The automotive sector is changing with the rapid adoption of connected-car technologies that bring the Internet to the dashboard and ridesharing applications that deliver private car service via smartphones. Not wanting to be left behind in this evolution, one of China’s larger automakers is teaming up with two local tech companies to provide of electric smart-car ridesharing services in China’s smog-shrouded larger cities.
“The products are built for sharing through the Internet and will have no emissions," Zhou Hang, founder of Chinese online car service provider Yongche Inc., said in a report published Monday by China Daily.
Pateo Corp., which makes wireless systems for automakers in China, has joined up with Yongche and Chery Automobile Co., China’s largest car exporter, to form Yiqitaixing, a company that wants to become the world’s largest electric carmaker by 2018, with 150,000 of the electric cars on the road by then. The cars would begin appearing on the streets of China before the end of next year, Zhou said.
The plan is ambitious, involving the design and production of a fleet of Internet-connected all-electric smart cars that can be reserved by smartphone and help drivers navigate China’s often-snarling traffic conditions via a wireless network. Think of it as a Chinese version of Zipcar, the world’s first on-demand short-term car rental founded in 2000, except in this case, the cars would be made specifically for the new joint venture company.
Pateo would provide its iVoka operating system while Yongche would handle the ridesharing platform. Pateo co-founder and CEO Freeman Shen said earlier this month his company is focused on expanding its business beyond providing vehicle telematics (the hardware and software systems that allow cars to send and receive wireless data) to 13 car manufacturers in China, including Volvo, Volkswagen and Audi. The company currently is the largest supplier of these vehicle telematics systems in China.
“We hope to design intelligent vehicles that use new energy rather than traditional fuels,” Freeman said earlier this month. But he added, “We sell services, not cars.”
Chery hasn’t divulged details about how the Yiqitaixing smart car would look. In 2012 the company unveiled its @Ant concept car, which purported to have the Internet connectivity and cloud-computing features that would be needed to make the electric smart car for the new venture. The @Ant closely resembles the Renault Twizy and might offer some of the design hints of the planned electric city car.
Yongche and Pateo aren’t the only Chinese tech companies sniffing out business in the domestic automotive sector.
Leshi Holding (Beijing) Co. announced last month that it’s planning a smart Internet-connected electric car using its operating system. Last year it invested in Redwood City, California, electric car and engineering company Atieva and formed a relationship with Beijing Automotive Group Co. to design and build the car. Baidu, the Chinese Internet search giant, announced last month it will soon begin supplying its CarLife telematics platform to Shanghai General Motors Co. to use in Chinese Chevrolets, Buicks and Cadillacs.