Electric Car Startups Backed by Chinese Firms – Part 1

It is the booming age for electric car startups. Interestingly, many such companies have a strong tie with Chinese firms. In this article, we will look at Karma Automotive, Faraday Future and NextEV (Nio).

Karma Automotive

Karma Automotive is a subsidiary of Chinese auto parts company Wanxiang. Wanxiang acquired the bankrupted Fisker Automotive in 2014 and renamed it as Karma Automotive earlier this year.

The headquarters of Karma Automotive are located in Costa Mesa of California, which they ended up buying in April for $56.25million. The company’s factory is located in Moreno Valley of California. Besides, Karma’s controlling company Wanxiang is interested in building a new auto plant in Hanzhou, China. The factory will be able to produce 50 thousand Karma vehicles annually.

Karma Automotive launched its first luxury car Revero on September 8th. The MSRP starts at $130,000. Potential customers can go to Karma dealership to order. Revero is based on the previous Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid, but now uses technologies from BMW. The company plans to build 3,000 units per year. Another model Atlantic, a low-cost 2-door electric car, is in the pipeline.

Faraday Future

Faraday Future was founded in 2014 and the headquarters is in Gardena, California. The company is reportedly backed by Chinese LeEco’s boss Yueting Jia.

Faraday Future released an eye-catching concept electric supercar FFZero1 during CES 2016, featuring a versatile Variable Platform Architecture (VPA). This is pretty much what we know about its product so far. There either is a target time to launch any product.

On the other hand, the company is expanding very rapidly. According to its website, there are over 1,400 people globally already. Faraday Future has attracted top talents in the industry, e.g. an automation expert from Apple.  However, recently some top executives left the company.

Facility-wise, a $1billion 900-acre factory is under construction in North Las Vegas, and another 157-acre formal naval shipyard near Silicon Valley is in negotiation. Recently, Faraday Future downsized the Las Vegas plant to 650,000 square feet. It will be completed by end of August this year. Moreover, Faraday Future will work together with LeEco on the latter’s planned $1.8billion EV factory in China, manufacturing 400,000 cars annually.

Faraday Future launched FF91 model in January this year. The cost would be “less than $300,000”. There were over 64,000 reservations within 36 hours of its debut. The delivery is expected to start in 2018.

Faraday Future has been granted to test self-driving cars on the road in California. It is also running a Formula E racing team – Faraday Future Dragon Racing.

NextEV (NIO in the US)

This less-than-2-year old company has already launch two electric cars.

The first one is a supercar named NIO EP9 with massive 1 megawatt of power (or 1,360 horsepower). The car was caught at the Nuerburgring, filming commercial footage. The supercar will cost $1.48million and Next EV plans to build only 10 of them. It will be available in China and US.

The second on is a 7-seater electric SUV – NIO ES8. The car will be capable of swapping the battery. Sales will be stated in 2018.

The China-based startup has offices all around the world including London, Munich and Silicon Valley. Top industrial executives like former Ford Europe boss Martin Leach and former Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior have been involved with NextEV. Leach visions NextEV to be automaker version 3.0, a level up from Tesla’s version 2.0 over-the-air connectivity.

According to NextEV website, the company plans to build a half-billion motor plant in Nanjing China. It also has formed strategic partnership with Chinese carmaker JAC which will potentially be worth nearly $1.5 billion. There is a joint venture with China Changan Automobile.

NextEV joined Formula E race in its inaugural season and its racer Nelson Piquet Jr. won the championship in 2014/2015 season.

Weekly Electromobility News

Tesla Starts to Sell the Longest-range Electric Car; California PG&E Turns to its Customers to Fund EV Projects; Faraday Future FF91 Would Cost “Less Than $300,000”


Tesla Starts to Sell the Longest-range Electric Car

According to Electrek, Tesla has made available its Model S 100D version. It is loaded with a 100 kWh battery pack and has an EPA rating of 335 miles – a new world-record of electro-range for a mass produced pure electric car.

The MSRP starts at $95,000, which is only $3,000 higher than the price for the 90D version but $35,000 lower than P100D. Also available for Tesla is the Model X 100D, with a range of 295 miles.

New customers will not be able to enjoy free Supercharge access though.

California PG&E Turns to its Customers to Fund EV Projects

According to The Mercury News, California utility company PG&E announced a plan to facility the use of EVs in the state, and its customers would pay on average 28 cents more per month to help fund the $253 million proposal.

PG&E’s plan is intended to support the conversion of large- and medium-sized vehicles to EV and to expand fast-charging stations. The rate increase would be over a five-year period and PG&E thinks that the long-term benefits will offset it for the customers.

On its EV efforts, the utility is installing 7,500 chargers in the residential area and offering a $500 clean fuel rebate.

Faraday Future FF91 Would Cost “Less Than $300,000”

According to Electrek, Faraday Future FF91, which debuted a few weeks ago at CES 2017, would cost “less than 2 million yuan”, said Jia Yueting during an interview. That amount is equal to $290,000. Jia Yueting’s LeEco is the financial backer of Faraday Future.

FF91 received over 64,000 within 36 hours of its debut.


Weekly Electromobility News

Faraday Future Introduced its First Production Car FF91; Second-Generation Nissan LEAF Will Have 200 Miles and Self-driving; World Largest Battery Factory Starts Production


Faraday Future Introduced its First Production Car FF91

According to Fortune, the EV startup Faraday Future introduced its FF91 model during the 2017 CES. The EV will have an electro-range of about 378 miles, a top speed of over 200 mph and 0-60 mph acceleration of 2.39 seconds.

The car will also be loaded with technologies. It can recognize passengers even when they are not in the car. There are two Internet hotspots to ensure continuous connectivity. FF91 will be highly customizable as well.

Potential customers can pre-order the car by putting a refundable $5,000. The delivery is expected to start in 2018.

Second-Generation Nissan LEAF Will Have 200 Miles and Self-driving

According to Green Car Reports, during the 2017 CES, Nissan Senior VP Takao Asami confirmed that the new LEAF would have an electro-range “at or above 200 miles” with at least one variant. He also mentioned that the company was trying to figure out whether or not to introduce different ranges in different regions like North America, Europe and Asia.

Furthermore, Nissan CEO Mr. Carlos Ghosn announced that the ProPilot self-driving technology would be available for the new LEAF. The feature will enable autonomous driving on a highway in certain circumstances. Mr. Ghosn said that the new car will be launched “in the near future”, but did not go any more specific.

World Largest Battery Factory Starts Production

According to Tesla, its Gigafactory began the production of Li-ion battery cells on Jan. 4. These cells will first go into Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 energy storage products. Starting in Q2, cells for the upcoming Model 3 will be built. By 2018, the factory will output 35 GWh/year of battery cells, which is close to today’s global cell production. Because of this high production capacity, Tesla expects that the “cost of battery cells will significantly decline”.

The Gigafactory is being constructed in phases. Right now, it is less than 30% completed, but production can be started in the finished sections already. Once done, it will most likely be the biggest building in the world.

Weekly Electromobility News

Tesla Proposed to Buy SolarCity; Faraday Future Joined Self-Driving Road Test Club; China Manufactured 1.76 Billion Lithium-ion Batteries in First 4 Months


Tesla Proposed to Buy SolarCity

According to Wall Street Journal, Tesla made an acquisition offer to SolarCity on Tuesday. The deal values SolarCity at as much as $2.8 billion, which is with a premium of more than 20% over its current stock price.

The deal, if going through, will allow Tesla to integrate its electric car and battery business with SolarCity’s solar panel business.

Tesla’s market value is about $32.7 billion, which is more than 15 times the size of SolarCity ($2.1 billion).

Elon Musk serves as both companies’ chairman and largest shareholder. He recused himself during the decision making process. The deal needs approval of shareholders.

Faraday Future Joined Self-Driving Road Test Club

According to Reuters, California DMV approved Faraday Future to test its self-driving cars on road, confirmed by DMV’s spokesperson on Tuesday. The company has plans to start road test later this year.

Faraday Future is building a $1 billion EV factory in Nevada and also negotiating another 157-acre manufacturing site on Mare Island.

The DMV has so far approved 14 companies to perform road test on self-driving technologies, including BMW, Bosch, Cruise Automation, Delphi, Drive.ai, Faraday Future, Ford, Google, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla, VW, Zoox.

China Manufactured 1.76 Billion Lithium-ion Batteries in First 4 Months

According to Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China, in January-April 2016, 1.76 billion lithium-ion batteries were produced in China, an increase of 14.3% over the same period of last year. 0.5 billion were made in April alone, an increase of 11.1%.

In January-April, China manufactured 8.695 million e-bikes, an increase of 12.3%.

Weekly Electromobility News

Tesla Superchargers Will Not Be Free for Model 3; Faraday Future Starts to Negotiate on Second Manufacturing Site; Battery Caused Fatal Explosion in a Battery Factory in China

Tesla Superchargers Will Not Be Free for Model 3

According to Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk said that Tesla would charge the owners of “its lower-cost vehicle” for using the Superchargers. This allows the company to decouple the charging cost from the vehicle cost.

Musk commented that the rate would be “very cheap” and there would be an option for purchase for accessing the charging network “free long distance for life”.

Faraday Future Starts to Negotiate on Second Manufacturing Site

According to Los Angeles Times, on May 31st, Faraday Future (through its FF LLC entity) got approved by the Vallejo City Council on an “exclusive negotiating agreement” with the purpose of purchasing “a 157-acre parcel of land on Mare Island”, near Silicon Valley. The land formerly was a naval shipyard.

This latest move follows the start of construction of the company’s 900-acre factory in Nevada less than 2 months ago.

Faraday Future was founded in 2014. It presented an electric concept supercar FFZero1 during 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.

Battery Caused Fatal Explosion in a Battery Factory in China

According to itdcw.com, in May 31th, battery manufacture Highstar in Jiangsu, China had an explosion accident. The explosion has killed 2 people and injured 18 more.

Investigation indicated that the explosion could be caused by a defect battery. The battery could have an internal short-circuit which led to thermal runaway. It propagated to nearby batteries and caused explosion.

Production has since been stopped on site.

Things About Faraday Future Concept Electric Car’s 1,000 Horsepower

The startup company Faraday Future unveiled its concept electric car FFZero1 during CES 2016 in January. Regarding the powertrain, there are four Quad Core Motors outputting >1,000 HP, resulting in 0-60 mph acceleration within 3 seconds and a top speed over 200 mph.

The specs will put FFZeor1 in the 1,000-HP supercar club, which is all about power and speed. Carbuzz.com listed a Top 5 of such cars.

That list included Agera R with 1,100 HP from a twin-turbo 5L V8 engine, 0-62 mph acceleration in 2.9 seconds and a top speed over 245 mph. There is Zenvo ST1 with 1,100 HP from a twincharged 7L V8 engine, 0-62 mph acceleration in 3.0 seconds and a top speed of 233 mph limited electronically. There is Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse convertible with 1,200 HP from a 7.9L W16 engine with 4 enlarged trubochargers, 0-62 mph acceleration in 2.4 seconds and a top speed of 255 mph. There is Hennessey Venom GT with 1,200 HP from a 7L twin-turbo V8 engine, 0-60 mph acceleration in 2.7 seconds and a top speed of 278 mph. There is SSC Ultimate Aero with 1,287 HP from a 6.3L twin-turbo V8 engine, 0-60 mph acceleration in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 256 mph.

Interestingly, it was reported that another company Techrules will show a concept electric car powered by a battery pack and a turbine at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show. The total power is 1,030 HP and the car can go 1,242 miles on a charge.

Talking about speed, Formula One cars can do 0-62 mph acceleration in 1.7 seconds! We may see the return of 1,000 HP engines to the race in the next years. NASCAR cars are pretty fast too. They can top 200 mph with V8 naturally aspirated engines outputting 850 HP. Starting from 2015 Sprint Cup Series, the power is reduced to 725 HP.

Formula E is the electric version of Formula One. The open-wheel electric cars are equipped with 28 kWh battery packs. The maximum power is 270 HP. The 0-62 mph acceleration takes 3 seconds and the top speed is 140 mph.

Regarding 0-60 mph acceleration in <3 seconds, the all-electric Tesla Model S P85D can do that as well – 2.8 seconds. The power of the car is 691 HP. The battery pack is 85 kWh. So the pulse discharge current is 6C (or the power-to-energy ratio is 6). Considering it is a full-size sedan weighted at 2,190 kg, the acceleration is really impressive.

FFZero1’s 1,000 HP is roughly 50% increase from the 691 HP of Model S P85D, which means the weight of the battery pack can be over three quarters of a ton, 50% heavier than Models S P85D battery pack. This huge mass may not be favorable to a supercar, so a better-performing battery technology certainly will help.

It is interesting to note that SSC in 2009 planned to build an electric car version of Ultimate Aero with 1,000 HP from twin electric motors, 0-60 mph acceleration in 2.5 seconds and a top speed of 208 mph. However, the model never went into production. Can it be good timing to give it another try soon?