China Daily Global Edition (USA)
Wuling’s e-vans to power delivery firm in Japan
Liuzhou Wuling Automobile Industry Co will produce 7,200 electric minivans for Japanese delivery firm Sagawa Express, which will mark the largest foray of Chinese EV carmakers into Japan.
Wuling, located in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, is preparing itself for the model’s mass production, which is expected to kick off in September 2022, said a representative at the carmaker on Thursday.
The electric model, co-developed by Sagawa Express and Japanese electric car startup ASF, was released on Tuesday in Japan.
Among other things, the van has a wide driver seat and trunk space design that allows drivers to easily store goods and gadgets. It can drive for more than 200 kilometers on one charge.
Sagawa Express, Japan’s delivery giant, said it is expecting to switch all of its roughly 7,000 minicars to electric models by 2030, as part of its effort to reduce carbon emissions. Minicars are popular in Japan as they are easier to navigate residential areas with narrow roads, and their popularity has fueled the rise of such brands as Suzuki.
Sagawa is the first major Japanese delivery company planning to adopt an all-electric fleet of minicars.
Japan is home to such globally competitive automotive giants as Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
But until very recently, local Japanese companies were focused on gasoline and hybrid vehicles instead of electric ones, let alone electric mini vans.
“Japanese carmakers have not yet explored the small-sized electric commercial vehicle segment, while we have extensive experience in this aspect,” said the Wuling representative.
Wuling has been a popular commercial vehicle maker in China. Its electric logistics vehicles, as well as golf cars and sightseeing vehicles sell well in the country and are exported to countries in Southeast Asia and Africa.
The company also provides electric car components to companies including SAIC-GM-Wuling, maker of the popular Hong Guang Mini EV that has toppled Tesla’s Model 3 sedan as the best-selling electric vehicle in China.
“So we are apparently better in development and manufacturing and faster in responses to their requirements,” said the representative.
Japan’s Nikkei reported that package senders and recipients — as well as investors — have begun paying closer attention to environmental, social and governance issues.
Other delivery companies, including Yamato Holdings, have set out plans for a partial switch to electric vehicles, according to the Nikkei report.
Analysts said there is further potential to tap as Japan aims for all new vehicles to be electrified by 2035 as part of its efforts to cut carbon emissions.
Chinese carmakers should speed up to seize a share in the segment before local Japanese giants come up with their choices.
China’s BYD is expanding its presence in the Japanese bus market since the first electric bus arrived in 2015.
In February this year, the electric carmaker inked a deal with Kyoto’s Keihan Bus and Kansai Electric Power to run a sightseeing loop line composed of four electric buses, as part of a five-year demonstration operation.
Liu Xueliang, general manager of BYD Asia-Pacific’s auto sales division, said there were 53 BYD electric buses in operation throughout Japan by February.
“They had finished a combined mileage of approximately 1.2 million km, which help reduce carbon emissions near to 271 metric tons, making us the leader in the country’s electric bus market,” said Liu.
The carmaker expects to scale up its fleet of electric buses in Japan to 100 by the middle of 2022.
BYD started to sell its electric buses in overseas markets from 2012. They are now running in around 50 countries around the world.