu Motoros electric moped .. and nothing will ever make me go back to a combustion engine ever again.

Electric transportation is just so, so good.

Sure, the Unu is under-powered by comparison with its gas-guzzling ancestors, but this is regulatory not technical (Unu's are soft-limited to 45km/h here in Europe, alas) but electric is really the wave of the future. I get home and back again on my Unu with just as much comfort as I did with the Vespa - only I'm completely silent, and not woofing fumes at every stop. Plus, its incredibly cheap to charge the batteries.

I think, once a few more people experience life on electric wheels, there is going to be a turning point where the archaic gas-guzzlers rapidly get replaced with green alternatives. We already see this here in middle-Europe (Vienna) - electric vehicles are becoming more and more common, and in a very eco-/green- centric market such as Vienna, not a week goes by without seeing more and more of these vehicles on the road.

If anyone is on the fence about it, consider switching. It may not quite have the revs and torque of the gas-guzzlers, but the benefits - clean and efficient travel - are worth the effort by far.

I'll ride my Unu another year or two, and then upgrade to something with a bit more speed, maybe a Čezeta if I can get one in a year or two. Electric is just so much fun, even at the lower-grade Unu level .. and even though it was cheaper to go from gas-Vespa to Unu, I still get a bump on the lifestyle credentials. My friends and family are envious of the electric aspect, even though the thing is nowhere near as performant as the old Vespa GTS was. (Yes, I know Vespa have an electric variant now too - I'm gonna upgrade to Čezeta though .. nicer style!)

I see electric vs gas in the same way as fast food versus organic.

A person working a low wage job, working 12 or 16 hour days burned-out may pop into a fast food restaurant for a quick burger. An executive with time to spare and money to burn may have time to cook their own meal with high quality ingredients.

It's the same for electric vehicles. You save on costs since it is cheaper to "fuel" it but the initial cost and the lack of charging stations is a problem right now. If you have the money and the resources it's great but right now not everyone has that ability.

I can certainly see it eventually that vehicles will be all be electric. But for now it's too expensive for working poor or even middle class, at least in my region. So for now it's fast food.

You're incorrect, you should consider all forms of electric transport - seems you're just referring to car ownership. If you're talking about scooters, bikes, mopeds, skateboards - those are all coming in at an affordable level and comparable to someone who needs a beater to get around town.

Poor people generally can't afford to live within bike or moped or good transit distance to work.

A schoolteacher living in North Bend isn't going to moped 30 miles down a freeway to get to her workplace in Seattle.

But they can certainly hop on an electric bus (as some MetroKC buses are now)

And only have a 2 hour one-way commute!

As opposed to a 40 minute drive. It's truly a wonder that poor Americans aren't falling over head-over-heels to get on the non-automobile commute bandwagon. The bandwagon that either requires tripling their commute time, or living somewhere they can't afford.

In next week's discussion of the subject, we will look at the trade-offs of suggesting that the peasantry, when they lack bread, should turn to eating cake.

You can get a decent ebike for $500. You can get a still-good Nissan Leaf used for under $10k. These are within the grasp of a lot of folks.

Yeah but you can get a still-good small gasoline-powered car for a small fraction of that, and it will have 3-4 times the range of the Leaf and refuel time of 5 minutes at the nearest gas pump.

Automobile wise we have entered a phase where EVs easily can be used as a second vehicle for those who can charge at home or have really convenient charging opportunities. I still think Tesla has the only full replacement since they have both the range and charging network to back it; disclaimer is that I own a TM3. Personal view, premium EVs autos must be three hundred miles plus, all others two hundred plus.

Motorcycle wise, if you want to see the limitations its all very evident on this stage. Cars can pack on the weight and hide it well but the same cannot be said for motorcycles. I don't know of any brand using a liquid cooled battery pack which means longevity of current offerings is questionable.

EV cars are more than capable of holding their own against petrol cars but upfront cost, charging opportunities, and range in cold weather, are still issues for many buyers. EV motorcycles and scooters are still fair weather affairs with inherent limitations of air cooled pack.

I think you have primary and secondary confused? Primary car has long connoted "daily commuter" and secondary vehicle "extended range/vacation/backup/family needs". EV's are doing great in primary "daily commuter" needs, but yes, some of the secondary car concerns are where a lot of people are held up (especially one car households where primary car also has to account for all secondary needs).

You are just confusing your primary/secondary role categories with their first/second car purchase categories. As you even said yourself, the first car for a household usually addresses all needs, not just primary needs.

Just to add to your anecdotal evidence. I'm driving a Renault Zoé here in London.

It's a humble car in pretty much every regard, but the torque is just incredible. It wizzes and leaves any petrol/ sport car behind at the red light.

Not that's of any uses but it's always fun.

Its a real paradigm shift to go from internal combustion to electric. There really isn't any comparison - electric is a better user experience, all the way. If only my Unu didn't have the soft-limit though, lol ..

That's too slow. I need something that can accelerate up to 70kph. I don't know what Gogoro are doing I've tried one in Taipei and I want one now, but I cannot buy it in Europe.

I've got a surron electric bike which does 45mph or about 70kph on flat ground. It's a bike that can be registered as a moped (with DOT lights added, some places option them already for this) or used as an electric bicycle (it can be optioned with an janky crankset, but it's more for appearances than pedaling).

It's a lot of fun, I ride it more than my cbr, but it does blur the lines of bike and motorcycle which can be tricky.

I'm ready to give away a really solid chunk of cash if Shenzhen will let me drive a moped here again (mopeds and motorcycles are officially banned in Shenzhen.)

People buy Nius here and there, and have them confiscated regularly every few months. Niu is not ok for me, not as comfy as maxi scooters, nor fast as 150cc.

If I will commit to buying a proper electric moped, I would like not to have it being seized every few months.

Interesting. eBikes are ok?

ebikes are, but the edge in between powerful ebike and a moped does not seem to clear to anybody here, police included.

Adding to the confusion, mopeds from neighbouring municipalities, may or may not be let into some areas of "peripheral districts" depending on legal technicalities. You may have your moped impounded in Baoan centre, but can drive safely in Baoan if you have moped numberplate from a neighbouring rural locality, and do not stick into "centre."

In practice, police impounds a moped first, and thinks later

It’s not that electric vehicles are green, it’s just that they allow your ultimate power source to be easily swapped with something green. At least in the US, the majority of electricity is generated from fossils fuels, so I think it’s a little disingenuous to say that EV is green (by default).

Nobody could ever argue that the US is green.

But many European countries have wind farms, and decent solar. Europe is way greener, energy-wise, than the US - still has a long way to go, sure, but for sure electric vehicles stand a much better change of a green-source advantage in most of Europe over pretty much anywhere at all in the US.

EV's are still greener even if the battery is charged from a coal fired power station.

Great to hear your experiences!

Looked into the Unu for my father, but as he is nearing retirement, the old petrol scooter will probably be good for another two or three years.

I for myself would love something like a 125ccm scooter with electric engine. Do you know if there is something like that on the market?

They look great!

Somehow like the Jetsons, where everything was modern but with a view on how people at that time thought "modern" would look like.

One could argue about the price, but around 15k Euro isn't too expensive after all.

Why would one downvote this? I asked for advice and as OP seems to be informed I thought this was a good place to ask...

having replaced my much-loved Vespa with an Unu Motoros electric moped

These only appear to be available in Germany, it seems: https://unumotors.com/en/product.

I wonder what the U.S. equivalent is.

$87.00/mo or $2045.00 one time payment. That's really nice although as people said it is a little low on the top speed if you need to take it on any faster roadways / highways.

For city driving it seems absolutely perfect in terms of performance, convenience, and most importantly: price.

Looks really slick as well. I'm loving the different color options. Too bad you can only pick one stock ;P

Honestly a big feature is the removable battery too. People who live in cities can't just plug in their car/scooter when they get home because they don't have garages. Being able to pull the battery pack out and charge it in your apartment radically changes the logistics of charging for the better.

I'm curious why they're described as "mopeds" when no pedals are visible. Maybe they pop out or something but with that seating position, they can't be useful for any serious transportation. I'd call it an electric scooter or step-through e-bike. The equivalent would just be an e-bike.

The language varies internationally. In the UK I would call a small step through scooter a moped. We don't really have the pedalled equivalent. I only know this because i read this http://www.mopedtrip.com/more/worldrecord.html

> much-loved Vespa with an Unu Motoros electric moped

Your neighbours love you now.

They really didn't mind the Vespa, but now they really love the Unu - pretty much everyone who notices its an electric moped wants to know more, take it for a ride, and comes away impressed.

Its definitely the case that the torque and power aren't there - yet - but its also true that you can feel the machine wants to do more when the soft-limits kick in.

At least in Denmark, I really hate the petrol mopeds.

For some reason I don't understand, they're allowed to use most bike paths. That means they overtake the bicycles (and I don't like being overtaken with little clearance by larger, heavier vehicles) and leave a trail of fumes all along the cycle path. They're naturally going to be first in line at the traffic lights, spewing more fumes for the cyclists behind them.

On my commute, I'll change my route if there's a moped ahead.

(Cars are bad too, but they're not in my face, and seem to have much better emissions controls.)

At least in Paris, I'm being slowly killed by petrol mopeds.

Literally: https://www.airparif.asso.fr/actualite/detail/id/255

Electric mopeds/bikes aren’t that great either, at least for pedestrians. I’ve almost been creamed a few times by one silently coming up in me in Beijing. They should at least hum or something. And they definitely shouldn’t be on the side walk doing 30km/h.

They shouldn't be on the sidewalk period... Neither should bikes.

But this is China we are talking about so....

How far is your commute?

14 km's daily, so 28km's total every day. The Unu has two batteries - I can get into work and back on a single battery, so without charging I can get to work and back twice. With the dual-batteries, it means I charge one of them every night .. not too un-friendly.

And, being the battery removable, you could always take it to the office and chargit there O:) ;)

I'm checing a Torrot Muvi now, which is around 3K€...

I’m most excited not about the cars, but about all of the battery factories (hopefully) being spun up to meet the demand. 18650s are still relatively pricy and challenging to get cheaply without risk of a scam. Once the price-per-cell drops we can see all kinds of great innovations with batteries.

There’s some really cool easyEDA projects being designed that will let anyone build a power wall for their home. The biggest cost factor is always the batteries.

As a low quantity benchmark, for building small to mid size UAV battery packs, I am seeing the Panasonic NCR18650GA in small quantities for between $4.50 to $5.00 per cell. From battery vendors I can trust to not be shipping counterfeits. It's a 3500mAh 10A discharge rated cell.


I have seen unsubstantiated claims that Tesla now has the cost for the Model 3 battery pack below $100 per kWh. The details of which they're obviously not going to give out for competitive reasons, though some rough estimates might find their way into quarterly and yearly SEC reports, earnings phone calls with investors, etc.

The interesting thing for me about electric cars is that a lot of the "car" part is sort of a solved problem. A Tesla Model 3 or a Bolt or equivalent are a totally acceptable small to mid size car. The manufacturers of these don't need to do a lot of further development of the car to make it a good product. What they need, and are counting on, is global economies of scale to bring down the cost of building the battery pack of the car, so that they can incorporate those lower costs (and greater mAh stored per cell) advancements into their product, and then sell it to the consumer.

I have no doubt that in ten years from now 21700 format cells will be significantly less costly in $ per kWh stored, and will have a greater Wh per kilogram and Wh per cubic cm/volume ratio.

On that front no small cylindrical cells can beat "brick" prismatic cells, they are the only ones which can be realistically expected to beat $100 without material costs going down, in fact, they do so already.

Though... manufacturing of big prismatic cells never took off anywhere except for China.

I haven’t seen a hobbyist with a large project use anything other than cylindrical cells. Packs seem more geared towards RC etc. at least from my perspective we’re a long ways away from packs being a better value.

lipo are pretty much all prismatic/pouch type cells, and used for RC/UAV applications that need high amperage draw.

nissan leaf batteries are prismatic flat type. not sure who actually makes them.

Where do you buy the NCR18650GA cells?


note these are really not the best cells for general use, they're the best for UAV applications where Wh/kg is really important. These have a rather limited cycle life compared to lower capacity batteries in the 3000mAh range, which are rated at 5A to 8A discharge, that will not suffer as much amp-hour-capacity degradation after 400-500 cycles.

You could increase adoption drastically with the restrictions for example of Beijing. You aren’t allowed to enter the city unless the car is registered in Beijing. You aren’t allowed to drive on certain days depending on your license plate. You can’t just register a car, but it enters a lottery and you wait until you are one of the chosen ones. Though a lot of people buy two cars to be able to drive on any day of the week, an electric car is probably cheaper.

This might really catch-up. From what I've read (could be obviously wrong, as many reports we get from the "wild" east) that for people in China it is important to be able to show their position in the society - that's one of the reason of housing bubble; having a flat/home is a marker of being someone with rather high position.

This, in turn, is partly caused by the imbalance between man and woman in China strongly in favor of man (so woman can be more choosy - times has changed and it seems a baby girl is no longer a burden).

Plus, the market is huge and probably Chinese government will make sure that Tesla or whatever foreign Nio's competitor will be in a much weaker position.

Social network restricted only to Nio's owner strangely resembles Facebook in the early days - a social network for students from top universities - being able to join was also a marker of "high social status".

>From what I've read (could be obviously wrong, as many reports we get from the "wild" east) that for people in China it is important to be able to show their position in the society - that's one of the reason of housing bubble; having a flat/home is a marker of being someone with rather high position.

As far as homes go, it's more like homeownership is culturally considered a prerequisite to marriage. Maybe the closest equivalent in the west would be having a job, you wouldn't want your daughter to get married to a guy without a job or the means to get one, because working is part of growing up.

Many well-to-do parents buy second properties to gift their children for when they are ready to get married.

> This might really catch-up. From what I've read (could be obviously wrong, as many reports we get from the "wild" east) that for people in China it is important to be able to show their position in the society - that's one of the reason of housing bubble; having a flat/home is a marker of being someone with rather high position.

The deemed "big problem" these days in China is that millennials are "not buying more than 1 house."

And even bigger "tragedy" is said to be that richer millenials prefer to rent fancy apartments over buying...

That used to be a very, very, big thing in the past, but then the phenomenon reversed almost overnight. I'd say that happened in 2017-2018.

That "status marketing" is actually being counted as something very cheap these days. People begin to ridicule ones who buy huge chauffeured cars with small engines, and so on. That's something more for more inept middle aged people - the demographic niche that has been squeezed dry by everybody over the course of last 10 years.

Strange. I'm no expert in the field, but I always considered China to be good with money and save a lot. Meanwhile west race to who spends more, not who makes more.


I've been meeting William on all kinds of industry events for a very very long time. For 2 or 3 years, the guy was running around every car expo, begging for money, claiming to have a "production ready car" on podium, despite it being visible that it was just a poorly done fibreglass mockup. When I took a look underneath it, I saw that it had a live axle and a motor similar to one in Chinese electric tricycles.

When he was challenged on that once, he allowed the guy to have a "test drive," for which he had him sign a few pages long NDA, but everybody can hear the fibreglass squeaking.

For the few, "fake it until you make it" actually works.

Some people with Nios around say that it is "not as bad as they originally expected it."

Though, how he markets Nio is cheap...

They seem to have pulled it together recently... the Niu EP9 holds the Nurburgring lap record for an EV at 6:45.9 which is a ridiculous pace for any vehicle.

NIO had more than half of its engineering staffed by unpaid interns at one point (sounds unreal, but just google it.)

People should expect more from somebody who wants to have that "serious man" image.

Yes, they barely made it after burning through 150m cash and years of "almost happened" launches, trying to manufacture it themselves or third tier garbage OEMs, all thanks to that shocking naivety of their CEO (a yet another Steve Jobs wannabe type)

It only happened when they got enough money to show to JAC for a joint venture making ES6 and ES8. Before that, they had no chances really

P.S. NIO and Niu are different companies fyi

Wow, that sounds pretty sketchy. I guess it just goes to show how important persistence is. The game's not over til you admit it's over! (Or get thrown in jail or kicked out onto the street, I guess.)

Didn't the EP9 make only the barest minimum requirements to count as a "production vehicle", solely to win that lap record?

Doesn't that describe any "production vehicle" with a lap time less than about 8 minutes?

Right, certainly the EP9 isn't the only one to do it, so it's not a sole factor in judging Nio's work/intentions. But it certainly stands that "has a lap record" isn't necessarily any sort of sign for conviction from a company with nearly no other track record (terrible pun intended).

Nio is indeed cheaper than Model 3 in China.

This article and the accompanying video are embarassingly bereft of important details. Has reporting falling so far to having a pretty blonde face present bland, undetailed content on what is an essential electrification movement in a massive economy? In that 4 minute video, what percentage of the time features the reporter's face vs. an actual electric car?

60 minutes has become worse over time, I'm not surprised. Articles/videos like this are good for putting topics on our radars, to investigate further on our own.

The Wikipedia article isn't bad:


I only watched the video. Seemed like it it hit the major points well. I've seen videos where a reporter is trying to make a story all about them and this wasn't one of them.

I wish I can test drive one of these in the US. Competition is always good for capitalism but I fear for Tesla and the implications for manufacturing their cars in China soon with many of these Chinese government backed EV companies. That being said, I find it interesting how there's a couple Chinese companies that are on the US stock exchange. A couple of my friends was raving about the NIO IPO a couple months back about how a Chinese government funded "Tesla" cannot fail. It's weird how it's acceptable to buy a "stock" of a company without really owning part of it, similar to Alibaba. The stocks on the exchange is just a subsidy of the company that contracts to share the profit among the holders.

I mean stock literally gives you a fraction of shareholder equity, which in total, is Assets - Liabilities.

So maybe you don’t own the assets before the liabilities, but stock is very literally giving you ownership in the company.

Not most (if not all) Chinese owned companies on the US stock exchange. Chinese laws prevents the ownership of foreign entities on companies. To circumvent this, most of the "stocks" on the exchange is for a subsidiary and the stock holders has zero ownership over the company, similar to a C stock for Alphabet. Alibaba for example, you are owning a subsidiary that shares the profit in the Cayman Islands. You are not owning any part of the company.

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