Chinese XPeng and the future of electric vehicles, robots and flying cars

Chinese XPeng and the future of electric vehicles, robots and flying cars

GUANGZHOU, China – For the foreseeable future, Chinese electric car start-up XPeng is trying to increase sales in the world’s largest car market.

But the Guangzhou-based Chinese company is also exploring areas, including robotics and flying cars, that could play a role in its long-term goals.

In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, XPeng founder and CEO He Xiaopeng explained the current shortage of chips in the auto industry and why Chinese rival Tesla is investing in robotics and air transportation.

Earlier this year, XPeng showcased a second prototype flying touring car which it says has been in development for eight years. And on Tuesday, he shut down the four-legged “robotic unicorn” as it embarks on new areas of business.

“With the development of technology, the form of mobility will evolve from wheels to fenders, to propellers, to 4 feet or 2 feet,” he said, according to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin remarks. “Technology should help people live better and happier lives. This has always been my goal.

The XPeng founder predicts that all auto makers will become both auto makers and robotics companies, a process he says could take 10 to 30 years. XPeng sees the robot as a transport tool “in low speed and random environments”.

“As it gets better and smarter in the long run, it can help us with some simple repetitive tasks. As transportation equipment gets smarter and smarter, it can help us perform certain tasks. “That’s how we imagine it,” he said.

XPeng’s rival Tesla is also investing in robotics. Last month, CEO Elon Musk said the company will build a humanoid robot called the Tesla Bot. Other companies have also shown robots, including Boston Dynamics and Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi.

flying cars

The X2, XPeng’s second prototype flying car and the first capable of carrying a single passenger, was unveiled in July.

The founder said the company was building a research and development team that “would consist of a few hundred people.”

“We want to introduce a flying car that can take off or land vertically, a low and medium altitude flying car.”

Several car manufacturers, including Hyundai and the Chinese Geely, are developing aerial vehicles. Other companies, like Guangzhou-based Ehang, are also working on passenger drones.

The XPeng founder said the company will hold a press conference in the future, possibly a year from now, to discuss dimensions and pricing, as well as to start taking pre-orders for its flying car.

Shortage of crisps, new products

Like many automakers, XPeng has been hit by a global shortage of semiconductors entering vehicles. The company said deliveries of its vehicles fell in August compared to July. XPeng has three cars on the market – the flagship P7 sedan, an affordable sedan called the P5, and the G3 sport utility vehicle.

The supply chain is the “biggest challenge” for the company, but it sees an opportunity to strengthen the resilience of the automaker.

“The pandemic has caused a shortage of semiconductor chips, which is the biggest blow to our business. I expect the flea shortages to go away in about 18 months. In the near future, the situation could worsen. ,” They said.

“XPeng is a very young company. I see this as a first test. If we can overcome the challenge and be ready for what lies ahead, we’ll do even better when our sales per year reach 300,000 or 500,000 cars.

Meanwhile, the company has promised to go ahead with the release of new models. On September 15, the company will officially launch its mass-market P5 sedan, after unveiling it in April. And from 2023, XPeng plans to launch at least two or three new vehicle models every year. In anticipation of this, the electric car maker is expanding its own manufacturing capacity.

The CEO said that in the future, the company will launch more cars in the range of 200,000 yuan ($ 30,968) to 400,000 yuan. Currently, its cheapest car, the P5, starts at 160,000 yuan. He also said his models could include a larger 5- or 7-seater model. The company does not yet have a 7-seater model.

XPeng has tried to differentiate itself from its domestic competitors by developing its semi-autonomous driving functions in-house in a system called XPilot. Its latest version, XPilot 3.0, can be added to its optional cars and rivals Tesla’s autopilot.

In the first quarter of the year, XPeng said it reported revenue from software for the first time, including its XPilot assisted driving system. The founder said that while most of XPeng’s income now comes from hardware, software will be a “growing part”.

“I think after the launch of XPilot 4.0 we will focus more on our software business,” he said, referring to the next version of his limited suite of autonomous driving features.

– CNBC’s Penny Chen contributed to this report

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