When most families go on safari, they rent a truck or pay a company for a guided tour. But with this cheap Chinese electric truck I find in the bowels of the internet, you could spend the same amount of money and get to keep your safari truck at the end! And lucky for us, this funky little e-truck is perfect for this week’s Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week column!
We’re no stranger to mini electric pickup trucks. This series has featured fun little farm trucks, hot pink Barbie trucks-come-to-life, and even stubby little pickup trucks with a bed the size of a suitcase.
But never before have we seen such an off-road ready mini electric truck, and that makes this week’s feature a special find.
It already comes complete with front bash guard with fog lights, full length extended roof rack, rear mesh rack for protected storage, roof light bar, tubular doors, skid plate, and optional running boards (just in case you need help climbing up into a mini pickup truck).
The truck itself is setup as a four seater so you can take the whole family on safari, though there appears to be a two-seater variant as well for the non-breeders to enjoy their vacation in peace.
It’d be nice if this thing came as a 4×4, but the electric motor mounted on the rear axle precludes it. Instead, you’ve got yourself a rear wheel drive truck. The good news though is there’s no driveshaft tunnel, meaning you’ve got a flat floor throughout the entire cab.
The motor isn’t particularly impressive at just 4,000W, though like most Chinese EVs, that’s a continuous power rating. Peak power is likely closer to 6,500W or around 8.7 hp.
That’s enough for the 45 km/h (28 mph) top speed. You may not outrun any lions or charging rhinos, but at least you’ll get a darn good last look at them through those open tubular doors!
For batteries, this truck rocks 72V 100Ah lead acid batteries. The first thing I’d do if this were my truck would be to rip out that 7.2 kWh of century-old battery technology and toss in six new 12V 100Ah LiFePO4 bricks to get some modern day battery technology.
The vendor claims a range of 120 km (75 miles) with the original batteries, and I’d wager that you’d do slightly better with the lithium iron phosphate upgrade, since those batteries are much more tolerant of deep discharges. They’ll also last a good 7-10x as long, so it’s worth the upgrade.
I’ve got an electric boat on the way from Alibaba and I’ve already got those exact LiFePO4 bricks waiting in my garage to load up the hull with modern, safe energy storage.
The rest of the features on the truck are surprisingly good, especially considering the reasonable $4,500 purchase price. We’re looking at rack-and-pinion steering, independent front suspension, aluminum wheels, electric windows, three-point seat belts, and even a front storage frunk.
Of course this thing would never cost you just $4,500 in the end, considering you’ve probably got a couple thousand bucks in freight charges, another grand or so in import duties, several hundred dollars in customs broker fees and port charges, etc.
Then you’re looking at the small problem of it not being even close to street legal in the US. There are a growing number of DOT-approved 25 mph (40 km/h) mini EVs in the US that qualify as road legal LSVs, (low speed vehicles), but this ain’t one of them. There are even street-legal mini pickups in the US that look like what this is based on, though they cost around 4-6x this much.
If your main use is a safari trip though, street legal status might not be at the top of your priority list.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t think I’ll be adding this one to my list of fun Alibaba purchases.
It was a gamble that I’m not sure I’ll be ready to roll the dice on again though, at least not any time soon.
It’s been an awesome work truck for around my parents’ ranch (it’s another definitely not street-legal situation), though I’ve had to make a few upgrades like adding off-road tires (which weren’t on yet in the image below).
While I wait for my electric pleasure boat to arrive on the slow boat from China, I’ll ponder the missed opportunity of buying a bright orange mini safari truck. Maybe I’ll regret it, but there’s always next summer.