Mullen, an EV builder based near Los Angeles that has so far mostly operated as a distribution network, in December signed an agreement with Qiantu, a subsidiary of Chinese automaker CH-Auto. Qiantu, pronounced chee-AHN-too, translates to "shaping the road ahead, which is kind of ironic because we have a trademarked slogan in shaping the road ahead in electric vehicles, and that was before we had a partnership with Qiantu," said Frank McMahon, Mullen's chief engineer and CTO. The company has previously built the 700e, essentially a rebadged Coda Sedan, and a Mullen GT back in the aughts.
Assuming it comes to fruition, the K50 will be its biggest manufacturing project to date. The K50 is an all-electric, all-wheel-drive two-seater featuring dynamic torque vectoring and two liquid-cooled electric motors that make a combined 430 horsepower. It features a 70-kWh T-shaped lithium-ion battery with much of the weight shifted to the rear of the vehicle. Qiantu achieves weight savings via an all-aluminum space frame and 29 carbon fiber exterior panels. Total curb weight is about 4,300 pounds, which McMahon says gives it excellent handling in even snowy conditions, in addition to the torque vectoring and independent double-wishbone suspension.
There's also a 360-degree surround camera, a front heated windshield and a rooftop solar panel to power climate controls. The interior is swathed in Alcantara, there's a voice-activated 3-D navigation system and a 15.6-inch infotainment touchscreen.
But much about the version of the coupe that it plans to sell stateside seems unsettled. That starts with where the car will be built; Mullen says only that it will be in North America, with a big announcement planned soon.
"It would be a new facility for us," McMahon said. "What we do is we start with assembly of this vehicle. It's lower volume, so obviously it's a smaller-scale operation. But it's going to be built with scalability in mind for Mullen future vehicles."
Mullen will receive the parts and frame to assemble the K50 from Qiantu, including panels with a baked-in color resin, eliminating the need for a paint shop, and parts from suppliers including Magna, Pirelli and Bosch. But McMahon said there will be features that need to be changed for homologation for different customer expectations in the U.S., with discussions ongoing with Qiantu about where the changes should be made.
Two other things Mullen wants to negotiate are raising the K50's top speed from its current 120 mph, and lowering its 4.2-second 0-60 mph launch time.
While pricing has yet to be determined, McMahon said the K50 would likely fall between the equivalent of $105,000 that the car currently sells for in China and around $150,000 for best-equipped versions. Mullen's business plan envisions a maximum capacity of building 650 units per year, with more down the road as it targets designing, engineering and manufacturing its own line of mid-premium market EVs.
"From a manufacturing perspective, yeah, this is the biggest project," McMahon said. "Not too far down the road after this is a much more complex manufacturing plan."