Electric tricycles now welcomed in overseas market, as non-stop innovation continues to drive China’s manufacturing
Published: Feb 19, 2024 09:20 PM
Vehicles ready to be shipped at Lianyungang Port in East China's Jiangsu Province on January 13, 2024 Photo: VCG

Vehicles ready to be shipped at Lianyungang Port in East China's Jiangsu Province on January 13, 2024 Photo: VCG

Not long ago, a blogger living in the US spent $600 to purchase a Chinese-made electric tricycle as a Christmas gift for her father-in-law. After they took it out on the road with delicate decorations, this particular vehicle, commonly seen in China's rural areas, attracted the attention of many locals. 

The shining lights, music and Christmas decorations made it an immediate internet sensation, standing out against the high-powered SUVs and pick-up trucks typically seen on US streets.

With its green and low-carbon features, simple operation and affordable price, this made-in-China electric tricycle exemplifies the new momentum that Chinese products are gaining on global marketplace.

The sudden surge in popularity of the trendy three-wheeler is not a mere coincidence, but rather a result of China's long-term manufacturing advantages gained in its highly competitive manufacturing ecosystem characterized by well-established supply chains, skilled labor force and constant innovation.

Popular three-wheelers

To further expand the international market, Jiangsu Guowei Motorcycle Co, which manufactured the electric three-wheeler, has conducted preliminary investigations into the road conditions and local usage habits of the target market, making the electric tricycles more suitable for local driving, China Media Group (CMG) reported.

For example, for foreign users, the company designed an optimized braking system, where one foot could activate all three brakes simultaneously. The vehicles also feature coating, similar to cars, which prevents rusting for up to 10 years. The battery range can reach 40 to 50 kilometers.

Ni Xiaofeng, the general manager of the company, told CMG that up to 40 percent of the company's annual production of two-wheelers and three-wheelers are exported to more than 70 countries and regions worldwide, including Europe, South America, the Middle East and Africa. 

Other three-wheeler manufacturers are also experiencing rising demand, whose marketing is now helped by ubiquitous e-commerce platforms.

Chinese manufacturing products are cost effective, making them a convenient and environmentally friendly choice of transportation for various purposes such as on farms, golf courses and sparsely populated areas, Jessica Cao, the overseas market manager at Changzhou Xili Vehicle Co, told the Global Times on Monday.

Cao noted that as China's electric vehicle technology continues to improve and the awareness for the environment grows, the company has replaced traditional gas-fueled tricycles with electric engines, which has been popular in markets like Southeast Asia, Russia, North America, South America and Africa.

The popularity of Chinese three-wheelers in international market has offered a vivid example of the competitiveness of China's manufacturing industry, Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Monday.

Before the advent of three-wheelers, other Chinese products, ranging from small souvenirs to home appliances and trains, have been warmly welcomed in overseas markets. 

In 2022, there was a significant surge in the demand for Chinese-made electric heaters and electric blankets, in Europe. In 2023 Chinese cooling products such as air conditioners and electric fans gained popularity worldwide.

China's export of electric passenger vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and solar batteries, known as the "new three" products, reached a record-breaking 1.06 trillion yuan ($150 billion) in 2023, with an annual growth rate of 29.9 percent, while exports of ships and home appliances saw significant increases of 35.4 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively.

China became the world's top auto exporter in 2023, shipping a total of 4.91 million vehicles, a 57.9 percent rise from 2022. The export of NEVs reached 1.203 million units, up 77.6 percent.

Entering 2024, Chinese light rail trains have been put into commercial operation in Mexico City, capital of Mexico, while the first domestically produced large-scale cruise ship, Adora Magic City, has completed its maiden commercial voyage.

Competitive manufacturing 

Made-in-China products have successfully upgraded their quality and brand value through non-stop innovation and industrial redesigning and restructuring, making them more competitive in the international market, experts said.

"Over the years, Chinese manufacturing sector has transitioned from mere processing and assembly to distinctive design and innovation, helping the country's standing as the global manufacturing powerhouse," Cong said.

For example, home appliance giant Midea Group has set up about 200 subsidiaries around the world, with business extending to more than 200 countries and regions. Currently, the company has 40 manufacturing bases around the world, including the US, Brazil and Germany. 

Vincent Zhou, a vice president of Midea Residential Air Conditioner Division, told the Global Times in a recent interview that Midea has been exploring the North American market. 

"At the very beginning, we only did original equipment manufacturing, and then we grow our own brand from niche heating, ventilation and air conditioning categories in the market to original brand , increasingly localized and product design and innovation," Zhou said.

To establish a strong presence in the US market, the company established a R&D center in 2018, which now has a local team with more than 32 engineers and other support workers.

In 2023, China's overall industrial added value increased by 4.6 percent compared with the previous year, and that of the manufacturing industry grew by 5 percent. To date, the scale of China's manufacturing industry has been the world's largest for 14 consecutive years.