You might be familiar with the Japanese trend of “kei cars”, which are diminutive vehicles crafted to match local regulatory specifications that allow very small, lightweight cars and trucks to operate legally on the roads. Over the years, these regulations have fostered some of the most intriguing and often cherished miniature vehicles globally. Now, a Japanese car manufacturer intends to introduce its kei car to America. Introducing the riddle of HW ELECTRO.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
More of a kei van than a kei car, the Puzzle extends the legacy of most of Japan’s small vehicles.
The compact electric van made its US debut at an event last week, signaling the brand’s intention to enter the US market. HW ELECTRO anticipates commencing commercial sales of PUZZLE in 2025. In essence, we have some time to wait.
As elucidated by Hsiao Weicheng, president of HW Electro, at the unveiling:
“The launch of PUZZLE reflects HW ELECTRO’s commitment to addressing environmental challenges and developing innovative eco-friendly solutions for the commercial vehicle market. We’re thrilled to officially unveil PUZZLE today and we eagerly anticipate making it available in the US market in 2025.”
This is not the Japanese company’s inaugural venture, even if it marks their initial pursuit of the American market. HW ELECTRO initially entered its local market with the ELEMO series, a collection of next-generation versatile commercial EVs. The ELEMO series, comprising the ELEMO, ELEMO-K, and LEMO-L medium-sized vans, was introduced to minimize the environmental impact in the country and bolster disaster resilience.
The emphasis on disaster preparedness is also prominently featured in the PUZZLE electric van, which incorporates onboard AC outlets, USB ports, Wi-Fi internet connectivity, and emergency gear. Rooftop solar panels have been integrated to ensure functionality even during prolonged power outages. Additionally, a first aid kit and a pry bar are included to provide extra support in the event of encountering any emergencies.
While many vehicles in the US already include AC outlets and first aid kits, PUZZLE’s design incorporates these features externally, requiring access from outside the vehicle to aid others.
The flat, angular design of the vehicle assists in reducing design and tooling costs, while efficiently utilizing the maximum dimensions within the “KEI Car vehicle segment, creating an exceptionally spacious and efficient cargo area. The company states that the passenger seat folds to accommodate larger items and can double as a side table for the driver.
Primarily tailored for commercial applications as a two-seater, the PUZZLE could also serve as an excellent van-life platform with a mattress in the rear, albeit a smaller one. Measuring just under 3.4 meters in length, it’s almost a salad plate smaller than the already diminutive Fiat 500e.
However, in comparison to the Fiat 500e’s mere 180 liters of storage space, the PUZZLE appears to triumph easily in the cargo competition. While the exact storage capacity in the back has not been disclosed, it seems capable of accommodating an entirely different Fiat, implying a much larger volume than 180 liters.
The remainder of the technical specifications have not been disclosed, at least not yet publicly. Neither has the figure that everyone is eagerly anticipating: the price.
While we may not know its speed or endurance, we can at least admire its angular aesthetics. And perhaps, in a few more years, we can finally traverse an American thoroughfare in a Japanese kei car or embark on an electric van adventure on a camping excursion! Just bear in mind that if you opt for the camping route, you might have to sleep in the fetal position.
This vehicle has already won me over. That’s great, go ahead and do it. Press the ‘Go’ button or anything. A small electric van with substantial cargo space, an endearing visage, and AC outlet. I adore it. For some reason, I also appreciate the onboard pry bar. Besides the sporadic road rage incident, who knows when it might come in handy. I Literally Used pry bar to rescue my neighbor from the elevator stuck in our building yesterday. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Pry bars. save. lives. (I don’t think I ever said that. But my handiwork is still visible in the slightly new slope of our building’s elevator doors!)
The key issue for me is the regulatory framework for this in the US. They could potentially attempt this under the existing low-speed vehicle (LSV) regulations, but that would be unfortunate as it would restrict the LSV to a maximum speed of only 25 mph (40 km/h).
Hopefully, they can ensure it meets the minimum requirements for a full-size car, although this will undoubtedly impact the final price.
I suppose this brings us back to the same conclusion as always… the US requires EU-style quadricycle laws so we can have enjoyable mini cars that can still achieve 40-50 mph (65-80 km/h).
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