The Wuling Mini EV from Chinese auto conglomerate SAIC sailed into Europe last month as ‘Freze Nikrob,’ with Lithuania being its first market. Dartz, the company selling the rebadged and modestly restyled electric car, which Nikrob UAB locally assembles, has plans for markets like Switzerland, ElectricVehicleWeb can exclusively reveal.
Leonard F. Yankelovich, who heads operations at Dartz, told ElectricVehicleWeb that the company wants to sell the Freze Nikrob and its convertible version, the Freze Froggy, in left-hand-drive markets in Europe. The company aims to conquer 10-20% of the market share in the micro car segment with this model. A study has been launched to prioritise the launch markets. “Every day we get 50-100 requests from one-car clients and 2-5 (requests) from potential dealers. Car is cheapest in EU and that makes sense. Now we are concentrated on carsharing companies,” Yankelovich told us.
Source: Youtube/Dartz Grupa
Dartz sees the cars going to right-hand drive markets in the region if there’s enough demand. Do note that a right-hand drive version doesn’t exist at the moment. Cyprus, Malta and Ireland could be among the countries that could get the rebadged Wuling Mini EV if a right-hand-drive version is released, and the studies show enough demand. Yankelovich told ElectricVehicleWeb that the company could manage the conversion in-house if it gets enough demand from RHD markets.
As for Switzerland, the company wants to build up presence not just with direct sales but shared mobility:
Yes, and of course. Especially Switzerland as own car is expensive here and we have our carsharing idea.Leonard F. Yankelovich, head of operations at Dartz, on the future availability of the Freze Nikrob
Dartz plans to build a charging network under the same name as Europe’s most affordable car – FreZe, Yankelovich told us. A car subscription service called “The Taste Of Honey” is planned. Customers will be able to drive down south from Norway or Sweden to warmer countries like Spain or Italy in their FreZe hatchback and enjoy the weather there in their open-top FreZe Froggy (FreZe cabriolet), he added.
Dartz is a Lithuanian armored 4×4 maker, and by teaming up with coachbuilder Nikrob for the small EV’s local assembly, it can sell the Freze at an attractive EUR 9,999 (USD 11,973). The Freze Nikrob is the most affordable EV in the EU as it undercuts the Dacia Spring (the incumbent title holder) by 2,500 EUR.
Wuling Mini EV
The Wuling Mini EV, launched in China in July 2020, is the best selling ‘new energy vehicle’ in the brand’s home market, as per a press release dated 9 April 2021 from GM, which is one of the joint venture partners responsible for the Mini EV (GM-SAIC-Wuling). In March 2021, 39,745 units of the Mini EV found buyers, and over 80,000 units have been sold in Q1 2021 alone, far ahead of the likes of the Tesla Model 3.
The success, according to GM, comes due to the young audience base of the Mini EV preferring its urban-friendly dimensions and youthful appearance. In 2021, Wuling introduces new variants of the Mini EV, a convertible style and a ‘Macaron’ hardtop with updated color palettes, to keep sales going.
2021 Wuling Mini EV Convertible (Freze Froggy)
The Mini EV Convertible debuted at the Auto Shanghai 2021 motor show, which opened its doors on 19 April. According to Chinese media, the images released by Wuling are not of a concept, but the production version.
Key changes to the Mini EV convertible include an electric soft top mechanism, dual 10-inch screens on the interior, upgraded trim and material, a white, dual-spoke steering wheel, and the rear seat’s deletion to accommodate the soft top. The Mini EV convertible is unlikely to see a change in its mechanical setup, but details have not been announced yet.
Dartz has confirmed that the estimated price of the Freze Froggy in Europe is EUR 20,000, and the launch is in summer 2022.
2021 Wuling Mini EV Macaron
Coming to the new Macaron variant of the Mini EV, three new colours are available for the exterior – Avocado Green, Lemon Yellow, White Peach Pink, and a solid colour contrasting roof. The Mini EV Macaron also sees new features, including a driver airbag, ABS, EBD, low-speed pedestrian monitoring, tire pressure monitoring system, rear parking camera, and rear parking sensors.
The electric powertrain is carried over from the 2020 model (specifications below). The Mini EV Macaron is priced from the equivalent of 5,740 USD (4,793 EUR) to 6,655 USD (5,557 EUR) in the Chinese market.
Wuling MINI EV
The Mini is the first fully electric model from Wuling, and the micro EV was launched with a 170 km travel range. It is built by the joint venture between SAIC Motor, General Motors, and Liuzhou Wuling Motors. The compact two-door four-seater with a short wheelbase is perfect for narrow roads and tight parking spaces. The design has been inspired by Japan’s Kei cars, but being an EV, the inside is spacious despite its compact dimensions thanks to a cab-forward design and the higher volume due to the flat roof.
The rear seat folds flat if not used, and the company claims that with the seat folded down, there is space for two large suitcases behind the driver. A 20 kW motor drives the car, which is offered with two battery capacities – 13.82 kWh and 9.2 kWh. The 13.82 kWh battery offers a range of 170 km (NEDC) and has an energy density of 110 Wh per kg, while the 9.2 kWh offers a range of 120 km (NEDC) and has a 100Wh per kg density.
The battery, covered by the manufacturer for 8 years/120,000 km, comes with preheating and insulation function, which allows it to be charged safely and efficiently at low temperatures. The battery pack is pre-started to warm up and maintain the temperature at 20-25° C to achieve low-temperature charging efficiency.
The Mini EV’s battery has passed 16 safety tests such as overcharge, over-discharge, overtemperature, short circuit, fire, seawater immersion, simulated collision, etc. Under the extreme cold and high temperatures of -25 to 45 ° C, the vehicle has completed 28 tests over 300,000 kilometres. The battery is IP68-rated for dust and water resistance. The vehicle comes with an intelligent battery management system that can monitor the battery status in real-time. It can be charged using a 220V three-pin plug at a household and is equipped with a high-efficiency charging gun with easy storage.
Wuling Mini EV specifications
|Maximum power (kW)||20|
|Battery capacity (kWh)||13.8 & 9.2|
|NEDC Range (km)||170 (13.8 kWh) & 120 (9.2 kWh)|
|Boot space (l) with rear seat folded||741|
In August 2020, SAIC’s Wuling said in a post on its Weibo account that it received more than 50,000 orders for and sold 15,000 units of the MINI EV in China 20 days since the vehicle’s launch. Before the launch, nearly 30,000 people had reserved the Wuling Mini EV in China, as per reports in local news outlets, so interest in this car was high even before its introduction.
Featured Image Source: Dartz