CHJ Auto challenges Tesla after abandoning plans to create compact vehicles for collaboration with Didi Chuxing
Beijing-based CHJ Auto is an electric car start-up founded by Li Xiang, also known as China’s Elon Musk for creating NextEV, the company in China that plans to take on Tesla. Before CHJ, Mr. Xiang was perhaps most famous for creating a car information and services platform called Autohome.
Now CHJ Auto is teaming up with Didi Chuxing, a company that dominates the car-hailing market in China. The car will be the first vehicle specifically designed for ridesharing.
“The goal of our cooperation is to bring down trip costs, the lower the better,” Li told reporters at a conference on Saturday. “In just two years, Chinese ride-sharers will see a significant step-up in services.
NIO, CATL, Byton, WM Motor and TuSimple are all a part of the electric vehicle race
Many electric car start-ups have come up in China in recent years after the government started handing out manufacturing permits to non-traditional carmakers, fueling the birth of new industry. The handful of electric vehicle startups hoping to challenge Elon Musk’s invention include NIO, electric vehicle battery producer CATL, Byton, WM Motor, and TuSimple.
With the Didi tie-up, CHJ will scrap an original plan to develop a low-priced ultra-compact electric car with swappable battery packs aimed at those upgrading from electric bicycles. It will still go ahead with a luxury seven-seater SUV targeting mid- to high-end users, with deliveries slated for next year.
Li thinks the market could grow another tenfold by 2030
The numbers bear this out: ride-hailing orders have increased to almost 30 million a day in a market dominated by Didi, which elbowed Uber out of China after an expensive subsidy war. Li thinks the market could grow another tenfold by 2030, with manned buses replaced by self-driving ones and ride-sharing accounting for half of all commutes.
Founded in 2015, CHJ closed its B round of fundraising last month, raising 3 billion yuan (US$478 million) from a group of investors led by Matrix Partner China and Shouting Fund. The total amount of financing has reached 5.75 billion yuan and is expected to surpass 10 billion yuan by the year-end, according to Li. CHJ has two manufacturing facilities in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, and an annual production capacity of 80 million battery cells.
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