Manufacturing News

China-made small electric car hits U.S. market

A small electric car built by Shuanghuan Auto Co. of Hebei province, has been shipped to the United States where it is being sold as the Wheego Whip small low speed vehicle.

Wheego Whip, a small electric car built by Shuanghuan Auto Co.

This is in spite of a threat of legal action by Daimler AG, which considers the car as a copy of its Smart fortwo.

In an email interview with Automotive News China, Mike McQuary, CEO of Wheego Electric Cars of Atlanta, GA. said he has plans to sell the small car as a regular car in 2010. "We are conducting crash tests and will sell it as a full-speed car in mid 2010," he said.

The car's body and chassis are shipped over to the U.S. from China. In California other components such as the motor, controller, wire harnesses, dashboard and battery are installed.

The car currently uses an AGM sealed lead acid battery made by Discover Energy, a US based company. It will travel 80 km (50 miles) on a single charge-and plug in for a recharge on any standard household 110 or 220-volt electrical outlet, according to McQuary.

"We started shipping four weeks ago, and have shipped 60 [cars] so far," said McQuary. So far 20 dealers have signed up to sell the $18,995 (129,775 yuan) low speed electric car. "We are adding dealers each day," he added.

By mid 2010 the car will have a bigger motor and will be charged by a lithium ion phosphate battery. The car will then sell for around $28,000 (191,299 yuan), said McQuary.

For dealers who sign up for the low speed car, there will be bigger and better things to come in the future.

"Current dealers will get the territory rights to all our future cars," said McQuary.

McQuary brushed off claims that the car is a copy of Daimler's Smart fortwo. "The Wheego is much larger," he said.

But Daimler AG is threatening legal action.

"Offering a vehicle so  obviously  similar  to  the  smart  fortwo  is  violation  of intellectual  property,  no  matter  how  the  Noble was executed," said Daimler spokesperson Trevor Hale in a statement to Automotive News China.

In November 2008, Shuanghuan Automobile and U.S. company Ruff & Tuff Electric Vehicles formed a partnership to produce and market electric vehicles.

RTEV was later re-named Wheego Electric Vehicles.

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