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Meet the CityBug – SA's smallest and most affordable electric car

Cute as a button, clean as a whistle Shandong CityBug is SA's cheapest EV. Picture: SUPPLIED
Cute as a button, clean as a whistle Shandong CityBug is SA's cheapest EV. Picture: SUPPLIED

The question: “Would you buy an electric car?” gets varied answers from South Africans but their high cost, the availability of supporting infrastructure and Eskom’s woes feature prominently in the naysayers' corner.

Size, however, has never been listed as a bugbear.

Enter the 2,960mm long Shandong CityBug. It has a wheelbase of 1,950mm, weighs 480kg and is powered by a six-battery rack linked to a 4kW electric motor driving the rear wheels. It’s charged on a typical home wall socket for 10 to 12 hours and it’s rated with a range of about 100km on a full charge, at a cost of just R15.

It is the smallest and lightest EV on sale in the land, and the cheapest too at R230,000 — the next most affordable EV is the Mini Cooper SE at R686,400.

But it’s more expensive than petrol-powered base versions of the Renault Kwid, Datsun Go and BAIC D20 which have longer ranges and higher speeds.

Technically it’s not an electric car but a quadricycle.

They've managed to squeeze in a tablet style digital display and a good number of luxury features inside the CityBug.
They've managed to squeeze in a tablet style digital display and a good number of luxury features inside the CityBug.
Image: Supplied

It has luxuries that include artificial leather seats with contrast stitching, electric windows, FM radio, front seat belt, window demister, multistage windscreen wiper, a colour touch  LCD screen with music, video and picture playback through a USB and SD card ports, and Bluetooth hands-free calling.

Its importer into SA is Eleksa, short for Elektriese SA, headed by Phillip Geyser. He started his mobility business back in 2013 importing electric scooters and quads from China and also provides mobility solutions for the elderly or disabled which are sold through a nationwide dealer footprint. From May 2021 the company added the CityBug to its offerings.

Though it has no NCAP crash rating to speak of the CityBug will ace emissions tests with flying colours and it requires an SA driving licence to operate on the roads.

When I caught up with the CEO he was making his way to Bloemfontein, understandably not behind the wheel of the CityBug as it has a 60km/h top end.

These figures can be limiting even for the sternest of EV aficionados but Geyser says he  intends to import even larger EVs with more robust ranges. But for now the two-door, four seat car is aimed at students, small families or retirees who need a compact electric runaround and who appreciate the high cost of running a petrol and diesel car these days has become untenable. 

You’d say that slender cars are a no-go area for SA customers but you’d be wrong. Some crafty entrepreneurs in less fancy parts of SA cities have embraced quadricycles like the Indian-built Bajaj Qute for use in their small delivery businesses.

The CityBug is aimed more at home usage and Geyser adds they have sold only four CityBugs since launch in 2021 but he awaits 25 more to arrive soon. Franchise opportunities are also available for aspiring entrepreneurs to market this interesting little EV.

More information at www.eleksa.co.za


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