Hong Kong electric car start-up Thunder Power eyes China market

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 3:05pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 10:38pm

Hong Kong-based electric vehicle company Thunder Power has thrown down the gauntlet to carmakers and tech giants around the globe, claiming that its vehicles will have revolutionary wireless charging, autonomous driving capabilities and a range that will surpass its rivals and win the hearts of Chinese consumers.

Thunder Power on Thursday debuted its brand in Hong Kong as part of its efforts to introduce the company to the Asia Pacific market.

Its first electric vehicle, due to commence production in China during the fourth quarter of 2018, boasts specifications that include a 650-kilometre range thanks to a 125 kilowatt-hour battery. That’s 50 per cent more than the Tesla Model S sedan’s 430 kilometres.

The sedan will cost about 434,000 yuan (US$63,000) and is already available for pre-orders on the Thunder Power website.

The Chinese tech giants, they have to compete with me
Wellen Sham, chief executive of Thunder Power

Wellen Sham, chief executive of Thunder Power, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that the extended range is what will convince buyers in the Chinese market to take a chance on the Thunder Power electric sedan.

“The key is range. 400 kilometres may be enough [to drive] in Hong Kong, but it is not enough for China,” Sham said.

He also claims that the company is currently applying for a patent for its wireless charging technology, which can also be installed in a modular fashion to any electric vehicle and will provide a full charge within just three to four hours, compared to the current nine to 10 hours required today.

Thunder Power, which has over 390 patents for its electric vehicle technology, has also patented a proprietary system that uses alcohol detection and even electrocardiogram detection for a driver’s cardiac activity to determine if the driver is capable of safe driving.

While the technology is not yet included in its current electric vehicle, it could be used in conjunction with autonomous driving features in the future to ensure safe driving in the vehicle, Sham said.

“Autonomous driving must have a purpose. You can use it to take drivers who are not suitable to drive [at the moment] off the road,” Sham said, referencing individuals such as the elderly, or drivers who are inebriated.

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The sensors can detect if a person is fit to drive, he added, with the car automatically removing the steering wheel if it detects that the driver is drunk. Driverless mode can then be automatically put into action to ferry the car safely to its destination.

Sham, who is the controlling shareholder in Thunder Power, is not daunted by the millions of dollars of investment that technology companies are pouring into car companies, both in China and abroad.

China’s Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have all invested heavily into developing connected and driverless automobile technologies in a race to put autonomous electric cars on the road.

“The Chinese tech giants, they have to compete with me,” Sham said. “They can’t crack autonomous driving because they’re using image recognition, but [Thunder Power] is using fuzzy logic, a neural network that imitates the human brain.”

Sham reckons that autonomous cars from Thunder Power will be ready by 2025.