The Chinese auto industry is confusing to outsiders for lots of reasons.
It abounds with more or less obvious rip-offs of other cars and brands unknown to anyone not residing in Mainland China. Now we can add one more noggin-scratcher to the mix: Zinoro, BMW’s Chinese market brand.
Actually, if you go to the Zinoro website, the URL reads “Zhinuo”, but the branding reads “Zinoro”. So we’re not sure which one is the final name. For now, we’ll go with Zinoro.
The Zinoro E1, based upon the BMW X1 just debuted at the Guangzho Motor Show. And it looks nearly indistinguishable from the headlights back from its BMW cousn.
While it might look the same, there actually are some important differences between the two cars, not to mention the brand slogan, “Experience Entire Authentic Friendliness,” which stands in stark contrast to BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Experience.”
The biggest difference between the X1 and the E1 is the powertrain. The Zinoro E1 is an EV powered by a lithium iron-phosphate battery pack. They don’t have quite the energy density of the more popular lithium nickel-cobalt mix, but at least they wont kill quite as many pandas, as they are less toxic to manufacture.
Unfortunately, that lower energy density does result in pretty anemic performance. The electric motors max power output is about 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. That sounds okay, but the top speed is limited to 80 mph … 80! My editor, Nick Jaynes, throw a baseball faster than 80 mph and he has arms like an eight-year-old girl.
Still, that low top speed may not matter that much for the average Chinese customer. This is meant to be a city car. That means it’s going to spend most of the time at speeds below 40 mph.
Speed isn’t the E1’s only issue, I’m afraid. Range isn’t great either. Zinoro claims the E1 will only go 93 miles on a single charge. That really does limit the car’s ceiling to being a city runabout.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this car has nothing to do with its engineering. BMW itself will not have much to do with this car – or the Zinoro brand, aside from loaning technology. Instead, the majority of the load will be borne by established Chinese automaker ‘Brilliance’.
This type of partnership might represent a step forward for Chinese carmakers. Before just very recently, Chinese auto firms were relegated to producing blatant copies of western cars.
With this sort of setup, though, western automakers can turn a profit off of Chinese research, and Chinese companies gain access to a wealth of western automaking information and engineering experience that can, in turn, be used to complement Chinese production expertise.
If that’s the case, the future of Zinoro will be worth watching, even if only to laugh at its wacky slogans.