P2P Foundation

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The Shanzhai Electric Car Revolution in China

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
3rd June 2011

In China, you can get Shanzai (‘knock-off brands’, i.e. the illegal but tolerated version of open and shared design) electric cars for about $3,000, less than a tenth of the price of normal ‘IP’-augmented electric cars.

Eric Hunting writes:

“Very nice video discussing the explosively growing phenomenon of ‘shanzhai’ electric cars in China. I learned of this recently while shopping on the increasingly popular Alibaba international trade site where I was surprised to find this huge variety of astoundingly low cost electric powered vehicles from largely unknown companies in China. This is a very interesting situation in the context of the impact of what you could call ‘rogue’ manufacturing pushing a larger trend in more environmentally responsible technology and forcing government to scramble to catch-up. “

Fascinating reportage, watch it here.


“While Warren Buffet’s investment in the Shenzen-based BYD electric car company put the world spotlight on China’s inroads into producing larger hybrid and all-electric cars, these automobiles, costing around $25,000 to $50,000, depending on the model, are not affordable for the average Chinese family.

Jimmy Wang and Lin Yang traveled to remote areas of Shandong Province and discovered a new phenomenon is already beginning to radically change the landscape of Chinese roads in second and third tier cities: small, 4-seat all-electric passenger vehicles that cost as little as $2000-$3000, can be charged in a normal household outlet, and emit 0 greenhouse gases.

These vehicles, nicknamed “Shanzhai”—which means knockoff brand—have become so popular in small cities like Liaocheng, in Shandong province, that the central government is engaged in a debate over what kind of licenses will be issued for them, who will issue licenses, where they can be driven, and who can manufacture them. Because of their affordability, Shanzhais are quickly replacing electric bicycles as the preferred choice of transportation for the masses in small cities across Shandong and Anhui.”


2 Responses to “The Shanzhai Electric Car Revolution in China”

  1. No patents = $3,000 cars Says:

    […] I think China’s economy is more of a basket case than many do (Don’t Bet on China; Don’t Bet on China: Redux), but the thing they are often criticized for–lax IP enforcement–is one of their strengths. Too bad the West is persuading them to increasingly adopt Western-style IP (Intellectual Property Imperialism). The Shanzai Electric Car Revolution in China […]

  2. hapa Says:

    they’re powered on the chinese electrical grid. they do NOT “emit 0 greenhouse gases.”

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