There’s quite a list of Chinese automakers that are relatively unknown outside China yet have grand plans to enter the U.S. market. The latest is China’s Qiantu Motor, which is developing an all-electric luxury sports car called the K50,
The K50 will be sold through California’s Mullen, which claims to be “the affordable electric car company”—although at a price tag that’s the equivalent of more than $100,000 in China, this vehicle may serve as something of a flagship.
Last week Mullen announced a “strategic cooperation agreement” with Qiantu to co-develop, assemble, and exclusively market the K50 in North America—with a potential arrival as soon as 2020.
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The K50 is built on an aluminum structure with carbon fiber closures (hood, trunk lid and, we would assume, doors as well). Its 402 horsepower, from two electric motors enables a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 4.6 seconds, and a top speed of 124 mph. With a 78-kilowatt-hour battery pack, it has a claimed 236-mile range on the highly optimistic old European NEDC standard—so likely something less than that for the EPA cycle.
If it does arrive via Mullen, it would be quite the contrast piece. Up until now, Mullen has included several car dealerships and primarily sold low speed vehicles, which are limited to 25 mph and intended for golf courses, resorts, large private subdivisions, and urban streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less. It also purchased pieces of the long-defunct electric-vehicle maker Coda, which took a compact Chinese sedan, with 1990s Mitsubishi roots, that was assembled as a “roller” in China, and then upfitted it with an electric powertrain in the U.S.
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In October, Mullen entered a joint-venture agreement with two different companies—Beijing Kingdom Motors (BKM), and Zhejiang Jonway Group. Mullen will be responsible for homologating a BKM vehicle, to be sold as the Mullen 750. And it claims the venture with Jonway will result in an SUV, commercial vehicles, and other passenger vehicles. That company, Mullen claims, has “a set of incredibly versatile and friendly family vehicles that will resonate with the US consumer.”
Starting with that project, Mullen even aims to build passenger vehicles locally “in California and/or Nevada”—which we would have to assume would be in the same way it upfits the Coda Sedan.
The company claims to have a “breakthrough battery technology.” Some of Coda’s original launch materials, like an introduction video, remain in use by Mullen eight years later. Some claims in Mullen’s material—like that 31-kwh battery pack being 30 percent larger than others—are sorely out of date.
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We’ve reached out to Mullen for clarification, as the company hasn’t revealed whether this is the same lithium-iron-phosphate pack that powered the Coda Sedan, or if it’s been updated. The Coda Sedan was EPA-rated at 88 miles of range, and Coda was working on a future upgrade to 50 kwh.
In September Mullen hired Weipin Zou, the former senior engineer for Coda, who worked at Faraday Future for some of the years in between.
Coda’s biggest weakness at the time, outside of its unreasonably high price, was the anonymity and relatively poor assembly quality of the car itself, not its powertrain. With all the rapid improvement that Chinese-market vehicles have undergone this decade—K50 sports car or not—we could end up with some interesting electric vehicle possibilities.