The new Funky FE-1 is set to be South Africa's cheapest electric car

19 October 2022 - 10:52 By Nafisa Akabor
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The four-seater Funky FE-1.
The four-seater Funky FE-1.
Image: Nafisa Akabor

South Africa is getting its lightest and most affordable electric vehicle (EV), Chinese import the Funky FE-1, which is set to launch early in 2023. It is expected to sell for about R190,000.

This follows the release of another small EV, the Eleksa CityBug, which went on sale last year and is priced at R237,000.

The Funky FE-1 was first showcased at the Smarter Mobility Africa summit at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Tshwane earlier this month.

Funky Electric co-founder Adele Theron says the idea to bring it to South Africa came while she and her husband were living in China in 2020, tending to their restaurant business. They also have restaurants in the UK.

“We saw a programme on television about it and thought it was a brilliant idea to get it into the African market. It is the perfect car to educate people about EVs,” says Theron. 

The 450kg five-door vehicle seats four people and will come in one variant at launch. It's powered by a 4kW electric motor and a 100Ah lead-acid battery, with a range of up to 100km. Its top speed is 60km/h. Its tyres are 155/70/R12 and it has aluminium alloy rims. 

The CityBug has similar specs — a 4kW electric motor, 125Ah battery, up to 100km range, top speed of 55km/h, weight of 625kg, but with two doors.

We asked Eleksa about sales figures, but received a hostile response that we needed permission to write about the CityBug.

Theron says it took about four months to design the Funky FE-1 with Chinese partners after getting the specifications right and making it roadworthy for South Africa.

The vehicle does not have an NCAP rating, but rather has official Chinese government safety and other technical certifications. This has been acknowledged by the CSIR, says Theron.

Funky Electric will be the sole distributor of the Funky FE-1 in Africa, Australia, New Zealand and England, with South Africa the first market in which it will launch. The rest of Africa will follow.

“It’s small, but big enough, it’s got a cuteness factor and it’s perfect for suburban use because of its top speed,” says Theron. “We are targeting moms taking kids to school, students going to university, dads on a short commute to work or those on quick shopping trips. It's perfect as a second car.”

The vehicle will undergo homologation in November, which can take up to 90 days. Theron says pre-orders will be taken after official certification and they aim to bring in about 100 units to this country for the launch.

The Funky FE-1's battery can be charged in eight to 10 hours with a three-pin plug and has a two-year lifespan. However, the company says it offers a battery exchange service or customers can swap it for a lithium-ion battery.

The car will be available in any colour. Other features include brake assist, multifunctional steering wheel, remote lock, emergency stop button, reading light, central lock and electric windows.

It has reverse cameras, a large touchscreen display that supports wireless smartphone connection over Bluetooth, a USB charging port and a basic sound system. Options include air-conditioner, power-assisted steering and a battery upgrade.

Theron says they are in talks with an insurance company about a warranty and insurance offering that will be announced closer to launch.

She adds that the under R200,000 price point is a result of the Funky FE-1 not being subjected to import duties because of the vehicle’s size and weight.

Funky Electric is based in Pretoria and classifies itself as a start-up, led by Theron and her husband Stephan. Its team of four includes a business development consultant and sales and marketing representative.

The company has no outside investors, but its website has a callout for shareholder opportunities and options to become either a distributor or service partner.

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