With cars becoming increasingly computerized and artificial intelligence (AI) a key concept in the computing space, it’s not hard to see how AI will also become increasingly important in the automotive industry. Bowl.
It can be used for everything from advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving systems to convenience features like automatic climate control.
Many of the Chinese startups described in this series have emphasized the latest technology, and Aiways, at least intends to, take it a step further by mentioning AI directly in its name. .
Conveniently, the company also claims that the word ‘AI’ in Mandarin means ‘love’, so the company’s name almost literally means ‘love is on the way.’
The auto industry is extremely capital intensive. Hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, of funding is needed to do the research and development and build the factories needed to build a mass-produced car in the first place.
Perhaps one of the best ways to do this is with the help of an investment fund that can have such sources of money at its disposal.
With the Chinese Government starting to offer significant incentives for consumers to purchase New Energy Vehicles (NEVs, the Chinese Government’s generic term for hybrid and battery electric vehicles), Feng Changge has decided to set up an investment fund to invest in regional NEVs, called Harmony Futeng.
Backed by major companies including Taiwanese company Foxconn (iPhone maker) and Tencent (developer of the popular WeChat app), the fund finally decided to set up its own EV company at the end of the year. 2015.
Originally known as Zhejiang Aichi Internet Intelligent Electric, the fledgling company was able to hire two industry veterans, former SAIC Motor CFOs Gu Feng and Fu Qiang, who had previously worked with them. worked at various brands including FAW-Volkswagen and Mercedes China before being sales manager at Volvo in China.
The company further developed in 2016 and 2017, going through several rounds of funding and forming a joint venture with the regional government of China to build the factory, and undertake the R&D and engineering work for the vehicle. his first car.
The results were revealed at the Beijing Motor Show in April 2018, with Zhejiang Aichi rebranding as Aiways and completing the upcoming production U5 Ion SUV.
Today, despite persistent rumors of an upcoming IPO on the Shanghai STAR exchange and potentially in the US, Aiways remains a privately owned company.
The company has delivered a total of about 3000 models on both the European and Chinese markets by 2021, marking it as a notable competitor if much smaller than Nio, Xpeng, HiPhi, Li Auto and other recent Chinese auto startups.
The company currently manufactures cars in Jiangxi and has a separate dedicated battery pack factory in Changshu, with the company’s headquarters in Shanghai. In addition, the company has an office in Germany for R&D and sales activities in Europe.
Vertical integration means that the automaker itself is directly responsible for developing and designing more aspects of the car, rather than outsourcing the engineering of certain aspects like the battery pack or ADAS system.
Aiways is more vertically integrated than most, with the company claiming to have tried to design everything from its own traction motors, driver assistance systems and even battery packs instead of using spare parts for sale.
The result of this is the mainstay of the company’s lineup, the U5 SUV, which is a mid-size SUV roughly the same size as models like BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC (and perhaps more directly, Tesla Model Y).
According to European specs, the U5 combines a pre-set motor of 150kW and 310Nm of torque with a 63 kWh battery pack, allowing for a WLTP range of around 400km and a 0-100km/h time. for about 7.5 seconds.
The U5 also offers DC fast charging with a capacity of up to 90kW, which is to say trailing the latest EVs from older manufacturers like Hyundai which can charge at top speeds of up to 350kW. .
Perhaps the most innovative about the U5 is its driver assistance system. The U5 is equipped with five HD cameras around the outside of the vehicle, as well as twelve ultrasonic sensors, three millimeter wave radars, and two interior cameras.
These facilitate driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, and prepare the car for autonomous driving on current Level 2 benchmarks.
Prices for the U5 start at €37,990 in Germany (before the offer), or about $57,000.
More recently, the brand unveiled their next model in concept form, the U6 Ion. A sportier, more brazen coupe SUV design, the U6 Ion moves the game forward from the U5, sporting a yoke-style steering wheel, Tesla’s 14.6-inch central infotainment screen, and tech gadgets. Advanced driver aids like adaptive AI-assisted cruise control, as well as a battery pack of up to 88 kWh.
The production version of the U6 Ion is expected to go on sale by the end of 2022.
While many domestic Chinese manufacturers and startups are trying to increase sales in their domestic market for the first time and perfecting mass production before launching internationally, Aiways made European expansion a core part of the company’s overall strategy.
The company has rapidly expanded across the EU in 2021 and early 2022, with the U5 now available in more than 14 European countries, with the latest additions including Slovenia, Croatia and Iceland.
The brand doesn’t currently sell right-hand drive models, though, and so an expansion into the UK and Australian markets in particular could be a longer-term goal. The brand hasn’t talked about its plans to sell the U5 soon here.