Awesomely Weird Alibaba EV of the Week: Cheap electric backyard construction vehicles!

Industry

Remember those days as a kid, playing with Tonka trucks? Back when your wildest fantasy was running your own cute little sandbox construction site, ordering toy trucks and cranes to move around loads of dirt all willy-nilly like those tiny drivers weren’t getting paid by the hour? Well, just because you’ve grown up now and had to start acting like an adult doesn’t mean you can’t still play with adult-sized construction toys! And now, with compact electric construction equipment appearing on the scene, you can even be the foreman of your own backyard construction project without bothering the neighbors!

I’ll start by admitting that this week’s entries in the Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week series are stretching the definition of “vehicle” a bit. But I’m running the show here, so I’m going to let it slide.

To make it up to anyone who feels uncomfortable with this classification, we’ll double down with an extra dose this week. I’ve got not one but two awesome fun-sized electric construction machines.

The first is an electric excavator (or backhoe or digger… the internet tells me all three terms can be correct, but the internet has also taught me that someone will surely still explain to me how I’m wrong).

It’s a little fellow, don’t be fooled. It’s less of a Caterpillar and more of a cat. Or perhaps a kitten.

This tracked 1-ton excavator comes with the model number HHE10. It has a digging depth of 1.65 meters (65 inches) and a digging radius of 2.4 meters (95 inches). So you’re not going to be digging a hole right down to China and handing the factory a check in person, but you could definitely do some pockmark damage on a pristine piece of land.

What this digger lacks in sheer mass, it makes up for in heart in the form of a massive 72V and 135Ah lithium-ion battery. That’s a whopping 9.7 kWh of capacity for anyone keeping score at home. The pack only weighs 100 kg (220 lb), and this might be the first time I’ve ever thought lead acid batteries might have a real advantage — this machine sure could use the extra weight. As far as diggers go, 1 ton is a featherweight.

The excavator obviously wins the popularity contest, but it might not be the most useful piece of backyard construction equipment on Alibaba.

If your needs are more centered around lifting and loading jobs like moving compost or mulch around, the wheeled electric loader I found below has your name written all over it — right next to the Chinese stickers that say things like “extreme pinch hazard” and “do not put fingers here.”

The loader is model number HHL-03E and comes standard with a 900mm wide (1 yard) bucket. This little electric workhorse (or work pony?) is rated for lifting 300 kg (660 lb). That’s nearly half of the machine’s 660 kg (1,455 lb) weight.

The loader has a pair of electric motors, with a 1.8 kW motor operating the drive wheels and a 1.5 kW motor running the hydraulic pump.

The whole unit costs just $2,500!

That’s a bit cheaper than the electric excavator, which is priced at $7,500. Though, to put that in comparison, the only other mini electric excavator on the market appears to be the JCB 19C-1E, a nearly $60,000 machine. Granted, it is almost twice the weight, can dig about 30% deeper, and has a 40% larger battery — but it still costs over $50,000 more than our little Chinese digger. That’s more than most backyard Bob the Builders want to spend.

Plus, check out this catalog with all the awesome accessories you can pick up for the Chinese electric excavator. At these prices, you might as well get a handful of buckets and other fun parts!

And in case you’re wondering what these things look like in action, you’re in luck for both.

An action shot of the loader comes to us from Electrek reader Alex, who actually did what we all only joke about doing — buying the thing! He plopped down the cash, and several weeks later, the loader arrived!

He said it had the outer sheet metal had the cheapest thin coat of paint ever (which eventually led to some rust spots) but that otherwise, it’s actually been working quite well. He uses it around his 2-acre property, and his only major complaint is that it’s a bit hard to control the fine-tune acceleration, making precision work a bit tricky.

You can see in his video how it tends to jump forward a bit when you press the accelerator.

He also noted that the hydraulic pump motor is a bit louder than he would have hoped and kind of takes away the fun silence of an electric vehicle.

It actually looks like quite a useful piece of gear for anyone with a bit of land, but who doesn’t want to get a larger loader? And the bucket can dump from 1.35 meters (4.5 feet), so you could even load up a pickup truck bed. Or definitely the bed of a mini electric pickup from Alibaba!

The fact that it’s electric also means you never have to deal with keeping gas cans around or deal with downtime from engine maintenance. There’s still probably some less than fun hydraulic system maintenance in your future, but that’s true regardless of the fuel source.

The vendor of this electric excavator sent me a video clip of the machine doing a little ground rearranging. I was a bit surprised how small it actually was, though the spec sheet did say the bucket was 0.025 cubic meters (0.9 cubic feet).

That still means every scoop is about 3-4 shovelfuls of dirt. But at $7.5K, this is a pretty expensive shovel replacement. If we’re actually talking about practicality, I only see this being useful if you have a lot of digging to do. Laying a 10-ft trench or planting a couple trees is probably still best done with a shovel. But for a 100-ft trench or a pile of holes, an electric digger can save your back and keep you from choking down diesel exhaust at the same time.

Ultimately, I’m not sure anyone needs these tools, but they’re so cool that I’m actively looking for an excuse to use them. I’m planning out a dirt track for electric go-kart racing on the back of my parents’ property, and this would be a great way to build up the berms and grade the track. Hmmm, I might need to get one of each of these for “research” purposes.

Buying things on Alibaba — is it legit?

Even though I write this weekly column about all the fun and weird Alibaba electric vehicles I’ve found, that doesn’t mean I’m suggesting anyone just jump into a purchase.

Window shopping is the safest way to enjoy all of these fun vehicles.

But occasionally, I’ve been bitten by the bug and actually bought electric vehicles from Alibaba, and I’ve apparently accidentally convinced others to do so too.

The advice I usually give to anyone interested in heading down this path is to over-communicate with the seller. I’ve been chatting with Kun Haohong from the factory that makes and sells these two electric construction machines, and the guy has been a pleasure to deal with and super responsive. The chat feature of Alibaba also makes it easy to communicate with the factories directly.

Not every vendor has been great to deal with, though, so make sure you find a good one that you are comfortable with.

At that point, if you’re brave enough to jump in with both feet, I recommend paying through Alibaba using either a credit card, PayPal, or Apple Pay. All give you some form of recourse should you need it. And Alibaba also holds the money in escrow until you receive your product and sign off that it all looks kosher.

What if I want to see even more Awesomely Weird electric vehicles?

Oh boy, did you come to the right place!

I’ll be back next week with even more fun and weird EVs from halfway around the world.

Until then, though, consider checking out some of my favorites, such as a fun little electric sidecar drift trike, a three-wheeled electric food truck, or an electric horseless carriage that looks fit for Cinderella herself!

And feel free to drop me a link to any cool finds that you stumble upon yourself. You can find my contact info in my author bio below.


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