It’s the year of four wheels for China’s internet giants, and the country’s tech companies are racing to get their concepts ready by 2016. Cars in the connected, remote and electric fields are under development right now with a focus on high-profile foreign partnerships.
Hi-tech cars have been the domain of western progressive tech companies in the past, including Tesla, Apple and Google, but with R&D at an all time high among China’s tech companies, many are taking the opportunity to extend past traditional fields.
The government has also become a backer of hi-tech car solutions recently, amending rules to allow non-automotive companies to invest in car projects. Here are some of the latest hi-tech car concepts to come out of China’s internet powerhouses.
1. Tencent Partners With NextEV To Build Electric Super Car
Concept: Electric Super Car
Release Date: 2016
What can produce over 1,000 horsepower and accelerate 0 to 100 kilometers (62 miles) in less than 3 seconds? Tencent’s latest partnership with Shanghai-based electric car maker NextEV.
While it’s not Tencent’s first foray into the car industry, their latest partnership with NextEV is snagging a lot of attention. NextEV is a company working on electric cars, and is considered on of the prime competitors to Tesla in the region. Tencent and Uber-backer Hillhouse Capital put up and undisclosed amount to take NextEV global, according to a NextEV spokesperson.
The first model that will be launched under the partnership will be an electric supercar. While it’s not exactly a consumer-ready concept, it aims to show its muscle in the industry by outperforming combustion engines in the same class. A spokesperson told Reuters that the car would produce over 1,000 horsepower and have the ability to accelerate to 100 kilometers within 3 seconds, making it competitive in its range.
NextEV’s deep-pocketed investors helped secure former Ford Motors Executive Martin leach to head the effort, which is expected to see a first release in 2016.
In March this year, Tencent had partnered with Foxconn and top Chinese luxury auto dealer China Harmony Auto Holding to begin exploring the electric car industry.
2. Baidu’s BMW Autonomous Car
Concept: Semi-Autonomous Car
Release Date: Late 2015
Chinese search engine giant Baidu inked a partnership with BMW to release an autonomous car, potentially before the end of 2015. The two companies revealed they were working on the project together in April 2014, but had kept things under wraps until the announcement this June that the car would see daylight before the end of the year.
Frequently compared to Google, Baidu lived up to its name, looking to beat the U.S. search giant to market with its autonomous car. Unlike Google’s effort however, the Baidu car will not be fully autonomous according to reports, instead it is going to employ a driver assisted system.
3. LeTV’s Aston Martin Electric Car Concept
Concept: Electric Sports Car
Release Date: April 2016
While they don’t exactly rub shoulders with Baidu, Alibaba or Tencent, LeTV is a budding internet giant in its own right. The company, which began as an internet video streaming service, has since extended its reach into smartphones, releasing a series of controversial ads to challenge Apple in the Chinese market.
They are now expanding into electric Sports Cars too, joining forces to create a concept car with the James Bond of British Car Brands; Aston Martin. The company released a series of concept drawings at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show, depicting a very sleek concept with many of the Aston Martin design features. Aston Martin and LeTV have been reportedly working together on the electric car at an R&D centre set up in Silicon Valley.
In January, LeTV released a custom OS for electric and connected cars, which is expected to feature in the upcoming design. They are expected to release the car at the same show in April 2016.
4. Alibaba’s Internet Connected Cars
Concept: Connected Cars
Release Date: 2016
In March this year Chinese tech giant Alibaba revealed that it had made a $160 million USD investment in partnership with China’s largest automaker group SAIC group to create a fund aimed at developing internet-enabled cars. Unlike others in the field, Alibaba and SAIC have remained tight lipped on their upcoming projects, giving almost nothing away since the initial announcement.
According to an announcement on SAIC’s website, we can expect to see the first project released in 2016. Besides funding, Alibaba is expected to contribute the cloud computing technology, digital entertainment, maps and financial data.
Image Credit: Shutterstock, NextEV, LeTV