China’s Ziche Auto raises US$600m to develop electric smart car
Beijing-based start up Zhiche Auto said on Wednesday it completed a second round of financing that raised US$600 million to develop a smart car equipped an independently-developed intelligent driving and safety system as well as internet-enabled technologies.
Company founder Shen Haiyin also introduced a new logo for the business and announced that “Singulato” would be the English name for its vehicle brand, and “Jidian” for the Chinese name.
The company didn’t provide any further information about its investors in the second round.
Zhiche Auto will invest 8 billion yuan to build a roughly 67-hectare industrial park with an annual production capacity of 200,000 vehicles, as well as two R&D centres, at Tongling city in southeastern China’s Anhui province, according to Shen. The company said it signed an agreement with the local government to begin construction of the industrial park in 2017.
Zhiche Auto, which started out at the end of 2014 with a team of 100 people, plans to apply the smartphone innovation model to the country’s car industry.
The first batch of the battery-powered Singulato SUVs, using an electric motor developed by Kyoto-based Green Lord Motors – known as the “Tesla of Japan” – is expected to hit the mainland Chinese market by the end of 2017, according to Shen.
Singulato was designed as an open and smart platform that would include software and apps developed by third-party developers offering updated and improved functions and experiences for drivers. Such a platform, with its increasing number of new apps, could make Singulato stand out from other vehicles, Shen said in September.
Zhiche Auto has also teamed up with Li Deyi, and academic from the Chinese Academy of Engineering and one of China’s most renowned unmanned vehicle experts, to develop Jidian’s intelligent driving system.
Shen said the independently-developed system could see the company achieve limited self-driving automation by 2018, defined by the American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a situation when drivers can fully cede control of all critical safety functions under certain conditions. The car senses when conditions require the driver to retake control.
The electric vehicle market is becoming a crowded field in China, with Beijing playing a major role in developing the sector through financial incentives aimed at making the country a global leader in the technology. Both the central and local governments heavily subsidise sales of electric vehicles made in China, with rebates of more than 100,000 yuan per vehicle, depending on the city.
China sold more than 330,000 electric vehicles last year, representing a year-on-year surge of 343 per cent, and the government has targeted selling 1.1 million electric vehicles annually by 2020.
Separately, the subsidiary of Harmony Futeng, an electric car venture formed by Tencent, Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology and luxury car dealer China Harmony Auto, signed an agreement with the Jiangxi government in late October to invest 13.3 billion yuan to build a production plant in Shangrao city.
Rival internet companies including Baidu and LeEco have also unveiled plans to build electric vehicles.