Chinese EV firms are flush with orders, as tech such as autonomous driving lures in Chinese motorists

  • EVs produced by Xpeng, NIO and Huawei Technologies have proved to be popular
  • ‘Young Chinese drivers are keen on the development of autonomous driving technologies’, analyst says

Chinese electric vehicle (EV) firms have been swamped with orders for their latest models, as enthusiasm for such cars grows among motorists.

EVs produced by Xpeng Motors, NIO and Huawei Technologies have proved to be popular, with features such as autonomous driving technology, Lidar sensors and smart cockpit systems proving to be wildly popular in mainland China, where EV use recently topped 20 per cent.

Most autonomous driving technology in use, classified as Level 2 (L2) or L2+ by global standardisation body SAE International, is a few steps below full automation, a stage that does not need any human intervention and is classified as L5.

“Tech that is at a preliminary stage to fully-autonomous vehicles is the ace up EV companies’ sleeves,” said Peter Chen, an engineer with car components company ZF TRW in Shanghai. “Young Chinese drivers are keen on the development of autonomous driving technologies and are willing to spend a big sum to experience it.”

China is expected to report sales of more than 2.4 million new-energy vehicles (NEVs) – pure electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell cars – in 2021, according to an estimate by the China Passenger Car Association, which has yet to release full-year data.

China-focused investment research firm EqualOcean said in a research report in November that 1.6 million EVs produced on the mainland in 2021 fell into the category of smart vehicles, accounting for about two-thirds of total EV deliveries nationwide. Smart EVs feature autonomous driving technology, as well as sophisticated in-car entertainment facilities and digital technologies such as voice recognition, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

EqualOcean forecast that 7.13 million new cars taking to China’s streets in 2025 will be smart EVs.

In December, the P5 family sedan assembled by Xpeng, recorded the delivery of 5,030 cars, just four months after the model rolled off the production line. The 600P, a premium edition of the P5, comes fitted with lidar technology provided by Livox, an affiliate of drone maker DJI. The P5, the world’s first production model fitted with lidar sensors, sports a price tag of 223,900 yuan (US$35,234).

Xpeng said earlier that the new model had a strong order backlog, but did not give an exact number.

NIO, a domestic competitor of Xpeng, also said it had secured a large number of pre-orders for its new model ET5 that premiered on December 18. The midsize saloon, priced upwards from 328,000 yuan before subsidies, comes with Pano­Cinema, a panoramic and immersive digital cockpit boasting AR and VR technologies.

NIO’s self-developed driver-assist technology has 23 sensor devices and offers high-precision mapping to provide location accuracy of up to 20 centimetres.

The Aito M5, a sport-utility vehicle launched by telecoms giant Huawei Technologies on December 23, received more than 6,500 pre-orders during the first four days after its launch, according to China Securities Journal.

The vehicle comes equipped with HarmonyOS Smart Cockpit, Huawei’s proprietary operating system, and was developed in partnership with Chinese automotive brand Seres.

“More technology players are flocking to the smart EV sector and joining the race to make cars more autonomous and intelligent,” said Gao Shen, an independent analyst in Shanghai. “That will benefit consumers, as they will have an increasing number of options when looking to own such cars.”

Author: Daniel Ren, SCMP

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