Huawei Joins Smart Vehicle Melee with SF5 SUV, Exploring New Revenue Streams Amid US Sanctions

Huawei unveiled its first new energy car equipped with a self-developed 5G autonomous system at the 2021 Shanghai Auto Show, in partnership with Chinese automaker Seres, joining a growing list of tech giants to show ambitions of tapping into the burgeoning electric vehicle market.

The SF5, a hybrid sport utility vehicle (SUV), features a driving range of 180 kilometers in pure electric mode and over 1,000 kilometers in extended-range mode, allowing customers to drive from Beijing to Shanghai with a full charge and a full tank of gas. The car boasts a dual-motor, all-wheel drive configuration, which produces up to 543hp and 820Nm of torque. Drivers can accelerate from zero to 100km/h in approximately 4.7 seconds, which Huawei claims is faster than Tesla’s Model Y.

Huawei is following the trend towards increasingly autonomous and connected vehicles as cars increasingly act as a piece of hardware that is constantly improved with software upgrades. The SF5 comes with the HUAWEI HiCar full-scenario intelligent interconnection system, which supports a series of apps available on Huawei’s smartphones including Huawei Music, Baidu Maps, Tencent News, NetEase Cloud Music and Himalaya. It provides an in-vehicle voice assistant, which can be woken up through physical buttons or interactive screens. HUAWEI HiCar can also link the vehicle to various smart devices, allowing users in the car to turn on the televisions, air conditioners, and other connected devices at their homes.

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“This exciting announcement sets a precedent for both the consumer electronics industry and the new energy vehicle industry,” Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business, said at a press event on Tuesday. “In the future, we will not only provide leading smart car solutions to help partners build better intelligent vehicles, but also help them sell those vehicles through our retail network across China.”

The SUV will be sold at Huawei’s flagship stores including Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hangzhou, starting April 21. The SF5 will be priced at 246,800 yuan ($37,993) for the 4WD option and 216,800 yuan ($33,375) for the 2WD. It comes in four different colors – Deep Ocean Blue, Charcoal Black, Pearl White and Titanium Silver Grey – along with three interior trim options: Midnight Black, Garnet Red, and Ivory White.

Former US President Donald Trump cut off Huawei’s access to processor chips and other technologies needed to make smartphones, claiming that its telecom networking equipment could be used by the Chinese government for spying, an accusation both the Chinese authorities and the company strongly denied.

Yu said that US sanctions have given Huawei a hard time as the company’s smartphone sales plummeted 42% in the last quarter of 2020. “The only way to hedge against losses from the smartphone business is to enter the intelligent electric vehicle sector,” Yu added. Huawei is also looking for other growth areas such as health care and smart agriculture to cushion the impact of being blacklisted by the US.