In recent years, a raft of Chinese entrepreneurs have been going around pitching and fundraising for their electric vehicle startups, but consumers haven’t seen much of those promises materialize until recently. On October 12, XPeng Motors unveiled its first pre-production run of 15 electric cars in China’s east-central city of Zhengzhou, where XPeng’s OEM partner—local automaker Haima Automobile’s subsidiary—is located. This batch, XPeng claims, are the first mass-market EVs born from a Chinese internet car company.

The term “internet car” was coined to loosely refer to cars that are either an IoT connected device, uses the lean startup approach of rapid iteration and shorter product development cycle, or has a top management team hailing from the internet industry. The cars are also, of course, electric.

China’s rush to EVs is made possible by a flood of big-name venture capitalists looking for the next big thing. Among XPeng’s early investors are tech bosses such as He Xiaopeng, founder of Alibaba-owned browser UCWeb; Li Xueling, founder of Nasdaq-listed streaming platform YY Inc; Wu Xiaoguang, former vice president of Tencent; Yao Jinbo, founder of China’s Craigslist equivalent 58.com; Fu Sheng, CEO of Cheetah Mobile; and David Zhang, founding managing partner at Matrix Partners, says the automaker. Chinese tech giant LeEco has had a well-funded electric car project but is struggling to keep it up following the company’s recent fall from grace. LeEco’s new-energy automaker partner Faraday Future has already steered away from their initial plan to build a $1 billion new energy plant in Las Vegas.

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.