Back in early 2021, I set out on a journey to buy an electric mini-truck from China and bring it to the US. Yes, I’m that guy. You may have seen my truck before. After tens of millions of views on its viral videos and articles over the past two years, now it’s time to take a closer look at how my Chinese electric mini-truck has held up. And spoiler alert: some of you folks aren’t going to be happy.
First, a brief refresher. Here’s how the whole thing went down.
As part of my weekly series where I scour the internet for weird and awesome electric vehicles from China, I discovered an electric mini-truck that had obviously been designed to imitate American pickup trucks. With the front end looking like a Silverado and the rear having more of an F-150 vibe, the entire vehicle somehow weighed less than just the engine in either of those pickups. Some people called it an “F-1/50th”.
It was listed at $2,000, and I just knew I had to have it. My parents live on a hobby farm and ranch in rural Florida and I figured it’d make a good work truck there, like an alternative to a UTV, so I spent nearly half a year figuring out the logistics to buy and import one of these from China. The price ballooned as I added a bigger battery and accessories from the factory, not to mention the exorbitant sea shipping freight. But after several months it was finally on a boat. And several months after that, the cargo ship eventually tossed a rope onto the docks in Miami.
When it finally arrived at my family’s property after some inland trucking, I was blown away – in a good way.
The mini-truck was obviously not a super high-end vehicle. It topped out at 25 mph (40 km/h) and the interior wasn’t exactly full-grain leather. But it was actually fairly well put together and decently powerful. It even had electric windows/door locks and genuine air conditioning! Though to be fair, that A/C cost me extra for the factory installation.
When I first revealed my mini-truck to the internet, the comments were a mixture of good-hearted chuckling from admirers and a wave of anger you could feel through the keyboard from those who somehow felt personally offended by the truck’s mere existence.
People either loved or hated it, with those in the latter column convincing themselves that it wouldn’t last three months before falling apart. “It’s a good thing it has a bed in the back,” said one commenter. “You can toss in the pieces as they fall off.”
Fortunately for me, three months later I had an update that showed the truck was still doing well. I even put it through a number of tests to demonstrate its power and agility.
Sure, it’s small. In fact, it’s roughly 5:8 scale to a typical American pickup truck, but that’s part of its charm. It also takes up less space, is easy to wiggle around trees and obstacles like a UTV, and can handle a week or more of work on my family’s property with a single charge of its 6 kWh battery.
A year went by and I had another update showing how well the truck was doing. The only thing that had broken was one of the rear reflectors, and that’s only because my dad crushed it while using the dump feature to tilt the bed back on the burn pile. So that’s on us.
Now, it’s been another year and the truck continues to perform the same hard work that it has for just over 25 months. The dump feature is actually working better than ever, as the oversized hydraulic ram they used seems to have worn in to the point that it wants to be at, making it operate more smoothly.
My family frequently uses the electric mini-truck to haul mulch, dirt, sand, compost, lawn clippings, logs, tree limbs, and other loose stuff. The dump feature makes it easy to unload everything – no more shoveling out of a truck bed when you can just tilt the whole thing up and dump your dirt pile.
It’s also a fun trick to show neighbors and visitors to the property. After they’ve oohed and aahed over the electric mini-truck for a few minutes, my dad likes to hit them with the “and there’s one more thing” as he pushes the button to start the bed tilting back.
There have also been several upgrades that my dad and I made to the mini-truck along the way.
We added a small solar panel to the top of the cab for trickle charging the battery, which extended the time between our recharging from around once or twice a week to closer to every three weeks.
The suspension was always a bit stiff, so we replaced the spring coils with lighter 125 lb springs. I don’t know what springs it originally had (they weren’t marked), but I’d guess they were around 400 lb springs – much too stiff for the type of off-road use we perform.
Replacing them with softer springs made a massive difference in the ride quality. There’s a chance it limits the hauling ability since the bed will now squat down a bit more, though we’ve had 700-800 pounds in the back so I think it’s still fine. The springs were also slightly longer than the original rear springs, so we ended up lifting the rear a bit by accident. In the end, it probably evens out.
These types of mechanical upgrades also show how easy it is to work on the truck. Many people asked me about getting spare parts if something were to break, but ultimately, most of the parts can be found locally or at least substituted. The coils, for example, came from Amazon.
The truck’s bed was getting pretty scratched up from all of the hauling, though the deep scratches in the paint demonstrated that whatever rust-proofing they performed on the body was largely working. There was almost no rust even where a pitchfork had scratched straight through the paint down to bare metal in the bed in several places. To repair all the wear and tear in the bed’s factory paint, my dad and I put in a bed liner.
I used a paint-in style that worked beautifully, making an even tougher bed lining than it originally had. I bought a gallon of Durabak-18, which turned out to be much more than I needed for the job.
Any work truck will eventually get a scratched-up bed (which is why many people start with a bed liner from day one), but I’m happy to see how simple and easy it was to restore mine to better than new.
You can take a look at the before and after pictures below.
I also decided to upgrade the tires to something knobbier. The original street tires weren’t bad, but we rarely take the mini-truck on the road since it’s not technically street-legal (it doesn’t meet the safety requirements for LSVs). I put on much more aggressive tires meant for an ATV and they give the mini-truck better performance in the pasture land that makes up most of the property. In another example of substitute parts availability, the new tires also came from Amazon.
The most recent addition to the truck was adding a tow hitch. In my opinion, it really should have had one from the beginning. The problem is that the dump bed feature gives this thing a non-traditional frame and so there wasn’t a great way to install a tow hitch into the frame from the factory.
Instead, I just welded up a monstrosity of box tubes and connected it to the rear axle, which is where the electric motor is mounted and thus is basically the truck itself. Everything else is essentially just a body on top of the rear axle.
I don’t use the tow hitch very often (which is also true for most pick-up trucks and SUVs in the US for that matter), but it does come in handy for pulling my electric boat out of the lake when I want to do maintenance or for pulling a utility trailer around the property. It’s nice to have, even if it doesn’t get used as frequently as the other upgrades.
After two years of near-daily use, the truck is holding up admirably. I know that fact is going to drive the haters up a wall and there’s no end to how happy that makes me.
I can assure you that we use this electric mini-truck for heavy hauling tasks; it’s not getting babied. This is a work truck in every regard and probably sees more “truck” use than most mall crawlers in the US.
Yeah, there are some knicks and dings here and there. The driver’s seat upholstery looks a little more worn than the passenger seat since we rarely have two people in it. But for the most part, it’s as good as new.
Even after all of that use and occasional abuse, this mini-truck is still going strong. It’s not necessarily something I’d recommend for most people, largely because it’s a huge hassle to import from China and frankly is of questionable legality. To get it into the country, I had to submit assurances that I would only use it for off-road purposes (since it isn’t street-legal), and that’s exactly how I use it – as a farm truck.
I’ve since heard of several people who have had their own electric mini-trucks turned back at US ports, so apparently those “off-road only” promises might not be enough anymore. Fortunately, we’re starting to see US-made electric mini-trucks that could soon hit the market, though they cost at least 5x what I ultimately paid to get mine here, including all of my sea freight, tariffs, customs charges, etc. Hopefully, those prices for domestic electric mini-trucks come down as production increases.
Plus, back when I bought mine, the idea of an American-built electric mini-truck wasn’t even on the horizon.
For me, I’d say this has been a great purchase. It’s fine if people want to call it a “glorified golf cart”, though I’m not sure I’ve seen a golf cart that can tow a boat, haul furniture, dump mulch, and that comes with creature comforts like air-conditioning, infotainment screen, power windows and locks, and a frunk. Or one that turns as many heads as this one.
So the haters may still laugh, but the rest of us get to enjoy it. Two years later, this little workhorse is going stronger than ever. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
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