HOW bad is air pollution in China? In 2015, the Chinese government banned half of Beijing’s five million registered cars from the streets, and closed hundreds of factories to ensure an azure blue sky for China’s Victory Day Parade.
Amazingly, it worked. The skies turned blue and the air quality index (AQI) dropped to 17 out of 500. But just a day after the ban was lifted, the Beijing smog was back.
China has one of the most publicised air pollution problems in the world, and the government is working hard to solve it.
One of their strategies is to introduce zero-emission vehicles into their transport mix.
Electric buses, trucks and, of course, cars are currently being manufactured in China and they enjoy attractive subsidies from the government.
Though electric vehicles are much-publicised in the West, China, in fact, has the most electric vehicles globally.
Which brings us to Geely’s Emgrand EV, which is its best-selling electric car. Last year, 17,100 Emgrand EVs were sold in the country.
With a list price of 195,800 yuan (RM124,000), the Chinese government offers an incentive that brings it down to 128,800 yuan.
During a recent visit to Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd, we had an opportunity to test the Emgrand EV300 near the firm’s research and development centre in Huangzhou Bay.
At first glance, it was hard to know that it was an electric car. The plain-looking Emgrand EV design was based on the previous-generation Emgrand EC7, which was one of the best-selling passenger cars in China.
Only some blue accents on the front grille, dashboard, seats and what used to be the gas cap gives away the fact that this car is not powered by dinosaur juice.
The Emgrand EV is 4,631mm long, 1,789mm wide and a wheelbase of 2,650mm, making it surprisingly closer to the size of a current-generation Honda Civic (which is 4,644mm long, 1,799mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2,700mm).
The interior is neat, but uninspiring. The materials are of a good quality and the interior is well put together. The steering feels solid to the touch and there is liberal use of soft touch plastics. Some bits and pieces though, like the drive selector, feel a bit flimsy.
Despite its exterior dimensions, the Emgrand EV is not particularly spacious inside. However, if we judge the car by the standard of other electric vehicles currently in production, it is definitely a bigger version.
It has a range of 300km. With a 41 KWh lithium battery pack, the Emgrand EV has a maximum power output of 95kw and 240Nm of torque. The car can be trickle charged in about 13 hours from a normal house socket and fast charged in just 45 minutes.
Our test drive was very brief, so we had no way of testing if it would hold up to its paper specifications in terms of range. However, the car was torquey and accelerated strongly. It achieved the century sprint in under 10 seconds, making its petrol equivalent (a generation younger), the Emgrand GL, feel lethargic in comparison.
Despite the test track being relatively short, we managed to see 140kph on the speedometer.
The Emgrand EV was quite pleasant to drive. The steering felt natural and well-weighted. Noise and vibration levels in the cabin were at acceptable levels even at high speed.
In the sweltering summer heat, there was one advantage the Emgrand EV seemed to have over its petrol counterparts. Perhaps due to its cooler engine bay (due to the lack of an engine), the Emgrand EV’s air-conditioning worked remarkably well, making it (forgive the pun) the coolest car on the track.
Naturally, the question is whether this car will be made available in the Malaysian market soon, and whether a rebadged version will ever be made for Proton Holdings Bhd.
Is it a car that could introduce the masses to electric mobility back home?
It would depend on its price tag. Without subsidies, the car would sell at RM124,000 (about the price of a top-of-the-line Honda Civic). A bit steep for something that is much less refined and with more limited practicality.
Electric cars like the Tesla Model 3 (US$35,000, or RM150,150, in base trim) have visual pizzaz and offer shock and awe with their sports-car like acceleration and speed. The Emgrand EV has neither of these attributes, which would likely limit its appeal.
There is no answer from Proton or Geely on whether the car will make its way to Malaysia.
However, according to Geely, an improved version with 500km range is already in the works, which would make the EV a more interesting preposition for Malaysians.