Weird Alibaba: A fun little electric jeep-like Chinese knock-off that I need in my life

I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted a vehicle more than the latest entry in the Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week column. That’s because this week we’re checking out a Chinese knock-off of an iconic little open-air buggy: the Mini Moke!

It may be small, but this 100 km/h (62 mph) fun-mobile would be a blast around the city or cruising to the beach.

Just a little background to get us started: The Mini Moke is a quirky and iconic vehicle with an interesting history dating back to the late 1950s. The British-made Moke was initially intended for military use as a lightweight, air-transportable utility vehicle.

However, it should come as no surprise that its small wheels and low ground clearance made it, well, less than effective for rough terrain. The British Army ultimately rejected the design. But after its military discharge, the Mini Moke found a new life as a civilian vehicle.

The fun little jeep-like runabout’s minimalist design with a simple open-top body, a small engine, and basic components shared with the classic Mini (created by the same designer) made it an affordable and popular choice for consumers in beach areas.

Over the years, the Mini Moke became synonymous with sun-soaked beach vacations and carefree driving. It has been produced around the world under various licenses, with its popularity peaking in the 80’s and 90’s followed by a steady decline ever since.

Lately though we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in Mokes, especially electric versions that don’t require the same level of maintenance as a small-engine classic Moke. There’s currently a trademark dispute raging between two manufacturers, the British company MOKE International (who claims to be the rightful owner of the original Moke trademark), and MOKE America, a Florida-based company who also produces Moke-style EVs.

Apparently China has seen these other countries trying to horn in on its intellectual property infringement shtick and said “hold my baijiu!” while they worked up their own Moke electric vehicle. And that’s what we see before us today, a Chinese Moke in all its tiny-wheeled glory.

But here’s the thing. Believe it or not, I think the Chinese might have done it even better. You see, the US version of the Moke is a Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) that is limited to 25 mph (40 km/h). The British version hits twice that speed at 50 mph (80 km/h). But this Chinese version gets up to a whopping 62 mph (100 km/h)!

To be fair, that 62 mph is listed as the vehicle’s “max speed”, and there’s another “economical speed” listed at 31 mph (50 km/h). I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I assume they’re saying that while it can reach highway speeds, don’t be surprised if the batteries drain quicker than a lace bucket.

It’s unclear what the true range is, but the vehicle has a 21 kWh li-ion battery, so a city range of well over 100 miles (160 km) sounds within reason. To put that into perspective, the first generation Nissan Leaf came with a 24 kWh battery and had a city range of around 100 miles on a much heavier vehicle.

Speaking of which, this Chinese Moke weighs just 765 kg (1,686 lb). And it’s a four-seater with four-wheel-drive thanks to a pair of 10 kW motors. All told, that’s 20 kW or 27 hp, which isn’t bad for a small vehicle like this.

The only kicker is the price. At US $12,000 a pop, these are not cheap little EVs. You could get a street legal electric microcar in the US for that price, which brings up another point. These Chinese Mokes are certainly not street legal, so you’d be limited to cruising around off-road – which is the very use that the British army rejected them for so many decades ago. Though the nice gentleman with the robotic voice in the marketing video below seems to think they’d be legal in Europe.

Hmmm, I might just have to sit this one out, which is a bummer since an electric Moke would be an awesome vehicle.

Oh well, maybe I’ll find something more in my budget next week!

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