Our Crazy Pals Over At DARTZ Are Actually Working On An Affordable City EV

Illustration for article titled Our Crazy Pals Over At DARTZ Are Actually Working On An Affordable City EV
Photo: DARTZ

I have a soft spot for a company that makes cars of a kind I’ll never own — wildly opulent, often armored SUVs. It is still best known, I think, for a particular choice of upholstery (you use whale penis leather one time) but recently it’s making a pretty big switch from opulent, powerful, dictator-chic gilded beasts and giving a shot in the exact opposite direction: affordable electric city cars. Yep. You read that right, DARTZ is making a cheap EV.

In case you forgot what DARTZ’ usual vibe is, this should help:

Illustration for article titled Our Crazy Pals Over At DARTZ Are Actually Working On An Affordable City EV
Illustration: DARTZ
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Because they’re DARTZ, they’re going to be doing this in an interesting way, which is why they’ve revived the long-dead Russian carmaker marque Frese & Co., which was a company started by Pyotr Frese, who was part of the team that built the very first Russian car, a car that was later adapted to be an electric vehicle.

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Screenshot: DARTZ

So, that’s why DARTZ’ EV will be called the FreZe (the big Z is to make the name more, you know, DARTZy) and it’ll be based on the Chinese-built Wuling Mini EV, but with some DARTZ-style upgrades and tweaks.

I’ve been talking to Leonard Yankelovitch, the Czar of DARTZ, about this new EV a lot, and he’s got all kinds of plans. He tells me there will be three main versions:

1. Close to car as it is - to keep price lowest in the world

2. Possibility of online upgrade with low budget but monthly buying new shits and giggles

3. Opulent but keeping price before €14.999

He seems very serious about having really affordable versions of the car and is even working on deals with companies to have cars that are branded and have advertising on them that can be rented or leased very cheaply, and even some really innovative ideas where a car would be sold to, say, a group of four students for about €2,500 each.

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Leonard seems very serious about keeping these affordable, which is great. Of course, if you have the money, they’ll also have upgrades available, including ones to make the car like, in Leonard’s words, a “brutal SUV. Small but brutal.”

Leonard also told me they’ll offer an industry first, an interior made from natural leaves — “real green shit,” as he says, and this stuff does look pretty cool:

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Screenshot: DARTZ
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The material looks to be beLeaf, from the Nova Kaeru company out of Brazil, and is sort of like leather made from huge leaves found in the Amazon.

The lighting, grille area, wheels and fenders will be modified as well, based on designs from their design team led by Aleksander Isaev.

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They’re also planning to add airbags, ESP (stability control, not the mind-reading thing), and DRLs.

It’s fun to hear Leonard this excited about a project, while at the same time being entirely realistic about it:

I am educated enough to understand that EV energy is as green as Pirelli tire after Dakkar Rallye. I know the energy saving law and realize that energy can’t be born from nowhere and escape same way. All this so-called clean cars is modern hype product, product of times when people get their knowledge from internet quotes and from guys with small microphones waving hands in front of (mainly) Big Nothings multiplied in big screens behind.

This is our times and we have to live this. EV car can be good for work, can be good for fun but it’s not a ride in normal meaning. You can’t jump in EV when you want and go where You want. No.

Of course if have some benefits - as everything have it’s pros and cons...

In my city - Riga second time EV’s was made 40+ years ago based on RAF van. And of course EV is as old as car industry. But - again - it’s hypemobile - nothing more. And our choice - cheapest EV totally fit my vision and philosophy - as small and cheap city car FreZe is excellent.

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So, to paraphrase, this will be, unashamedly, a cheap city EV. It’s not for road trips, but rather an everyday commuter and grocery-grabber, which is just fine. We need cars like that, and if DARTZ can make a cheap one with a bit of bonkers style, then that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

The pictures I’m showing here are of the car without any of the aesthetic changes made yet; it’s still in the testing and development phase.

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Screenshot: DARTZ

So when you see pictures like this, of the very not-small Russian hockey player Roman Nikolayev sitting in the back seat, just be aware that this does not represent the final look of the car.

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I’ve been curious about this cheap Wuling EV-thing since it first was announced, and I’m even more eager to see how this thing ends up after a bit of time baking in the DARTZ oven.

This is an unexpected but I think very smart direction for DARTZ to move in, so I’ll keep you updated the next time Leonard gets all excited and messages me a bunch of stuff.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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