Category Archives: Vehicles

BYD changes Shenzhen; next, the world

Shenzhen-based electric vehicle maker BYD is perhaps most famously known outside of China for the fact that Warren Buffet is a shareholder. Inside China, the company’s legendary status as a tech pioneer has taken on a new dimension since being named the only Chinese company in the top 10 of Fortune’s Change the World list this year. 

First published in 2015, the business magazine’s annual list spotlights the top 50 companies who address major social problems as a core part of their business strategy and innovation. 

BYD took third position in this year’s list, behind semiconductor giant Qualcomm and payments facilitator Mastercard. It was also the only car manufacturer listed among the 52 companies. Alibaba and Baidu were the only other Chinese companies to make it into the ranking, taking 37th and 39th spots, respectively. 

According to Fortune, BYD was chosen for the impact it has created in the global electric vehicle industry. The carmaker has not only expanded the new energy vehicle market, but also made significant contribution to environmental conservation. In Shenzhen for example, BYD’s 16,000 electric buses and 22,000 electric taxis have brought down the consumption of petrol or diesel oil by 980 million liters per year, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2.22 million tones. 

As the US-based publishing group writes in its assessment of BYD: “BYD began life as a manufacturer of cell phone batteries and didn’t make its first car until 2003. But for three years, it was the world’s largest maker of vehicles that run partly or wholly on electricity (Tesla only recently overtook it).” 

Fortune sees the company’s development of a flexible “E-platform” for EV design and construction as key to its success. “A basic BYD model sells for a mere US$8,500 or so, after subsidies—a key factor in evangelizing EVs more widely,” Fortune writes. “And a recently announced joint venture with Japan’s Toyota should expand BYD’s global footprint.”

BYD has made the prestigious innovation list before, taking 15th position in the launch edition. That was when it was first commended for the fact that its electric buses only required to be charged once for the full day of operation, and their cost of maintenance was lower than diesel buses. This helped improve the city’s air quality and reduce smog. 

The timing could not have been better from a PR perspective, as Fortune’s list was published the day before BYD announced its latest financial results for the six months to June 30. Listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen bourses, BYD’s businesses include automobile, handset components and assembly, rechargeable and photovoltaic batteries. In the first six months, revenue rose 14.8% to RMB62.18 billion, while net profit soared 203.6% to RMB1.46 billion. 

In its typically understated style, BYD reported that sales of new models had done well in the first half of the year, generating revenue of RMB33.98 billion, up 16.27% YoY, accounting for 54.65% of the group’s total revenue. Among which, the new energy vehicle business was up 38.88%, at RMB25.45 billion, representing 40.92% of the total. 

Driving this growth (can’t escape the pun) was new models, apparently. As the company noted, its share of the Chinese market for EVs increased by four percentage points to 24%. That is against a backdrop of surging overall EV sales in China, up nearly 50% YoY, to 617,000 units in the first half, and despite a fall in overall vehicle sales across the country as demand for fuel-emitting vehicles has slumped. The company believes its newest models were largely to thank for this, particularly the “Tang EV”, which can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds and has a range of 500km. It is “regarded as the SUV with the most power in China, setting a new benchmark in the industry,” BYD writes.

In its financial report, management explained that the recent reduction in government subsidies had inevitably placed pressure on the industry. But in the long run, this is seen as being conducive to consolidating the market, promoting its healthy development. “Now the industry will be more market-driven, and new energy vehicle manufacturers with leading technology, reliable quality and good market reputation are likely to enjoy increasing market share,” it said.

Shenzhen launches 5G buses

Guangzhou may have launched the country’s first 5G bus line back in May, but Shenzhen has not been far behind. It now has two routes running from the Lianhua Mountain Bus Terminal – No. 10 and No. 14 – offering a superfast 5G network to passengers on their daily commute through the city’s main business districts of Luohu and Futian. The lines are used by around 12,000 passengers per day on a fleet of 50 buses.

Download speeds inside the buses reach 1.5Gbps, allowing for movies to be downloaded in seconds. However, that is not the main attraction. The 10-meter compartments of these “smart buses” offer “immersive VR travel experiences” as well. With the help of exterior cameras, passengers can have aspects of scenery along the way projected onto the bus screens, with explanatory details included.

Needless to say, the buses also come equipped with onboard cameras running facial-recognition technology. This is being promoted by the bus company as an improvement on safety.

Ehang unveils plans for Urban Air Mobility Pilot City

When it comes to urban mobility, most people think of ride-sharing, whether it be by cars, bikes or, increasingly, scooters. However, advances in electric propulsion, autonomous flight technology and 5G communication will soon see the skies alive with machines that can carry things and people. 

Continue reading Ehang unveils plans for Urban Air Mobility Pilot City

RoboTaxi venture reshuffles in Guangzhou

The world of autonomous vehicles just got a lot more interesting. Well-financed startup WeRide, which recently secured the majority of autonomous-vehicle licenses in Guangzhou, has formed a new joint venture to launch “RoboTaxis” in the provincial capital – possibly by as soon as next year.

What’s most interesting about the announcement is that it seems WeRide is, to use horseracing parlance, “changing jockeys in the middle of a race”. It had announced last September that it would launch the RoboTaxi service together with Baiyun Taxi, which has a fleet of more than 10,000 cars, and Guangzhou Auto Corp., the country’s second-biggest carmaker. In the latest announcement, there is no mention of GAC. Instead, the third partner of the JV is a state-owned company known for developing industrial parks, SCI (Guangzhou) Group. 

Continue reading RoboTaxi venture reshuffles in Guangzhou

Evergrande, BYD, power ahead in NEVs

Two of Shenzhen’s best-known brands are surging ahead in production of New Energy Vehicles. One of them just happens to be a property developer that is currently reinventing itself as a tech company.

According to local media, China Evergrande has begun mass production of its first new-energy vehicle just six months after unveiling plans to enter the industry. This is not thanks to home-grown brilliance, of course. It is thanks to Swedish technology, which was bought [note to the Trump Administration: not stolen] as part of the company’s purchase of a Swedish electric-car company that has designs from the now-defunct Saab brand.

The Evergrande subsidiary producing the cars is NEVS (National Electric Vehicle Sweden), which has begun production of a Saab 9-3 derived electric vehicle. The factory in Tianjin is capable of assembling 50,000 units per year.

According to a report in a European news site, specifications of the electrified Saab 9-3, which is now called NEVS 9-3 (or NEVS 9-3X in case of the estate version) are unknown. The car will be produced only for the Chinese market – there are no plans to export it to the rest of Asia, Europe or North America.

As reported recently, Evergrande has major ambitions for the NEV market. It has secured land in Guangzhou’s Nansha district for three large-scale production, design and R&D facilities, with the aim of outputting 1 million vehicles annually by 2022. Currently, China has only 2.3 million electric vehicles on the roads, but production is ramping up this year.

Across town, meanwhile, BYD, the Buffet-backed car company that produces mostly battery-powered cars and buses, is seeing its sales surge. And this is before the latest relaxation of government curbs on the vehicle industry that were designed to stoke demand.

BYD sold 26,571 NEVs in June, up 55% YoY. That brought sales in the first half of this year, to 145,653 units, up 94.5% YoY. 

BYD announced six new electric-powered vehicle models at the Shanghai auto show earlier in April. The company reportedly plans to offer a wide range of options, including sedans and sport utility vehicles.

It is potentially a huge market to vie for. Shenzhen’s city government has set the pace for adoption of electric vehicles, making its entire taxi and bus fleets zero-emission. Beijing has recently said it will follow suit, and now it seems every major city is lining up to do the same. Even third-tier cities such as Jiangmen, on the western side of the Greater Bay, have announced they will move to EV-only public transport.

OnTime to launch in Guangzhou

OnTime, a ride-hailing platform backed by Tencent Holdings and Guangzhou Automobile Group, will become the latest player to enter China’s mobility market, the world’s biggest, when it rolls out services later this month, reports the South China Morning Post. 

The Guangzhou-based start-up, positioning itself as a new challenger to the market leader Didi Chuxing, will begin services in the city before expanding in the Greater Bay Area. To kick start the service, OnTime announced that users would be able to hail a ride for a mere RMB0.01 amid soft operations in Guangzhou this Thursday and Friday, before the full launch.Readmore.

Evergrande to build NEV bases in Nansha

China’s No.1 property developer, Shenzhen-based Evergrande, plans to invest RMB160 billion in Guangzhou’s Nansha district to build three New Energy Vehicle bases. They will be fully integrated, with facilities for R&D and production of vehicles, batteries and electrical machinery. The goal is to produce more than one million vehicles once fully up and running, though no specific timeline has yet been given. The land parcel on which the bases will be built was acquired recently in the Wanqingsha area of Nansha. It is 858,000 sqm and RMB847 million.

Read more in Chinese.

Guangdong zooms ahead with electric cars

New Energy Vehicle* production is surging in Guangdong, which is already the country’s largest market for electric cars. In Q1, sales jumped 252.1%, by far the fastest in the country. Leading the charge were Guangzhou Auto (+71% YoY) and Shenzhen-based BYD (+147%).

Guangdong is the country’s biggest producer and consumer of NEVs. There are more than 250,000 on provincial roads, which is around one-eighths of the country’s total. Add in the number of Teslas in Hong Kong – it is the largest per-capita market for Tesla worldwide – and the Greater Bay Area’s dominance in electric vehicles becomes clearer.

Despite falling car sales overall, and despite the headlines about carnage in the startup sector for electric cars, the NEV market is accelerating quickly: around 1.7 million are expected to be sold nationwide this year.

Shanghai will likely catch up in terms of production once Tesla’s Gigafactory there starts pushing out Model 3s, but the Greater Bay Area is expected to remain in the lead on sales. Moreover, looking ahead, production capacity is accelerating fastest here.

Three factors are driving this growth in the GBA. One, industrial policy adjusted quickest here once the central government made it a national priority. This enabled traditional manufacturers such as Guangzhou Auto to undertake major upgrades of production capacity while their startup compatriots were still raising money and learning how to make cars. Total production capacity of NEVs in Guangdong under construction has already exceeded 2 million units annually, including 400,000 for the new energy line of Guangzhou Auto and 400,000 for its Japanese joint venture, GAC Toyota. These should be completed by 2022.

Two, electric vehicles fit into the national game plan for stimulating consumption, and Guangdong has been quick to launch supportive policies such as increasing the quotas for new licenses.

Three, two of the world’s most efficient multinational car companies have been attracted here by favorable policies and deeper consumer markets. They are Toyota, which has invested RMB11 billion into its existing partnership with Guangzhou Auto to produce NEVs, and Mercedes-Benz, which is partnered with BYD.

Read more (in Chinese).

Evergrande buys electric motor firm

Evergrande Health, the tech-focused division of Shenzhen-based real estate giant Evergrande Group, has bought a cutting-edge British technology company, Protean Holdings, which designs “in-wheel motors”.

By acquiring Protean for an undisclosed amount, Evergrande said it was able to “further consolidate its control over in-wheel electric motor technology, [and] to further consummate the strategic layout for its new energy vehicle industry full-value chain”.

In-wheel motors are a technology that allows electrical power to be delivered directly to the wheels of a vehicle. This, apparently, “delivers functionality including torque vectoring and 90 degree turn radius, combined with a digital control platform that supports a range of AI and cloud based services including autonomous EV sensors, digital ABS, vehicle diagnostics and road condition data.”

Earlier this year, Evergrande agreed to pay nearly US$1 billion to take over the Swedish electric car firm NEVS, which controls the assets of the now-defunct SAAB brand. This was just a month after it had purchased Shanghai-based battery-maker Cenat for US$160 million. The company has since founded Evergrande NEVS, a Hong Kong-based group specializing in automobile research, retail, and car rentals with paid-in capital of US$2 billion.

The series of moves followed Evergrande’s fallout with US-based high-end electric car maker Faraday Future, founded by high-profile entrepreneur Jia Yueting.

Read more.

Gree expands with Geely, FAW-Volkswagen

Zhuhai-based home appliance giant Gree Electric is expanding its presence in the automotive industry, supplying air conditioner systems for Geely Auto and FAW-Volkswagen, according to Securities Daily.

Geely is using Gree’s air conditioning system in all of its planned plants, employee dormitories, and other areas that require air conditioning. Besides Geely, Gree is cooperating with many Chinese auto firms like FAW-Volkswagen and Dongfeng Honda. The company is expanding quickly into the field with electrical and appliance manufacturing. Given the stated ambitions of its high-profile chairperson, Dong Mingzhu, no one should be surprised to see Gree launching its own electric cars in the future. She has tried to buy her way in, but could not acquire Zhuhai’s leading new energy vehicle company, Yinlong, three years ago.

Read more (in Chinese).