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Some electric cars from the police series at Ningbo Jiuding Machinery. (Courtesy of Ningbo Jiuding Machinery)

A Chinese company wants to build electric cars in Saint John, but an industry expert says there’s a limited market for such vehicles in North America.

Jason Yuan, the chief executive officer of Ningbo Jiuding Machinery Co. Ltd., has been touring possible locations for a factory in the Port City.

"This is going to be a really big investment," he said through a translator. "A lot of people will be involved, so I have other investors (who) will join."

Ningbo Jiuding Machinery currently builds 30 electric golf carts and low-speed sightseeing vehicles per day at its factory in Ningbo, China, according to the company's website.

Yuan plans to bring a prototype city-car to Saint John and attempt to get it approved before setting up shop.

"We're going to design this as an electronic car," he said. "It's for the daily drive, short distance, just in the city."

The cars will be capable of 50 km/h, said Yuan.

"It's viable, but on a very limited basis," said industry expert Dennis Virag, of Automotive Consulting Group Inc.

Getting the cars approved for road use would require crash tests and other hurdles — an expensive undertaking, Virag said.

"The market for that type of vehicle would be the retirement communities that have EV (electric vehicle) designated only roads."

Two companies making low-speed electric cars ceased manufacturing in Canada in recent years after the federal government ruled only cars capable of highway speeds could be licensed for the road.