Race for Dominance in China’s Electric Car Industry Heats Up Amid Flurry of Tie-ups between Tech Giants and Automakers
The race to become the leader of clean energy vehicles in the world’s largest auto market is on, with more and more tie-ups established between China’s tech giants and traditional automakers.
These joint ventures have the potential to represent the best of both worlds combined — the software capabilities of tech companies experience wider commercial use, while established automakers incorporate smart car technologies to new models.
Meanwhile, this takes place amid a strong push from the Chinese government for widespread NEV (new energy vehicle) adoption. As part of this campaign, authorities in Beijing have included autonomous cars as one of the key sectors in its ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative, which aims to transform the country into a global leader in the manufacturing of high-end, innovative products.
The government hopes to see 30% of cars sold domestically by 2025 to have smart connectivity and has been providing extensive policy support to the EV sector, including tax subsidies, improvements to license plate laws, and registration benefits.
Below is a list of developments in the EV industry that Pandaily aims to monitor and update regularly.
Baidu x Geely
In early January, Baidu announced a strategic partnership with Geely aimed at manufacturing electric vehicles, immediately sparking heightened interest across the industry.
The Chinese search engine and AI company on Monday confirmed that it had appointed Mobike co-founder and former CTO Xia Yiping as the chief executive of the new EV firm, which will strive to produce a commercial vehicle within three years.
As part of a deal to set up an intelligent EV company, Baidu will provide in-vehicle software, while Geely will offer up its engineering capabilities, with the new passenger vehicle to be produced at Geely’s own factories.
The next-generation vehicles are expected to be sold under a new brand and with built-in integration with Baidu’s full range of internet connectivity infrastructures, including the autonomous driving platform Apollo, voice assistance platform DuerOS and Baidu Maps.
Geely, which owns Volvo and a 9.7% stake in Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, is China’s largest private automaker by sales. The Hangzhou-based firm sold more than 1.32 million vehicles in 2020 and celebrated the milestone of selling 10 million vehicles globally last year.
On Saturday, Geely Founder and Chairman Li Shufu announced that the company will shift 90% of its production to hybrid EVs, and confirmed the establishment of a new-energy vehicle factory.
Foxconn x Geely
Last month, iPhone assembler Foxconn announced a joint venture with Geely, and is in talks with startup Faraday Future regarding the production of electric cars.
The company said on Saturday it will launch two lightweight electric vehicles by the end of this year using the company’s open software and hardware platform
Geely said in a statement that it had signed a deal to offer technology and engineering support to Faraday Future, and had become a minority investor in the company’s listing.
The Taiwanese electronics giant may also help launch an electric bus around the same time, Chairman Young Liu of Foxconn’s flagship unit Hon Hai Precision Industry said.
In 2015, Foxconn partnered up with Tencent to explore opportunities in smart electric vehicles.
Alibaba x SAIC Motor
In November of last year, Alibaba announced the establishment of Zhiji Motor, an EV partnership with Shanghai-based auto giant SAIC. The new firm has already received 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) in initial financing, and will combine SAIC’s manufacturing expertise with Alibaba‘s technological strength in the field of artificial intelligence and big data.
Last month, Zhiji unveiled its first two models — an electric sedan and an e-SUV — under the IM label, short for “Intelligence in Motion.”
The all-electric long-range sedan, which will be available for order in April 2021, features a standard 93 kWh battery or a 115 kWh option. The company is aiming to launch the SUV in 2022.
Huawei x Changan
Smartphone maker Huawei is collaborating with state-owned automaker Changan and EV battery supplier CATL to develop high-end EVs, the companies announced in November.
The move is intended to help state-owned Changan “keep up with the times and user needs,” Chairman Zhu Huarong said.
The first vehicle model is expected to make its debut this year, and is reported to be a mid-sized all-electric SUV.
On Friday, Chinese media reported that smartphone maker Xiaomi has decided to build cars, amid a period of stagnant growth across the global smartphone industry.
The project is considered a strategic decision and could be led by company founder and CEO Lei Jun, LatePost reported.
In response, Xiaomi said in a statement on Sunday that it has not yet initiated any formal project regarding the study of electric vehicle manufacturing.
The company “has been paying attention to the developments in the electric vehicle industry, and has continuously studied the relevant industry trends,” it added.
Since his two 2013 visits with Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the US, Lei has toyed with the idea of auto manufacturing. His venture capital Shunwei Capital has invested in EV start-up NIO in 2015, as well as in XPeng in 2016 and 2019.
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According to documents published on the National Patent Office website, Xiaomi has since 2015 filed a list of copyright applications for a range of innovative technologies, including cruise control, navigation, assisted driving and other car-oriented features.