Li Bin, or William Li, founder of electric car maker NextEV, on Saturday spoke in Beijing about the future of cars. Headquartered in Shanghai, NextEV late last month unveiled the Nio EP9 electric supercar, the fastest electric car in the world.
Aside from NextEV, Li in 2000 founded Bitauto Holdings Limited (NYSE: BITA), a leading provider of internet content and marketing services for China’s automotive industry.
The internet transforming the car experience
Li himself, and many of startup’s founding investors, are from the internet industry. The all-star list of investing internet tycoons include Liu Qiangdong of JD.com, Lei Jun of Xiaomi, and Tencent’s Pony Ma.
The automobile is undergoing a series of new revolutions. Autonomous driving technologies from Google and Baidu have brought more possibilities and imagination to the industry, and electric cars from the likes Tesla are challenging both traditional car makers and even the internal combustion engine itself.
For Li, though, what he sees is changes for the entire automobile industry chain. He believes that the experience of owning and using a car in the future will be fundamentally different from what it is now.
On top of the aforementioned internet giants, investors persuaded by Li’s vision for the future of cars include Hillhouse Capital Group, Sequoia Capital, and Temasek Holdings.
Chinese car startups rev their engines
2016 saw arguably the most electric vehicle (EV) automobile startups in China – LeSEE by tech giant LeEco, Xiaopeng Motors, and NextEV.
What is causing traditional car makers like Ford and BMW to tremble is that they are confronting a talent drain caused by Chinese EV startups.
NextEV in December last year announced the appointment of Padmasree Warrior, the former CTO of Cisco, as the startup’s Chief Development Officer and US CEO.
The world’s fastest electric car
In July 2015, NextEV TCR secured the inaugural FIA Formula E drivers’ championship with Nelson Piquet Jr. This was also the first a Chinese team made it to the top in a world-class auto racing event.
A fun fact: the racecar belongs to Lei Jun, Founder of Xiaomi. It was made for Lei, one of the six founding investors, by NextEV.
“NextEV has proven itself to be the fastest on the racing tracks in Europe,” said Li. He added that to measure a car’s performance by simply measuring the acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h is not a true test of the car’s abilities. He suggested testing EVs on the racing tracks, because under these conditions, “If a car is not good enough, parts may start to fly off!”.
(Top photo from Baidu Images)