As Elon Musk Abandons the $25K Tesla, This EV Costs Just $4,400

As Elon Musk steps away, yet again, from the idea of a $25,000 Tesla, let’s take this opportunity to zoom out and appreciate what a truly affordable EV can be. For this we need to ignore the Nissan Leaf—currently the cheapest EV in the US at $29,280—and skip over Europe, home to the adorable but flawed $10,000 Citroen Ami, and head to China.

Here you’ll find the equally cheap BYD Seagull, a small electric hatchback styled by ex-Lamborghini designer Wolfgang Egger and with a 200-mile range—four times that of the Ami.

But what if even that is too expensive? Then allow us to present the Zhidou Rainbow. This is a compact city EV priced from 31,900 yuan before subsidies—that’s just $4,400. For a new electric car. WIRED literally recommends ebikes that cost more that this.

The Rainbow has three doors and four seats, and an interior with a 5-inch digital driver display and a 9-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system. There’s even a connected smartphone app, charge scheduling, and the promise of over-the-air (OTA) software updates.

Splash out on the flagship Color Cloud Edition (which costs $5,800, or about half the price of Porsche’s fanciest bicycle) and you can have each panel of your Rainbow painted a different color. A bit like Volkswagen did with the somewhat mad Polo Harlequin in the mid ’90s.

Cheaper Than an Ebike

There are two models on offer. The first has that headline $4,400 price tag and is powered by a 20-kW (27-horsepower) motor with 85 Nm (63 ft-lbs) of torque and fed by a tiny 9.98-kWh battery. Spend 39,900 yuan ($5,500) and your Rainbow is fitted with a 30-kW (40-horsepower) motor with 125 Nm of torque and a 17-kWh battery pack. Range is between 78 and 127 miles using China’s generous CLTC testing standard.

Be under no illusion here, these are tiny numbers. Even the larger battery is the same capacity of that of a plug-in hybrid Honda CR-V, which also employs a 2.0-liter engine to help it get around. But the range isn’t terrible. Even if the testing standard is generous, and the larger battery has a more realistic range of 100 miles, that’s about the same as the Honda e, which cost a whopping £37,000 ($46,000) before it went off sale at the end of 2023.

Rendering of the Zhidou Rainbow

There are two Rainbow models: One powered by a 20-kW (27-horsepower) motor fed by a tiny 9.98-kWh battery; and a pimped 30-kW (40-horsepower) motor version with 17-kWh battery.

Courtesy of Zhidou

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