There's quite a list of Chinese automakers that are relatively unknown outside China yet have grand plans to enter the U.S. market. The latest is China’s Qiantu Motor, which has developed an all-electric luxury sports car called the K50,
The K50 went on sale in China earlier this year and will be sold through California’s Mullen, which claims to be “the affordable electric car company”—although at a price tag that’s the equivalent of more than $100,000 in China, this vehicle may serve as something of a flagship.
Last week Mullen announced a “strategic cooperation agreement” with Qiantu to co-develop, assemble, and exclusively market the K50 in North America—with a potential arrival in 2020. Mullen confirmed to Green Car Reports that it intends to homologate the K50 in 2019.
The K50 is built on an aluminum structure with carbon fiber closures (hood, trunk lid and, we would assume, doors as well). Its 402 horsepower, from two electric motors enables a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 4.6 seconds, and a top speed of 124 mph. With a 78-kilowatt-hour battery pack, it has a claimed 236-mile range on the highly optimistic old European NEDC standard—so likely something less than that for the EPA cycle.
If it does arrive via Mullen, it would be quite the contrast piece. Up until now, Mullen has included several car dealerships and primarily sold low speed vehicles, which are limited to 25 mph and intended for golf courses, resorts, large private subdivisions, and urban streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less. It also purchased pieces of the long-defunct electric-vehicle maker Coda, which took a compact Chinese sedan, with 1990s Mitsubishi roots, that was assembled as a “roller” in China, and then upfitted it with an electric powertrain in the U.S.
CHECK OUT: 2012 Coda Sedan: First Drive
In October, Mullen entered a joint-venture agreement with two different companies—Beijing Kingdom Motors (BKM), and Zhejiang Jonway Group. Mullen will be responsible for homologating a BKM vehicle, to be sold as the Mullen 750. And it claims the venture with Jonway will result in an SUV, commercial vehicles, and other passenger vehicles. That company, Mullen claims, has “a set of incredibly versatile and friendly family vehicles that will resonate with the US consumer.”
Mullen told Green Car Reports that after the K50 goes on sale, in 2020, it's planning to launch a small SUV in 2021 with a joint venture.
The company aims to build passenger vehicles locally “in California and/or Nevada”—although it says that it no longer intends to build vehicles like Coda.
Mullen, in its website, claims to have a “breakthrough battery technology,” but this appears to be in the form of some of Coda’s original launch materials, eight years later. And actually, Mullen may be abandoning Coda's lithium-iron-phosphate battery technology entirely.
"The original Coda powertrain is not being planned for use on this or the next generation of cars," said Mullen.
Even if not, a Coda connection persists. In September Mullen hired Weipin Zou, the former senior engineer for Coda, who worked at Faraday Future for some of the years in between.
Coda’s biggest weakness at the time, outside of its unreasonably high price, was the anonymity and relatively poor assembly quality of the car itself, not its powertrain. With all the rapid improvement that Chinese-market vehicles have undergone this decade—K50 sports car or not—we could end up with some interesting electric vehicle possibilities.
NOTE: This story was updated to reflect responses from Mullen Technologies, and to clarify that the K50 is currently on sale in China.