NextEV, an upcoming China-based electric vehicle startup, is seen as a potential threat to the business interests of Tesla Motors Inc.
NextEV is being funded by Tencent, a Chinese internet company and Hillhouse Capital, an investment firm which is also funding Uber, the international transport network company based in the US.
The new investment is backed by a recent initiative from the Chinese government to promote non- automotive companies to fund electric vehicle startups. Both the primary investors of NextEV, Hillhouse and Tencent, have no prior experience or background in manufacturing EVs. This will be a first for them, wherein they will be hiring experts in the field in a bid to build an international electric vehicle company that can take on Tesla Motors, the EV giant from the US.
Electric vehicles are becoming more popular driven by the cheaper cost of manufacture combined with governmental support. NextEV is headquartered in Shanghai and has set up offices in Europe and the US and is keenly motivated towards starting, building and selling EVs as early as possible.
According to Jili Liu, the spokesperson from NextEV, the company’s investors are planning to take on board Martin Leach, a former Ford Motor Co executive, to help set up the startup company. The spokesperson added, that Leach, in turn, is on an employee-hunt for NextEV and is expected to add on hundreds of employees for its offices in various locations including Munich, California, Beijing, San Jose, Hong Kong, Shanghai and London.
The two investors have also poached on employees of automotive giants such as Volkswagen, Tesla and BMW AG. The list of experienced employees of the NextEV includes Juho Suh, ex-designer at BMW, Danilo Teobaldi, former vehicle concept head at Italdesign Giugiaro and John Thomas, the ex-program director at Tesla. Thomas is the key individual here as he was part of the team that helped build the hugely successful Model S sedan in Tesla.
According to Liu, the company plans to initially work on building an electric supercar which will be the fastest conventional car in the world. As per Consumer Reports, Tesla’s Model S is the fastest sedan for the present. In this race for speed, only time will be the judge as to whether NextEV’s upcoming supercar or Tesla’s much-anticipated Roadster will cross the finish line first.
NextEV’s supercar is expected to be rolled out in 2016 and will feature an electric motor delivering an output of 1000 horsepower. The car will be designed to reach a speed of 62 mph in 3 seconds, Liu claimed. She also added that as part of the future plans, the startup company will unveil an entire range of high-performance EV sedans.
NextEV is garnering support from other automotive experts too including Xiang Li, architect of autohome.com.cn; William Li, creator of Bituato.com, the content offering site; and Richard Liu, founder of the e-commerce website JD.com all of which is creating competitive pressure on Tesla. The company is, of course, shrugging off the imminent threat from NextEV by stating that it feels proud that Model S is taken as an industry standard.
NextEV, however, is not revealing the actual amount invested by each firm and keeping this information under wraps for the moment. While the initial plan is to target its home country, the company eventually plans to make inroads into the US and other critical EV markets too. There are also other Chinese investment firms which are looking at investing into EV startups and they include Xiaomi Technology, LeTV and Ali Baba among others.