It’s a good thing I don’t have any money or I might be at risk of buying some very stupid things.
Today’s very stupid thing is something referred to as a “low-speed community electric vehicle.” This obsession was sparked by a series of articles by jalopnik.com’s Jason Torchinsky, detailing his purchase of the cheapest electric car in the world, made by Chinese manufacturer ChangLi and sold for under $1,000 before adding batteries and shipping. Even after batteries and shipping it’s still about $4,000.
Some would call the car a glorified golf cart but golf carts cost more money. They’re also slower, as regulations allow for a lower top speed for a golf cart than they do a low-speed vehicle.
Of course, there’s the problem of whether you could actually drive one. It isn’t particularly easy to find if you can actually register and drive one in Saskatchewan, possibly because nobody asked before. For sane people, all inquiries could be met by with a picture of the relative heft of the Toyota Rav4 they will be sharing the road with - not even an average pickup truck - which would probably kill interest in the product.
Transport Canada, meanwhile, allows them to be driven but information also has many reminders that these vehicles have no real safety features. And honestly, they don’t, they’re designed for urban use only and they can’t be driven faster than 50 km/h. They also performed a crash test, which had a very detailed transcript which I can condense down to two words: don’t crash.
What I’m saying is that they’re very stupid things.
Not only that, they’re very stupid things that make no economic sense. Even at $4,000 for a brand new car-adjacent transportation device, you need to remember you can get an actual car for $4,000.
But these are electric, so you’ve got an environmentally friendly alternative to an older, emissions spewing car, right? While buying a used electric car is relatively complicated because this was never the main market for any of them, they are getting lower prices every day - a used Mitsubishi i-MiEV meets Transport Canada safety standards to be a real car, and used examples are already below $10,000, though typically on sale in markets like Quebec and Ontario. That’s over twice as much money, sure, but it’s also over twice as much car, which is a remarkable statement for what is a fairly tiny car.
So why do I even want one?
Because every time I see the ad for Alibaba, the marketplace where they’re all sold from factories in China, they make me laugh. They look like tiny Ford F150s and Jeeps, they have weird graphics on the side that I’m pretty sure the manufacturers aren’t allowed to use due to trademark law. They’re hilarious approximations of what cars are. They do have features - like back up cameras and actual stereos - but the most important thing is they’re straight up funny.
But how much are you willing to spend on a joke? I don’t think I’ll ever have enough money to spend $4,000 on something that I just find funny, even if driving it around town would be hilarious. And that’s why I’ll never have one. But I encourage everyone to look them up, to see these weird, cheap ways of going from place to place, often with the wrong number of wheels, and laugh.