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China’s New Electric Car that can be Charged Just Beside Your Phone

China’s New Electric Car that can be Charged Just Beside Your Phone
Before starting Autohome Inc., China’s premier car-buying portal, Li Xiang was earning 10 times more than his parents from part-time jobs when he left school in 1999 to focus on a website.
After the success of the website, he now plans to design and build cars also.
Since Li started the Beijing-based electric-vehicle business in July, Chehejia, or “Car and Home,” has raised 2.5 billion yuan ($380 million) in venture-capital funding. The 34-year-old aims to start selling a commuter car that can be recharged as easily as a mobile phone by the end of 2017. Li is also a self-confessed petrolhead who’s been linked to Telsa Motors Inc. co-founder Elon Musk.
In a market that is already crowded with a number of alternatives, Li promises to meet 90 percent of the needs of commuters struggling with traffic snarls and a scarcity of parking space which would serve as the differentiating factors for Chehejia.
“Traffic jams will only worsen in the major cities, and we need an updated means of transportation that can handle commutes for one or two people,” Li said Tuesday in an interview to Bloomberg. His research lab occupies two floors next to a Daimler-Benz service center in northeast Beijing.
“Technology breakthroughs have offered opportunities for companies like us, which don’t have the historical baggage that traditional automakers have, to design and make revolutionary products that best serve motorists’ needs,” Li said.
Chehejia’s models are a two-seater about the size of Toyota Motor Corp.’s i-Road three-wheeler. The vehicles would be powered by two 10-kilogram batteries that can be transported for charging via household electricity sockets using a handcart and would be sold for less than 50,000 yuan.
By the end of 2018, Chehejia will bring a five-seat sports utility vehicle at the cost of 300,000 yuan that will feature an extended travel range to 600 kilometers (373 miles), said Li.
Employees from Daimler AG, Toyota and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG have been hired by Chehejia which is also building an all-aluminum factory in the city of Changzhou. LEO Group Co., Source Code Capital and Future Capital is backing the company. Li said that the company plans to hold a new round of financing for the second half of this year.
“City dwellers need small, electric vehicles that can be easily charged and parked, and there’s a huge market for it. I can see consumers embracing this and upgrading their cars the same way they ditched their old cellular mobiles for smart phones,” said Xu Yingbo, chief analyst with Citic Securities Co. in Beijing.
Xu identifies “policy uncertainties that could potentially undermine the company’s development,” as the biggest challenge for Chehejia.
“Policy uncertainty is the biggest risk in the short run, yet the fundamental question is whether the car is solid technology-wise and tailor-made to meet people’s demand for mobility,” said Cao He, chairman of ZhongRong Venture Capital Fund Management Co. Before authorities will establish the framework to regulate such vehicles, there needs to be market research into the potential uptake of low-speed electric cars, he added.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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