It has been a popular year for Chinese companies announcing plans to develop electric vehicles, and the spree has continues.

Chinese state-owned automaker BAIC Motor Corp, announced an R&D centre in Silicon Valley yesterday. They also revealed that they have taken on a majority stake of California-based electric car maker Atieva, and will begin developing electric cars, and later, self-driving cars.

Atieva was co-founded in 2007 by former Tesla executive Bernard Tse. The company is based in Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park. BAIC’s new research and development operations will be run at a separate centre that is currently employing 20 staff.

BAIC is planning to up its production to 200,000 electric cars by 2020, hoping to export 30% of them outside China.

Earlier this week we reported on four high tech car concepts from Chinese internet companies that we can expect to see within a year. Among them was the Tencent-backed NextEV electric supercar and the LeTV Aston Martin electric sports car.

Both NextEV and the LeTV electric car teams have research teams also based in Silicon Valley. LeTV said this year that it would be releasing its first concept car in April 2016 at the Shanghai Auto Show, while NextEV, who announced their Tencent investment just last week, remain tight lipped on a release date, but have committed to a 2016 concept launch.

The electric vehicle market in China is attracting a lot of attention from high profile tech and auto investors, with the Chinese-backed electric vehicle concepts looking to challenge Tesla both globally and in China.

It’s been a rough year for Tesla’s China-side team, with reports claiming that the U.S. company had laid off 30% of its staff on the mainland in reaction to slowing sales.

Last month the company urged the U.S. government to put pressure on China during Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit, hoping to lift restriction of foreign automakers.

Currently Tesla is not able to manufacture in China without establishing a Chinese joint venture. The Chinese government has been openly supportive of developments in the electric vehicle field, but has not budged on laws restricting foreign companies.


Image Credit: Shutterstock

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Cate Cadell

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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