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These tiny EVs are hoping to make a big impact

Tom Carter   

These tiny EVs are hoping to make a big impact
  • Tiny EVs like the Nissan Sakura and BYD's Seagull are challenging Tesla in Japan and China.
  • But these minuscule motors are unlikely to come to the US anytime soon.

Tiny EVs are having a moment.

In markets like China, Japan, and Europe, ridiculously small EVs are selling in large numbers, with vehicles like BYD's Seagull and the Nissan Sakura challenging the likes of Tesla.

That's in contrast to the US EV market, where SUVs like the Tesla Model Y and pickups like the Ford F150 Lightning rule the roads.

This may be changing, with consumer data showing that US drivers are increasingly asking for smaller vehicles and automakers like Ford and Tesla vowing to build cheaper models.

Tens of thousands of cars manufactured in China are sold in the US every year, but it's unlikely anyone in the US will be able to get behind the wheel of a Seagull or Sakura anytime soon.

The government's tariff hikes on Chinese EVs and regulations restricting the ability to import smaller vehicles make it harder still.

Here are some of the tiny EVs making a splash in Asia and Europe.

BYD Seagull

BYD has rapidly eclipsed its rivals in China — and become Elon Musk's primary challenger in the country — thanks to its massive range of EVs, including several smaller, cheaper options.

Chief among those is the Seagull, a tiny EV that can go 305 km on a single charge and costs $11,000.

The Seagull, which launched last year, has proven predictably popular in BYD's home country — but it's unlikely to come to the US anytime soon after the US government hiked tariffs on Chinese EVs.

Hongguang Mini

The Hongguang Mini EV, which was developed by Chinese automakers SAIC Motor and Wuling Motor in partnership with General Motors, caused a sensation when it launched in 2020.

The diminutive people carrier was the bestselling EV in China in 2022, and continues to outsell the Tesla Model 3 more than four years after being unveiled.

It's not hard to see why. The Hongguang Mini has a range of around 170 km on a single charge and reportedly costs between 28,800-38,800 yuan, or $3,955- $5,375. Plus it's adorable.

Nissan Sakuru

Japan has long had a soft spot for tiny EVs, known as Kei cars — and the Nissan Sakura is one of the most popular.

The 11-foot-long electric car, which costs around $13,000, was Japan's best-selling EV in 2023.

Drivers previously told Business Insider the Sakura, which is only available in Japan, is perfect for navigating Tokyo's narrow streets and taking day trips to the countryside.

"It takes off like a rocket from a standing start and can climb hill and mountain roads like a full-sized car with all that torque," said one.

Citroen Ami

Technically speaking, the Citroen Ami isn't an electric car at all, but an "electric quadricycle."

The cute four-wheeler, which costs $12,285 in the UK, was first launched in France in 2020 and is widely available in Europe.

With a top speed of 28 miles per hour and a range of just 46 miles, the Ami (which means "friend" in French) is very much an urban vehicle — but it certainly turned heads when BI gave it a test drive in London.


The best thing about this "bubble car" is how you get into it — the Microlino has a fridge-style door that allows you to enter and exit from the front.

The Microlino is designed by Swiss scooter company Micro. It offers a maximum range of 228 km and starts at $19,900.

The tiny microcar has been on sale in Europe since 2021, with a UK launch mooted for later this year.

You can't buy one in the US, but Micro has just unveiled a more stripped-back version dubbed the Microlino Lite, which CMO Merlin Ouboter told The Verge the company hopes to have on sale in the US by the end of 2024.

Vinfast VF3

Vietnamese EV firm VinFast is one of the more unusual companies battling for global electric vehicle dominance.

The automaker, which briefly became the world's third-most valuable car company last year, was founded by Vietnamese billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong, who made his fortune selling instant noodles in Ukraine.

VinFast is now challenging the likes of BYD and Wuling with its own tiny EV, the 10-foot-long VF3.

The VF3 costs less than $10,000 and has a range of over 125 miles. The mini-SUV will be sold in Vietnam and the Philippines this year and available in the US and Europe by 2025.

Honda N-VAN e

The success of the Sakura has seen other Japanese automakers try their hand at making electric kei cars.

Honda became the latest to get into the tiny EV game when it unveiled the N-VAN e, a miniature electric truck that starts at 2.44 million yen, or $15,500.

The diminutive truck will launch in Japan in October. It is primarily targeted at delivery and construction companies rather than ordinary consumers.

It's packed full of high-tech features, including a cooling and heating system that ensures the battery doesn't get too hot or cold (a notorious issue for EVs).

Honda says the N-VAN e will even function as a mobile power storage device, with drivers able to use the truck's external power outlet to charge household appliances such as hot plates and electric kettles.