Yesterday, I was pretty excited to see this shameless BMW i3 knockoff at the Shandong EV Expo in China. And today, our friends at CarNewsChina who are covering the show have found something even better: an electric, four-door latest-generation VW Beetle knockoff, complete with a badge that’s half Volvo and half Nissan.
Copying car designs is nothing new for China, but I especially like it when a truly iconic design is so blatantly and shamelessly knocked off. There’s no squirming out of what’s going on here. This isn’t some similar design that just happens to converge on a particular look — this is an out-and-out copy of one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road today. And while you may (pretty justifiably) be repelled by the plagiarism, you have to respect that degree of non-giveashittery.
In fact, they’ve even expanded the base design, adding an extra pair of doors. And you know what? It doesn’t look too bad? If VW was considering a sedan-ified Beetle, here’s their proof of concept. I also think the raised section of the hood doesn’t look too bad, either.
The badge is worth pointing out here, because it’s shaped pretty much like the Nissan badge, but the typeface used for the VIDOEV name is a dead ringer for Volvo’s.
Most of the cars at the Shandong EV show are from a delightfully confusing and chaotic class of cars known as Low Speed Electric Vehicles, or LSEV. These vehicles are small, cheap and limited to about 10HP. They use cheaper lead-acid batteries, and the companies that make them all seem connected in a Byzantine mess of shared components and bodies, constant name changes, and pretty creative and unrestricted designs. It’s a fascinating market segment I’d love to learn more about.
This UnBeetle EV, though, is notably higher spec. It’s said to have a 27 HP electric motor, it’s much bigger (basically about the size of the modern Beetle we know), and CarNewsChina says it’s rumored to cost about $16,000. They also make the point that right now, there’s nothing quite like this on the market in China today, and I think they mean an electric car that’s larger and more capable than a LSEV but still about as cheap as an entry-level gasoline vehicle.
The inside looks pretty unfinished, but you can see the Beetle-apery continues inside unabated. I know there’s so much wrong about all this, but just like that BMW i3 knockoff, a big twisted part of me loves that these things exist, making the major automakers fume. What I’d really like to do is get ahold of the body of this thing and put it on a vintage original VW air-cooled, rear-engined chassis.
That would be a fun car.