Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"Top 8 Chinese Self-driving Electric Vehicle Startups"

From Nanalyze, Dec. 18:
One could be forgiven for thinking that Tesla is the only company in existence building autonomous, or self-driving, electric vehicles. The Elon Musk hype machine, fueled by the fanboys at Futurism and other tech sites, has been in overdrive lately. Now, if the billionaire tells us his secret to regrowing hair, then we might jump on the bandwagon ourselves. In the meantime, we’re going to step back and offer a bit of perspective: As of 2017, there were more than 40 companies not named Tesla testing self-driving vehicles on the roads of California. Here’s perhaps a bigger shocker: The United States has not been the leader in the sales of electric vehicles since 2014. That title goes to China, where investments in Chinese self-driving and electric vehicle startups has accelerated like crazy since 2015:

CrunchBase reported that prior to 2015, China-based EV and self-driving startups had only raised about $23 million across eight deals over seven years. Suddenly, over the last two years, investments have soared to more than $5 billion. This year (so far), most of the wealth has gone to just two companies in two mega rounds: Beijing-based BAIC Group ($1.6 billion in August) and NIO ($1 billion in November) out of Shanghai.
In case you’ve missed it: China, with the world’s biggest population at 1.3 billion people and the world’s second biggest economy at $11 trillion, does everything on a mega scale. It wants to be the leader in artificial intelligence and robotics. Its ballooning middle class has money to burn. But the boom has brought its own kind of bust in the form of pollution that’s thicker than the haze at a 420 rally in Boulder, Colorado. Those new middle class households all now own cars, creating a chaotic choke hold on the country’s highways and byways. It’s no wonder why the Party through its semi-capitalist system is pushing toward quiet and clean technologies. And, if you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in a vehicle in China, you would appreciate the concept of self-driving vehicles.
We just hope the companies below also throw out the horn when they remove the steering wheel. (One thing to note: This list is the top-8-funded Chinese automotive startups, which includes companies building just electric vehicles or developing only autonomous vehicles, as well as those that do both.)

Sporting Some Serious Money

Founded in 2015, NIO (the brand has become synonymous with the company’s official name, NextEV) has picked up a total of $2.1 billion in disclosed funding, including from domestic tech giants Tencent and Baidu, as well as leading venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital. The company picked up a cool $1 billion last month as part of a Series D. Earlier this year, its sporty, electric model EP9 claimed the title as fastest self-driving car in the world, reaching a speed of about 160 mph without a human behind the steering wheel. It definitely looks like something the Q Branch, the R&D department for James Bond, might roll out for the super spy:

Indeed, the startup seems caught up in the need for speed: Its most successful vehicle to date has been a Formula E racer. Its new EV powertrain for the race car can go from 0 to 63 mph in three seconds. The startup has said its first mass commercial product, an all-electric sport-utility vehicle called the Nio ES8, should be on the market by the summer of 2018. We first covered these guys in March....