China Makes Big Play in EV Market with Great Wall’s Ora R1

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ThomasNet ran a piece this week on China’s latest blockbuster in the electric vehicle (EV) market: the Ora R1 hatchback from domestic automaker Great Wall.

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I say “blockbuster” not because it’s a rival to Tesla or a similar high-end brand — quite the opposite.

At under $9,000 (after massive subsidies available at the state and federal level in China), the Ora R1 could be a blockbuster in terms of sales.

With a projected range of 194 miles between charges and four doors, the article suggests the vehicle is firmly aimed at the less well-off commuter. In that context, it could have massive appeal for the authorities fighting smog and other forms of air pollution in China’s crowded cities.

The Ora R1 runs on just 47 horsepower with a top speed of about 62 mph, according to the report, which also quotes experts who say it should be capable of powering commuters for about a week per charge (based on real-world driving patterns).

Sounds like a winner, doesn’t it?

Maybe it will be, but for us it has echoes of Tata’s Nano “people’s car,” designed to lure consumers off their cheap motorcycles and into their set of four wheels.

Poor quality, reliability and growing losses forced Tata out of the sector. It was not helped, it should be added, by a PR disaster when the Nano displayed a tendency to burst into flames, frequently recorded on social media.

The Ora is packaging the R1 with a three-year, 120,000-kilometer (74,500 mile) warranty for the entire car, and an eight-year, 150,000-kilometer (93,200 mile) warranty for “core components,” suggesting reliability shouldn’t be a worry – providing the manufacturer honors its commitments.

Source: Great Wall Motors

Whether the Ora R1 will fare any better than the Nano remains to be seen. At prices between U.S. $8,680 to U.S. $11,293, the price is heavily subsidized and should retail at twice that level.

Even so, a $20,000 price in unsubsidized markets would pitch the Ora well under current small car contenders, such as the Nissan Leaf.

But success or failure hinges even more on quality and reliability in this sector than it did for the Nano in India, where consumers’ expectations were not high. EVs outside of China have so far been relatively high-end products with classy interiors and many modern innovations.

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A first road test for the R1 has yet to be released by the Western press. It has to be said, in the visual sense the car looks as bad as the old East German Trabant — but if it drives well, achieves its range projections and holds up from a reliability perspective, owners may yet ignore its ugly duckling looks and flock to what could prove to be a disrupter for the lower end of the EV market.

Comments (2)

  1. Leif Carlsson says:

    Just bought one, living in Nanning China. I am 64 years old have been driving for more than 45 year in Europe, Australia and now in China.

    Why buy this one? been interested in E-cars for some time and things have moved quickly the last year here in china. been driving 6 different EVs here and the feel is no different from automatic petrol ones. Even better and smother. The new generation is already here. this one have a battery density of 0.16 kw/h a kg a new land mark.
    Motor not so powerful but after i had a WW Tl in the 70th with 45 horse power I can compare. It was a bit sluggish but an electric motor is far better in power than a pettrol one in speeds between 50 to 80km/h and this is a urban car.

    It sitts 4 fully grown westeners with long legs (tested) and the finnish inside is astunning so don’t compear with TATA. The front seat is adjustably so far back so I hardly reach the pedals and I am 180 long with ordinary leggs.

    It is also build on a new platform for EVs and can handle level 2 autonomes driving
    It has voice recognision of most settings in conjunktion with buttons on the stearing weel. It is 250kg lighter than simmelar size of EVs built on petrol models.

    It is designed by a Japanese team in Kyoto for Great Wall in China. Ugly? perhaps a new trend? Have a look at Hondas comming new EV in about the same size, the front looks about the same and it is classic from the Renault R4 from the 60th

    Great wall is the oldest car manufacturer in china building more than 1 million cars a year with brands like Haval ex. ORA is their new EV brand fully owned. This is a garanti for continuation and quality and garanti.

    Well the ugly duckling turned out to be a swan. I think the though transformation is under way

    1. Stuart Burns says:

      Dear Leiferik
      Many thanks for your detailed and thoughtful comment on our OraR1 post this week. I was delighted to read your positive review of the car and heartened by your positive comments on the Chinese EV market. I share your enthusiasm for EV vehicles but may have been jaundiced by old world manufacturers here in Europe’s poor value to product offerings. Their EV’s are not bad they are just so excruciatingly expensive for what they are that they only appeal to price blind early adopters – i have been tempted but i am not price blind! The OraR1 is another matter, even without subsidy it is a compelling price and you report suggests it is a compelling product, that’s very encouraging.
      You’ll never sell me on the look though, i didn’t like the Renault in the 60’s and i i don’t like the OraR1 now, but looks are easy for Great Wall to restyle.
      -Stuart

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