Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese electric car startup who built a ‘Tesla clone’, announced that it secured an important 2.2 billion yuan ($348 million) investment round led by two Chinese tech giants: Alibaba and Foxconn.
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We published a report last year about how Xiaopeng Motors was building a vehicle heavily inspired by Tesla to the point that some are calling it a “Tesla clone.”
To be fair, Henry Xia, who founded the startup in 2014, admitted openly that he was influenced by Tesla and by the automaker’s announcement that they were open-sourcing their patents.
It’s not clear if the company uses any specific patent from Tesla, but we remarked last year that they built a battery pack technology very similar to Tesla’s.
The influence goes beyond the technology and it is also clearly present at the design level.
As we reported last year, The interior of the Xpeng, Xiaopeng’s first car, was modeled on Tesla’s Model S interior.
Here’s a side-by-side of Xiaopeng’s Xpeng interior and Tesla’s Model S interior:
The company also took several design cues from Tesla when it comes to the user interface.
Here’s Xiaopeng’s Xpeng instrument cluster next to Tesla’s Model S instrument cluster:
The vehicle’s battery pack will enable a range of ~300 km (186 miles) on a single and it will also feature similar autonomous and assisted driving features as Tesla’s Autopilot, according to the company.
Xiaopeng Motors started low volume production last year and they expect to ramp up and bring the vehicle to market this year thanks to this new investment.
Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant, has been an important investor in the company’s first two rounds, which now adds up to $800 million in funding, according to the company.
Joe Tsai, Alibaba executive vice chairman, commented following the announcement of the latest round at a Hong Kong press conference today:
“Smart transportation has great potential to become one of the fastest-growing sectors, making huge impact on people’s daily lives. XPENG Motors combines the advantages of the internet, artificial intelligence and traditional manufacturing. Alibaba is very excited to work together with XPENG Motors to accelerate the integration and innovation across sectors, leading to more-rapid development in smart transportation.”
Tesla’s mission and the move to open-source their patent was to “accelerate the advent of electric transport” and in a sense, that’s what is happening here so it should be a good thing for the automaker.
With this said, Tesla also added the mention of “in good faith”, which could be a problem if a company is cloning its designs. What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.
As for the round of investment, which is what is new here, I find it interesting. It has been somewhat difficult lately for US-based electric car startups backed by Chinese firms to get funding, but it’s apparently not the case if those firms are located in China.
China’s tech giants are also now quite interested in electric vehicles. After Tencent taking a stake in Tesla and several other EV companies, now Alibaba and Foxconn are on board. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see even more of that going forward.