Electric vehicles


Electric vehicles may be next for Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi as it lines up patents

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2015, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2015, 4:36pm

China’s top smartphone maker Xiaomi may be preparing to move into the electric car industry, at least if its recently filed patents are any indication.

China’s intellectual property office, known by the acronym SIPO, from last month began making public a series of automobile-related patents that Xiaomi had filed earlier in the year. 

These include patents for cruise control, handling, navigation systems, notification systems and numerous other devices related to the functionality of a vehicle.

Although Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun denied during an industry forum in March that he was eyeing the EV market, the rumours have refused to go away. He even went so far as to say Xiami would not target this area for at least the next three to five years. 

“It’s not that we aren’t optimistic” about the prospects of this emerging industry, he said, but “our energy is limited".

If the company were to make a move in this direction, now would be a good time.

READ MORE: Electric vehicles: Geely revs up, BYD drives into Hong Kong

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology aims to have 5 million pure electric or plug-in hybrids on China’s roads by 2020, according to a plan released in February. 

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also published a statement in June explaining how the government will start issuing licenses from this Saturday to factories outside the industry that intend to start manufacturing EVs.

To qualify, applicants must show expertise in the design, testing and assembly of electric cars, as well as prove they are in possession of the correct patents and have the appropriate intellectual property rights for core technology. 

Licensed companies will only be permitted to produce EVs under their own brand.

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This comes after the NDRC launched a pricing directive for electric cars last year in an effort to make recharging costs 30 per cent cheaper than regular fuel. Subsidies and tax exemptions were also offered to buyers of “new-energy” vehicles until the end of 2017.

The EV market is starting to take off. Key players from the US include Tesla, which plans to build half a million electric cars a year by 2020, Google, which is experimenting with self-driving cars, and Apple, which is working on clandestine EV project "Titan”.