I was really, really tempted to do a more click-baity headline there and not tell you why this Chinese EV designed for Driving Schools was so weird, but I feel like I’m already kind of pushing it lately with this glut of Chinese car content, so I backed off. But, I assure you, you need to see this because it’s so wonderfully, perversely, deeply weird. It’s an EV with an entirely fake manual transmission. It’s sort of like a driving simulator that’s also a real, un-simulated car. It’s a mindfuck and it’s also absolutely a product of this very specific era we live in.
The car is the Chery New Energy eQ2 Driving School Version, and from what I can tell, it was released in 2018. It looks like the impetus behind this deeply strange machine came from a desire to eliminate emissions from driving school vehicles, which tend to do a lot of sitting and idling, burning fuel and expelling exhaust gases, needlessly. EVs solve this issue, but, in a country still dominated by manual transmission, internal combustion cars, EVs can’t effectively teach students how to drive manuals.
The car is based on the Cowin C3, a conventional, even boring ICE small sedan, and in its Chery eQ2 guise gets a 57 horsepower electric motor and enough batteries to give it a range of around 250 miles, which is decent, even if the power is about the same as what was listed for a 1970 VW Beetle. Or about four horses more than my Nissan Pao.
The Driving School variant adds a tachometer, clutch pedal, and five-speed shifter. All of which, are, of course, fake. Well, the parts are real enough, but what they do is all an illusion.
The various inputs of clutch and shifter work with software in the car that cause it to behave like a manual, ICE car, with shift points, simulated engine sounds, and it can even “stall” if you let off the clutch too quickly.
It’s kind of like if you had a jet aircraft with a fake propeller and fake piston-engine controls and displays inside, sort of? Really, beyond cars like those Subarus with CVT transmissions that fake shift points, I can’t think of another car that has done anything quite this bonkers.
I may see if the Lane Museum would be interested to buy one of these, because it’s such a strange artifact of this particular transition era that I feel like at least one deserves preservation.
Plus, I’d really love to know what this crazy thing feels like to drive, in that manual simulation mode. I bet it’s very weird.