The unveiling of a range of very affordable electric cars by Kandi America may have missed the mark with potential buyers and investors.
Billed as the “most affordable electric car to hit the US market”, the tiny Kandi K27 will set initial buyers back just $US9,999 ($A13,918 converted) after the $SU7,500 tax credit is deducted.
Its slightly larger stablemate, the K23, goes on sale at $US19,999 ($A27,838 converted) after the tax credit, undercutting the Mini Cooper SE by several thousand dollars.
To whip up excitement, Kandi offered a further $US2,500 discount for the first 1,000 buyers of either the K23 and the K27, as well as announcing a giveaway of a K23 to one lucky registrant to the vehicles’ unveiling.
But following an online event to introduce the Kandi K23 and K27 electric vehicles on Tuesday, for which the US subsidiary of China’s Kandi Technologies Group said some 11,000 people had registered, just 436 $US100 pre-order reservations had been made as of Wednesday.
Not only that, but its stock values have floundered. Although values inflated by some 240% in late July prior to its launch, post-launch saw a 13.5% drop in values, followed by another 8.84% drop on Wednesday.
Why the vehicles have both met with such a cool reception is entirely speculative.
But it could be that those expecting to be dazzled by Kandi’s “sleek design and advanced technology” (as the company put in its press release on the launch) may have been slightly underwhelmed.
If you’re going on presentation alone, viewing the streaming event was not exactly scintillating – in this writer’s opinion it had all the air of a home shopping show.
Compared to the huge amounts of hype and the rockstar-style event that launched Tesla boss Elon Musk’s pet project Cybertruck – which is offered on pre-order for the exact same price – it is certainly in an entirely different arena.
As InvestorPlace’s Will Ashforth points out, the fact that Kandi Technologies Group is possibly facing a class action for inaccurate financial statements is not exactly reassuring either.
Still, there is plenty of room in the market for super affordable EVs that fit any budget and also cost next to zero to run and maintain. Take Australia, where there are no new electric cars priced under $A45,000.
But low cost also has its downside – Kandi are offering low driving range and small-medium battery offerings (the K27 has a 17.68kWh battery with 160km estimated range and 20kW output, while the K23 has a 41.4kWh battery, 302km estimated range and 49kW output).
And the Kandi K27, in particular, plays straight into perceptions that EVs are what Tesla has been trying to prove they aren’t – low-powered, and can’t drive far.
Is there really value in buying a low spec’d car that is essentially disposable, compared to higher-priced vehicles that are upgradable via over-the-air updates (a feature spearheaded by Tesla but that is seeing more legacy car makers start to follow)?
All in all – they just don’t seem that exciting.
All of that said, we haven’t even seen one. And going by the reactions from the test drives shown in Kandi’s unveiling video (which you can see here), there are some things people apparently love about the EV – such as a large touch screen, zippy and smooth ride, and an interior that is more spacious inside than it first appears.
Here’s hoping Kandi finds its market, because the more EVs that hit the mark on price, as well as appeal, the quicker a transition to electric mobility will happen.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.