Great Wall Motor’s electric vehicle division ‘Ora’ has recently released its first model and flagship, the R1. What makes it shine among the masses is the possibility that it is the world's cheapest, fully functional EV. Despite the significantly lower running costs, price is clearly a factor for many when looking t make to switch to electric. WhichEV checks the value that GWM is likely to be offering.
We've tried the Renault Twizy and we were present for the launch of Citroen's Ami – but both of them are ‘special requirement scenario' vehicles. GWM is offering something with a full set of wheels and doors, for a lot less than we're used to paying.
That price tag will be around £7,800 (69,800 RMB or US$8,600), which makes it slightly cheaper than a brand-new Twizy and more than the Ami. Unlike the tiny two-seat car (or for some quadricycle) from Renault, the Ora R1 is an urban-purpose 4-door hatchback. It’s about the size of a Smart Forfour and looks almost exactly like one with some styling notes from the Honda e. You won’t be receiving any luxurious materials adorning the insides like the Honda e, but you can expect a reverse camera, nine-inch infotainment touch screen and a rotary gear selector.
GWM claims that the 33kWh battery pack will give you up to 194 miles of range on a single charge. However, that number is presented to you by the NEDC, often deemed to be less accurate. Consequently, don’t be too surprised if it produces closer to 150 miles of real-world range. It does come with a three-year or 75,000 mile (120,000 km) guarantee for the whole vehicle, as well as an eight-year or 93,000 mile (150,000 km) guarantee for core components like the battery.
Great Wall Motors claims that it will get up to 80 percent in 40 minutes with fast charger. Plug it into a basic home charger and a complete refill will take up to 9 hours. Performance-wise, the 125 Nm permanent front-positioned magnet motor can propel the vehicle up to 63mph (101 km/h).
Currently only available in China, the first market the Ora R1 will venture into is the Indian EV market, that is presently populated by brands like Hyundai with their Kona. Great Wall Motor has previously shown interest in bringing the Ora electric brand to the rest of the world.
The global electric vehicle market is dominated by major players such as Tesla, BMW, Volkswagen, and Nissan. It makes you wonder if the Ora R1 could bring a new mass-market Chinese presence to the Western EV market.
Ning Shuyong, general manager of Ora and vice president of Great Wall Motor, said: “Ora replaces the traditional sales, service, spare parts and surveys (4S) dealership-centred model that is common in China with a network consisting of Ora Home, experience centres and smart outlets in the central business districts of Chinese cities”.
The system that Ora R1 will apparently adopt seems very similar to Tesla’s direct-to-customer sales model. Overall, it's aimed at reducing visits to service centres.
Target markets for the Ora R1 could be those who currently buy pre-owned vehicles as second or third cars in a family – perhaps looking for their first experience of an electric car – to test out just how green, new and affordable EVs can be. Older/retired people might find the small hatchback a suitable drive for short and infrequent trips.
We have to ask, “Is the price tag is tempting enough for buyers in Europe to take a leap and look to Great Wall Motors for their next vehicle?”. We'll know the answer to that when GWM puts down a timeline for importation.
In 2019, the new vehicle sales volume of Great Wall Motors (outside of China), was close to 65,000 units. That's a year on year increase of almost 40%. Clearly there is some appeal for a complete, affordable EV.
For now, we don't have specific dates, just an announcement from GWM's senior management team that they will consider setting up a European plant when exports to the region have reached 50,000 vehicles.
If the car delivers on its promise, then existing manufacturers will have to step-up to the competition – and quickly. Right now, Renault, Vauxhall, Fiat and Nissan all believe that an entry-level electric car costs close to £30,000. The Ora R1 promises to cost less than a third of that price.
We call that ‘Game On' for European consumers, as China moves to being a car manufacturing superpower over the coming decade.