Street legality will vary by jurisdiction.
October 20, 2021 3:59 AM   Subscribe

The website Electrek brings you news from the electric vehicle industry, but even if you aren't in the market for a new vehicle, you might just enjoy a closer look at the bizarre and at times deeply cursed world of electric vehicles available on Alibaba, including such favorites as a standing scooter with an alleged top speed of 60 MPH (100 km/h) or a racing motorcycle clearly designed by Dr. Seuss.

(Hat tip to Kottke)
posted by DoctorFedora (33 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
That unicycle looks fun as hell, as long as it has built-in Segway (TM) balancing tech included. I mean, who ever didn't want to pull a wheelie all the way from point A to point B?
posted by chavenet at 4:25 AM on October 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

This has given me the desire to get bumper boats for the Amsterdam canals…
posted by thedaniel at 4:27 AM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Turns out it is possible to look like a dork on a motorcycle. You just have to remove the front wheel.
posted by Foosnark at 4:35 AM on October 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

I mean, who ever didn't want to pull a wheelie all the way from point A to point B?

*raises hand emphatically*

I am a strong believer in BOTH halves of "shiny side up, rubber side down," thanks.
posted by solotoro at 4:38 AM on October 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'll be honest if I was test driving the purported most dangerous electric cars in the I think I'd wear more protection than just a helmet without a faceguard.
posted by geoff. at 4:44 AM on October 20, 2021

The mini pickup with hydraulic dump-truck feature has got my attention. Actually getting one of those delivered to an address in the U.S. is apparently a 3-4x cost multiplier, though.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 5:38 AM on October 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Every once in awhile, I have a "If I win the lottery" daydream of going to EMF Camp with one of these bad boys, but oh no, new winner.

Toot toot! I'm a motorist!
posted by Katemonkey at 6:20 AM on October 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Jason over at the Jalopnik car site imported the cheapest car on Ali and did a whole series on them. He was genuinely impressed with how good it was - you're not going to take any long trips in these, but it's a handy ride to the store.

Changli Unboxing Video

They are actually road legal in many places under limited conditions. In my town (or county, I forget which) you can operate them on roads with speed limits up to 30 or 35 mph.
posted by wotsac at 6:26 AM on October 20, 2021 [14 favorites]

I love that the video of the 100 Km/H scooter has the driver wearing knee-guards but no helmet.
posted by signal at 6:27 AM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I spend time in a small town where you almost never see locals driving their cars around town, everyone seems to have golf carts or those "UTVs" to get around (other than walking) -- I totally want to have one of these crazy looks-kinda-like-a-car things from the Jalopnik video to tool around town in. Too bad we're almost as far from a port as you can get in North America.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:16 AM on October 20, 2021

I like the monocycle, but it would look less dorky if they hadn't styled it like a racing motorcycle.
posted by ardgedee at 7:17 AM on October 20, 2021

I got caught up in these this summer.
An initial search for an electric bicycle motor (for a friend) led to weirder and weirder electric motorcycle/car/scooter/dump truck contraptions.

I very nearly imported one (just an electric motorcycle that was pretty normal) until I couldn't answer the question of how I'd insure it. And what I would even do with it.

There was also a car for about $4kcad that would honestly be fine for most of my needs, with one exception: it had no airbags or other safety features. Since the car is mostly for carrying a car seat... No deal.
posted by Acari at 7:22 AM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Bonus content: Sandy Munro giving the Changli a once-over.
posted by aramaic at 7:22 AM on October 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm intrigued by #vanlife meets #tinyhomes. There's video of the interior in the article.
posted by Nelson at 7:41 AM on October 20, 2021

They had a Mario Kart-styled electric go-kart, but missed the chance of styling the electric unicycle to look like Yoshi?
posted by acb at 7:52 AM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I feel we're in the middle of a Cambrian explosion of EV development. Every day I see new designs on the road that stretch the boundaries of belief. All of this is being driven by consumer demand. I like it.
posted by scruss at 8:34 AM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

There is a yellow duck boat.
posted by readinghippo at 8:56 AM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Electric bikes and personal mobility gadgets have absolutely exploded gone bananas around my part of the world and it's been amazing to see. Mostly ebikes, but I've seen a bunch of electric skateboards, monowheels (skateboard-like with one big fat tire you stand on sideways) and solo wheels (unicycle-like with one narrow wheel you stand over like a unicycle).

There's one guy I see out there with a monowheel and he has to be able to hit 25-30 MPH on that thing, and he's like, oh, 60 something.

A bit over a year and a half ago I converted my bike to 1000-1200ish watt ebike that hits peaks of 2200 watts and it's been a game changer, especially during the pandemic. I haven't been on a bus since I got it, which is saying something because I've been anti-car my whole life and these days I get into someone else's car as a passenger maybe once a month or less.

I've been riding the heck out of it and using it for fun and hauling groceries and I'm really impressed by the durability of it so far. The only problems I've had are normal bike maintenance issues, like wearing out chains and brake pads faster than normal. Between my fat ass and a load of groceries, the total rolling weight it carries around sometimes has to exceed 400 pounds and sometimes pushes 450.

So far my personal speed record is a bit over 40 MPH which is ridiculously fast and rather thrilling on a skinny-tire gravel/adventure bike.

Which, yeah, is dangerous, but for some perspective my personal all time speed record on this bike or any bike is over 60 from bombing some really steep hills, and this was verified with both a dedicated GPS and a bike speedo/computer.

My ebike is definitely faster and has more acceleration than 50 to even 100cc mopeds and scooters, and if I'm not carrying a heavy load it'll rip right up a steep hill at 20-25 MPH with almost no pedaling.

I've put abotu 2500 miles on it since I got it, and in terms of MPGe (e = equivalent) it comes out to roughly 1000 miles per gallon of gas based on ebike industry standards. My bike is probably way, way more efficient than 1000 MPGe since it's a skinny-tired, light weight touring bike instead of the heavy, fat tired Bike Shaped Objects that are really common for off the shelf ebikes.

The actual cost of the electricity is so low it's basically a rounding error.

Ok, I actually just looked up my local utility rates and it's a massive 5 cents USD per charge. But that's only if I fully deplete my battery, which never happens. I usually get home from most rides and errands with more than 50% of my battery remaining. I maybe ride 3-4 times a week, max, so let's call it 25 cents a week to round up, which works out to a whopping 13 dollars a year in electricity.

This doesn't account for the initial cost of the ebike, but I can work that out, too, including the parts I've replaced from wear and tear. I'm going to be generous in favor in rounding up. My mid drive ebike kit was 1450 new with tax, so let's call it 1500. My parts cost since installing it is probably about 250ish, but let's round that way up to 500. Let's call the electricity used to be 20 since I got it, though it's probably half that.

At 2020 USD that comes out to about 80 cents per mile so far, Including the electricity. But it's probably much less than that since I'm heavily rounding up. And that per mile cost goes down a little with every ride as I stack up more and more miles on it.

This doesn't account for the initial cost of my bike which was nearly 10 years old when I put the DIY ebike kit on it, but it also doesn't account for the costs that I would have spent maintaining an unpowered bike anyway.

This also doesn't account for the fact that eventually I'm going to need to replace the battery and maybe even do a rebuild of the motor drive unit, but... yeah, you get the idea.

And I just cross checked this with total cost of ownership of a new ICE car or vehicle, which look like 0.75-1.00 per mile, but that looks like it's calculated over about 5 years or something. I don't know how to get a real figure for that because I don't do cars, and that seems low to me so maybe I'm not reading that right.

But let me do a projection on my setup over 5 years including wear and tear and repairs. Let's call it about 3000 total over 5 years to plan for plenty of wear and tear on new chains, brake pads and general bike upgrades as well a new battery. There's plenty of room there for a complete motor drive unit rebuild, too. And heck, let's throw in 10 bucks a year for electricity just to be safe. I don't actually pay this amount because it's rolled into my rent, but let's account for it anyway.

So at around 2000 miles per year and 3050ish TCO for 5 years that pushes the per mile cost way down to about 30 cents per mile, and that's being extremely conservative and generous with rounding up. It's probably closer to like 15-20 cents per mile or less over 5 years.

I haven't estimated the TCO math like this in this detail but 15-30 cents per miles is BONKERS. It's totally amazing to me. These personal mobility EV solutions are already changing the world.
posted by loquacious at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2021 [12 favorites]

Darn tootin, loq.

I find it helpful to compare mean yearly cost of car ownership, which is apparently now $9,282. For small sedans (the cheapest category) it's still over $7k.

So, if one is replacing a car, one could buy a pretty nice new e-bike every year for $2k and ride it to their heart's content and still come out far ahead of mean car costs. In reality, bikes are pretty tough and fixable, so one could prooobably keep riding a single nice new e-bike for ten years.

You can do similar computations for CO2. An ICE car spits about 4.6 tons of CO2 per year. An e-bike is a rounding error.

Here's some discussion of watt-hours per mile for e-bikes; seems like 10 Wh/mile is a pretty conservative estimate. So (breaking out the big math guns) 2000 miles per year would put us at 2 kWh. Electricity in the US creates about 0.92 pounds of CO2 per kWh. This puts the bike at 0.0009 tons of CO2 per year (2204 pounds per metric ton, so 2 * 0.92 / 22004 = 0.00085), pretty much a rounding error.

Switching from a car to a bike probably entails some big lifestyle changes for most people. For myself, I focus on the massive savings in cost and CO2 from the bike, and accept that it's completely OK to take an occasional Lyft or whatever: My personal consumption+emissions are still a rounding error. I also own a bunch of bikes for different situations - a Brompton for around town + groceries (you can really pack a surprising amount on one of them), an XTracycle for bigger cargo jobs (eg, 100lbs of chicken feed), and a fast bike for recreational rides up in the hills. Still a rounding error...
posted by kaibutsu at 9:53 AM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

I recently put an e-assist on my trike (which can link with one of our other trikes to make a giant tandem). A few days ago, I rigged 350W of solar panels as a "roof" over the trike, and we should now be able to go at least 50 miles per day without plugging in as long as there's some sun - perfect for long-distance touring. (Other people are doing this too - check out this recent custom build by TriSled, which the new owner is turning into an off-grid bike camper.)

We often use proportional regen, which enforces a maximum speed - ours is usually set for 14mph, so we won't accidentally go screaming past pedestrians when we're on a path.

It's nice to have a little more speed/power available. We get through intersections faster without pushing our knees to the limit. I can go visit my parents (who live up a big hill) a whole lot quicker. Our range is larger because it doesn't take quite as long to get places.

I got an all-axle hub motor from, which doesn't add any wear to the drivetrain and actually reduces wear on the brake pads because I do most braking with regen now. It burns through tires faster, though!

I'm a little conflicted because it feels more like a car with every change, but still - this is a vehicle that weighs less than the rider(s) and can tow a trailer with a 300lb load capacity. And we're using something like 15Wh/mile, which would be almost 500 mpg based on this.

Also, I think the probability that we will kill someone in a crash is still WAY lower than any car, so that's a definite win.
posted by sibilatorix at 11:32 AM on October 20, 2021 [7 favorites]

I love the surrey, which is even a useful shape for tiny transit. So many historical shapes to re-try! I would like a gilded Roman chariot plz. Maybe one of the shallow wicker work basket carriages that louche Belle Époque women reclined in. Perhaps a trunk with a hundred legs.

And first, an enforced low speed limit on almost all the streets in my city, so that lightweight vehicles are safer. At which point I would br happy bicycling even without ebikes, so.
posted by clew at 11:34 AM on October 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

This is the future.

My commute is now a Chinese electric dirt-bike that's licensed here as a moped. My biggest cost, aside from buying it, it that I wear out the tyres by having too much fun.
posted by happyinmotion at 12:11 PM on October 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I found this TCO analysis of fleet vehicles and it claims pickup trucks are $1.80/mile while electric golf carts are $0.60/mile (over 60 months). Seems kinda high to me, but I can't find any problems with the math.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:12 PM on October 20, 2021

Seems kinda high to me, but I can't find any problems with the math.

They greatly underestimate the TCO of the pickup truck. A pickup truck is only going to depreciate $5.6K over five years? Are they fucking high?
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 12:27 PM on October 20, 2021

everyone seems to have golf carts or those "UTVs" to get around (other than walking)

Golf cart communities are really great in my opinion. I wish the love of bikes would shift to 'golf carts for the masses', and we'd have bike lanes sized for golf carts in lots of communities in a decade.

I love bikes, I get how they are better in many ways and worse than others than golf carts, but bike lovers alone isn't cutting it across most of the US. And most golf carts are limited to around 12 mph, so they are actually slower than a strong cyclist.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:16 PM on October 20, 2021

Hansom cab! Milk float! Center-wheel barrow! Catbus! Popemobile! Sedan chair! … The tiny upright trikes are fairly like sedan chairs, being similarly shaped to the person inside. Plenty of decorative versions to be imitated.
posted by clew at 1:34 PM on October 20, 2021

There's an Indian startup that has been hyping an electric scooter (Vespa-type scooter) with some very impressive specs (range, speed, cost). Kinda too good to be true, and so far is vaporware. But if it works out to have even half the performance the specs say it will have, it could be a pretty big hit.

It feels like a field that's avalanching with momentum.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:37 PM on October 20, 2021

I would like a gilded Roman chariot plz.

Someone in the Segway thread referred to them as the horseless chariot.
posted by Rash at 8:41 PM on October 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I an currently building an electric cargo trike with a central 350W motor. Been thinking of outfitting it with solar panels for unlimited range slow travel – this is definitely the future

I think it's much smarter to electrify a bike – light, economical, as little motor as necessary – than to put electric motors in cars – huge, heavy, cumbersome, wasteful

Personal transportation should be slow. 30km/h tops in cities. Wanna travel fast, take the bullet train.
posted by Tom-B at 5:00 PM on October 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Re: Solar. Yeah, one of my random aspirations is to get a folding solar panel and charge controller that's enough to fully recharge my battery in about a day or two.

Further, I want to be able to make an adapter to be able to use my ebike battery as a solar generator and power bank. I don't necessarily need AC power and an inverter, but I would want to be able to do USB C to about 70w to charge a laptop as well as 5V taps for USB 2/3 for phones, lights and other items.

My rough estimates tell me I would need about 300 watts of reliable solar power output to get my 52V battery charged to the nominal float level of about 58 volts using a 3 amp charger, which is totally doable at this point and it's not ridiculously expensive like it used to be.

I could also use an ebike charger in the 1-2 amp range to shave the size of that solar panel down, but ideally I'd like to be able to recharge my ebike battery in one day even in overcast weather and/or on short winter days, so I'd like to aim for a surplus of solar power.

Though 300 watts of solar panels is not small. That's roughly about 2-3 square meters of panels. They make folding portable panels in this size range where the individual panels are about 6-8 inches by 10-12 inches per panel and the whole thing folds up into a pack about the size of a large, fat briefcase or satchel.

The end goal for this would be to be able to go on extended bike tours and work remotely while camping from dispersed or off piste camping sites, basically anywhere where I could get a decent data connection on my cell phone. I'd be aiming for a relatively leisurely pace of moving camps once a week or every few days at the soonest, giving some time to recharge everything, do some remote telework for a few hours a day before striking camp and moving on down the road.

I've basically wanted to do this ever since I was a kid. Back in the 1990s there was this guy doing something like this with a fully computerized recumbent bike and trailer setup where he had waaaay too many gadgets like dedicated GPS and multiple computers embedded into his bike, plus some really nerdy stuff like a chording keyboard built into his handlebars so he could write emails while rolling.

Today his long list of gadgets can be easily replaced with just a laptop and cell phone, and there's some additional weight savings over that 1990s era system by using lithium-ion batteries and trying to make the bike's battery do double duty as the main battery bank and source.
posted by loquacious at 1:15 PM on October 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

The mini pickup with hydraulic dump-truck feature has got my attention. Actually getting one of those delivered to an address in the U.S. is apparently a 3-4x cost multiplier, though.

That's for LCL, it'll be cheaper if you can get four people together to buy a full container.
posted by Mitheral at 3:33 PM on October 22, 2021

Tom-B, loquacious, and anyone else considering a solar e-bike: I have done piles of reading on the subject these last few months and would be happy to share the highlights, best resources, etc. I've been meaning to do a video and/or blog post on it, but would also be happy to answer questions via email! (I am basically always interested in talking about bike stuff.)
posted by sibilatorix at 11:53 PM on October 22, 2021

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