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Internet firms zoom into smart vehicle market

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-12-22 10:51
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People gather at the booth of Chinese electric vehicle start-up Nio as it unveils its ES8 SUV at the Shanghai autoshow, in Shanghai, April 19, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

SHANGHAI — Chinese internet firms are racing to launch car models with smart func

tions and installing charging posts to make their cars run further.

Shanghai-based smart car developer NextEV, considered by some to be "China's Tesla," launched its electric SUV model NIO ES8 on Sunday.

A standard version of the ES8 is priced at 448,000 yuan ($68,168). With subsidies, the ES8 is sold at 370,000 yuan, compared to the Tesla Model S sold at 700,000 yuan with subsidies in the Chinese market.

The car boasts outstanding self-driving technology. NIO Pilot, its automated piloting system, is internet-connected and equipped with 23 sensors.

Company founder and CEO Li Bin said the car is capable of producing a playlist of music by analyzing users' records. It can automatically shut car windows in case of rain, take a selfie for the driver, and turn on air purification based on weather conditions.

Delivery to customers is expected begin after the model completing a 3-million-kilometers road test in the first half of next year.

Li said the company plans to build 1,100 battery-swap stations nationwide by 2020. Each station covers the space of three parking lots. It can swap electric vehicle batteries in just three minutes.

Drivers in China's first-tier cities will be able to find a battery-swap station within three km, Li said.

Less than one-third of Chinese urban households can afford to install electric car chargers at home due to the lack of family-owned parking spaces. Li said the company plans to work with the State Power Grid to link its chargers with the power network along highways so that recharging electric vehicles is more convenient than filling up at gas stations.

Always-on, another new smart car developer, launched its SUV EX5 model in Shanghai last week. It focuses on smart driving. Priced at 200,000 yuan, the car will be available to customers in the second half of 2018.

Chinese consumers have already been able to buy the EV 10, an electric car produced by Chinese internet firm Deercc.

The company hopes to sell 2,000 EV10 cars this year. The model is priced between 59,800 and 67,800 yuan with subsidies.

Chinese internet giant Alibaba has teamed up with car manufacturer SAIC to set up Banma (Zebra in English) to develop China's first internet car RX5. The upgraded model available in October serves as a smart terminal allowing drivers to surf the internet for free while offering a number of user-friendly remote-control functions.

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