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Millions of people in China are embracing tiny, off-brand electric cars

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  1. skybrian
    From the article: [...] [...]

    From the article:

    One of the smaller shops on Zhengyang Road is officially known as Xinlei Scooters, its name emblazoned in white characters on a large red sign above its doors. But inside, past rows of electric scooters, is a smaller, flimsier plaque above the counter announcing its other name: Shitou Cars. This subterfuge is necessary because the police could shut down the operation and confiscate its vehicles if the owners were caught selling tiny cars. Yet because enforcement hasn’t been strict of late, attempts at being covert go only so far: There are several tiny cars parked outside, an open-air showroom.


    Part of the reason why tiny cars are so popular is because there has not been an official decision on whether they need license plates. For regular cars, unfettered access to Beijing’s inner city — anywhere within the fifth ring road — is restricted to cars with Beijing plates. Licenses for gas cars are distributed through a special system so competitive that it has generated its own black market. License-plate holders can collect up to $2,700 a year by renting them to those who want to drive in the city. In addition to government subsidies, getting around some of the more onerous aspects of the licensing system is one of the main selling points for regular electric cars.


    Despite the risks, Guo still thinks it’s worth being a tiny-car driver to make a little pocket money. Tiny cars are part of a last-mile economy that flourishes at the beginning and end of the workday. Many Fengtai residents are employed at the local high-tech park, which is host to thousands of businesses. It takes 20 minutes to walk from one end of the park to the other, a trip many would rather make by tiny car. The cars’ main competitors are share bikes, which are cheaper but lack space for luggage and can’t be split with a friend. Tiny cars are also more social — a feature Guo tries to capitalize on. She strikes up conversations with her customers, encouraging them to add her on WeChat or take her telephone number, so she can come straight to their door.

    The greatest fear among people in China’s tiny-car economy is that one day their vehicles will be banned. [...]