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Trevor Collett | Jan, 03 2015 | 4 Comments

One of China’s biggest internet players has a vision to be the Republic’s answer to Tesla, with plans to build its own electric vehicle.

Leshi Internet Information And Technology is behind the move, seeking permission from Chinese authorities to build the car locally having spent 12 months developing it.

Similarities with Tesla don’t end with the EV focus either, as 41 year-old chairman and founder, Jia Yueting (pictured, top of page), is every bit China’s version of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Mr Jia's business (not his first business, incidentally) has just entered its 11th year, earning him billionaire status along the way. The CEO told Bloomberg he plans to use his experience “managing disruptive change” to get the project over the line.

‘Disrupting’ skills are another trait Jia and Musk share in common, with the latter named 'Top Disrupter’ by his peers in September last year.

Smog in China
Smog in China

It shouldn’t be hard for Leshi to obtain the necessary paperwork to build its EV, as the Chinese Government is looking to encourage non-carmakers into the industry to push development of ‘green’ technology.

China’s appalling air pollution is no secret, and the country announced a plan to scrap six million cars in May last year in response.

“This is our dream and passion,” Mr Jia said. “Look at China’s skies, all responsible corporate citizens want to do something about it - this is the truth.”

The Chinese Government is also looking to reduce dependence on foreign oil, and is fast-tracking plans to increase the country’s EV population in the process; including significant financial incentives to boost charging infrastructure.

Leshi said its first-ever model would feature numerous touchscreens in place of ‘traditional’ interior controls, in a car that is internet-linked and “reasonably priced”.

The model will have a certain degree of autonomous operation, including self-parking.

Coming to Australia? They're already here. This BYD electric bus is currently serving at Sydney International Airport
Coming to Australia? They're already here. This BYD electric bus is currently serving at Sydney International Airport

Upon entering the Chinese market, Leshi’s EV will go head-to-head in the sales race with the car that arguably inspired it; the Tesla Model S.

The Model S was launched in China in April, and Tesla plans to build the EV in China within the next three to four years.

China’s list of EV-makers could also include Wanxiang and BYD in the coming years with each looking to branch out from their current businesses.

Wanxiang is an auto parts supplier while BYD already has experience building battery-powered buses, EV taxis and the batteries themselves.

Combined all-electric and plug-in hybrid sales in China were up 120 percent at one stage during 2014, with some familiar names among the list of models sold.

Holden Volt
Holden Volt

The BYD Qin (PHEV) and e6 (EV) are quite popular as is the Chery QQ (EV), but the Chevrolet Volt, Tesla Model S and rebadged versions of the Nissan Leaf are also finding homes.

In comparison, Holden Volt sales in Australia were down 41 percent for the year to the end of November and Leaf sales were down 9.4 percent. The Tesla Model S is new to the Australian market.

Can Leshi become a genuine alternative to Tesla? Will the new model get off the ground? And what will China’s growing EV market mean for the rest of the world?

TMR will be watching with interest.

Image, top of page, via Global Times, China

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