Move over Tesla: China’s LeEco rolls out self-driven electric car

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2016, 9:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2016, 9:19am

An unlikely new challenger to Tesla has emerged as Chinese entertainment and consumer technology company LeEco unveiled its own self-driven electric car on Wednesday.

The futuristic-looking sedan called LeSEE ran briefly on its own and parked itself by the side of the stage at the launch event in Beijing staged by LeEco, the company previously known as Letv.

The current prototype model has a top speed of 130 miles an hour, said Ding Lei, head of LeEco’s automobile division, called the Super Electric Ecosystem unit.

Without providing technical specifications, Ding said the car will surpass the Model S from leading electric car maker Tesla in “all aspects of performance”.

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“We are not just building an electric car, we are building a new way of transportation for the future,” said Jia Yueting, LeEco’s co-founder and chief executive.

At the launch, LeEco said it aimed to integrate many of its current businesses – from cloud computing and car hailing to online video streaming – into the car, in what it described as a complete “ecosystem” for users.

In a video, the company showed at the event, an user hailed the car with a smartphone and the LeSEE arrived on its own and picked him up.

LeSEE was developed in 28 months, during which LeEco forged partnerships internationally to speed up the process.

In January, LeEco announced a partnership with US electric car start-up Faraday Future (FF), which came to fame by snatching numerous Tesla talents.

FF has announced a prototype sports car FFZERO1at the same time, as well as a standardised design called Variable Platform Architecture (VPA) that can be adapted to different models.

This design will also be adopted by LeSEE, according to LeEco.

It has also forged a partnership with British luxury carmaker Aston Martin. LeEco said at LeSEE’s event that its own motor, control, and battery technology will be supplied by Aston Martin.

“Making automobiles is a global effort for us,” said Ding. “We are looking for capital and technologies around the world.”

LeEco is famous for selling its consumer devices at a price it claims to be lower than the cost.

Jia said LeSEE will be built at the highest quality, but the price would be “disruptive”.

“There is no need to worry about its price,” Jia said.

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Analysts, however, said customers are not likely to be able to purchase the car anytime soon.

“It takes at least five years for a conventional auto maker to develop a new car,” said Zhou Xin, an analyst from Chinese technology consulting firm iResearch. “LeEco needs to continue to make new announcements to satisfy investors and keep attracting new capital to keep going.”

Jia said Hong Kong will be among the first markets for LeSEE when the car is made available, without specifying the time frame for its commercial release.