Elec­tric star­tups strive to ac­cel­er­ate pro­duc­tion ef­forts

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - MOTORING - LI FUSHENG

Elec­tric car star­tups in China are ratch­et­ing up their ef­forts to de­velop and roll out mod­els as new en­ergy ve­hi­cles are grad­u­ally be­com­ing more and more ac­cepted across China.

One-year-old Fu­ture Mo­bil­ity Corp has inked a deal with an in­dus­try fund to re­ceive in­vest­ment of $200 mil­lion, one of its share­hold­ers Har­mony Group said in a doc­u­ment filed to the Hong Kong Stock Ex­change last week.

An­a­lysts say the move shows in­vestors’ con­fi­dence in the startup and the po­ten­tial of the Chi­nese mar­ket, which is al­ready the world’s largest new en­ergy mar­ket.

Two mil­lion such ve­hi­cles are ex­pected to be sold an­nu­ally by 2020.

The China As­so­ci­a­tion of Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers pre­dicts around 700,000 new en­ergy cars will be sold this year.

Con­struc­tion started on FMC’s $1.66 bil­lion plant ear­lier this year in Nan­jing, Jiangsu province.

The plant will launch pro­duc­tion in 2019 on its first model, a mid-size premium elec­tric SUV.

FMC’s first con­cept car will make its de­but later this year.

The elec­tric car­maker has de­vel­oped all the prod­uct’s core parts it­self, in­clud­ing the pow­er­train and the soft­ware con­trol­ling unit, said CEO Carsten Bre­it­feld, who was head of BMW’s elec­tric car i8, in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view.

Some star­tups are go­ing even faster. The first two mod­els of Bei­jing CHJ Au­to­mo­tive Tech­nol­ogy, a two-seat elec­tric car and a larger SUV, will hit the mar­ket in 2018, ac­cord­ing to its pub­lic re­la­tions di­rec­tor Liu Jing.

“We do not have a con­cept car, as it is costly and time-con­sum­ing,” she said.

Nio, which is for­merly known as Nex­tEV, is to start pro­duc­tion of its mass­mar­ket elec­tric SUVs later this year, ac­cord­ing to the startup backed by Ten­cent Hold­ings and in­vest­ment firm Hill­house Cap­i­tal.

Nio has reached car pro­duc­tion deals with JAC Mo­tors and Changan Au­to­mo­bile, both of which are tra­di­tional car­mak­ers.

Yudo is prob­a­bly one of the ear­li­est star­tups to get its cars to mar­ket, with its first model, an SUV, hav­ing won the ap­proval from the Min­istry of In­dus­try and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy — a must be­fore any car can be sold in the Chi­nese mar­ket.

This shows star­tups need to work to­gether to face com­pe­ti­tion from tra­di­tional au­tomak­ers.”

co-founder and CEO of elec­tric startup WM Mo­tor

The SUV has three vari­ants and a max­i­mum range on one charge of 200 kilo­me­ters to 330 km.

Some elec­tric star­tups are plan­ning to pool their re­sources to ac­cel­er­ate their de­vel­op­ment and cut costs.

Shen Haiyin, CEO of Sin­gu­lato Mo­tors, said in late July that his com­pany and sev­eral other elec­tric car star­tups have been dis­cussing an al­liance for months. He told Reuters the star­tups aim to fi­nal­ize the move by end-Septem­ber, aim­ing to start es­tab­lish­ing a com­mon plat­form by the end of this year.

“Just like smart­phones, with the same An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem in­nards across many brands, smart elec­tric ve­hi­cles should com­pete more on own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence and ser­vices,” said Shen.

He said com­bin­ing re­sources would al­low al­liance mem­bers to de­velop far more ad­vanced ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy, and for less money.

“Let’s say each player planned to spend 200 mil­lion yuan ($30 mil­lion) to de­velop a next-gen­er­a­tion plat­form; if four play­ers each threw in 100 mil­lion yuan, we’d all save money but end up with a 400 mil­lion yuan plat­form rather than a 200 mil­lion yuan plat­form,” he said. “The ben­e­fits are clear.”

Free­man Shen, co-founder and CEO of elec­tric startup WM Mo­tor, reck­ons the prospect of tougher new tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments is a big fac­tor spurring star­tups to con­sider an al­liance to de­velop ba­sic ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy.

“This shows star­tups need to work to­gether to face com­pe­ti­tion from tra­di­tional au­tomak­ers.”

Many tra­di­tional car­mak­ers, in­clud­ing MercedesBenz, Volk­swa­gen and Ford, have made new en­ergy ve­hi­cles a pri­or­ity in their re­spec­tive de­vel­op­ment cam­paigns, with a spe­cial eye on the Chi­nese mar­ket.

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