Xiaomi, a consumer electronics maker and reputable smartphone manufacturer, announced that it is close to obtaining the necessary license for the mass production of electric vehicles. In news that made rounds on February 14, Jiemian News was quoted as saying that two insiders confirmed the progress.
Since 2017, the Chinese government has tightened the criteria and process for issuing EV manufacturing licenses. To overcome the tougher requirements, automakers have been exploring various alternatives including collaborating with original equipment manufacturing (OEM) companies or buying from other companies.
Xiaomi Auto obtained its EV manufacturing license through the takeover of Borgward, an automaker that went bankrupt in November of 2022. The Beijing-based plant will complete construction over two phases. Each phase will have a production capacity of 150,000 vehicles. The first phase which began in April 2021 is expected to be completed in June 2023.
Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s CEO, has lofty plans for Xiaomi Auto. During February 9 Investor Day, Jun said the goal of Xiaomi Auto was for it to be one of the top five automakers in the world in 15 to 20 years. Jun’s conviction is backed by the company’s ability to establish a network of 10,000 brick-and-mortar stores in China in the past three years. Xiaomi has also spread its business to more countries across the globe.
Xiaomi is the latest smartphone maker that is diversifying to the automotive industry. Oppo, Sony, Apple, and others are currently working on EVs with release dates set between 2024 and 2026. Sony has already created a mobility brand and has showcased two EV concepts under the brand.
Xiaomi CEO’s revelations at the Investor Day
Jun made interesting revelations at the Feb. 9 Investor Day. He said he spends 50% of his energy and time on the automotive division, and a quarter on the company’s IoT, mobile phones, and premium products.
Jun also disclosed that the research and development (R&D) team working on Xiaomi vehicles has swelled to over 2,300 members. The team is working tirelessly to make the mass production of the company’s debut EVs possible in Q1 2024. In 2022, Xiaomi invested over $434 million (RMB 3 billion) in the automotive division.
So far, the team has exceeded expectations in their progress. The soft-film vehicle rolled off the production line in September 2022 and winter testing started in December. Jun also emphasized the company’s interest in pursuing autonomous driving.
The company will deploy 140 vehicles across the country in the first phase of its autonomous driving initiative test. While some analysts were worried about profitability as Xiaomi forays into the automotive industry, Jun said the company will continue to prioritize software profits—which is similar to the approach it uses in its mobile phones.
Jun foresees an interesting feature with Xiaomi Auto where the company can integrate various services in the vehicles rather than just limiting profit to sales and after-sales service.
Jun was involved in Xiaomi’s EV test
In January 2023, Jun was spotted behind the wheel of the yet-to-be-named Xiaomi EV driving in snowy conditions in China. Most of the design elements of the new EV remained hidden during the extreme weather test.
Through the images shared by a Weibo blogger (Gizmochina), it was evident that the upcoming Xiaomi EV would be a sporty sedan, based on its shape. The images also suggest that the company was probably working on two separate EV models.
According to the Weibo blogger, a LiDAR sensor was installed on the roof of the vehicle. This is mostly included in vehicles with autonomous driving technology or those that offer some level of driver assistance. Jun and Xiaomi continue to keep any information concerning the upcoming EV under wraps.
Speaking during a session of the National Popular Assembly, Jun said the mass production of the company’s first EV will start in 2024 after it must have passed all relevant tests.
“The vehicle has successfully completed the winter test and it is expected to be launched next year,” Jun said.
Xiaomi is already making small electric mobility devices like scooters. It partnered with Super Soco, a Chinese firm, to jointly produce electric motorcycles.
Xiaomi announces the production of Digital Car Key
One of the most interesting revelations at the just concluded Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023 was the Xiaomi Digital Car Key. The tool was developed in partnership with BMW and Google. It will make it possible for drivers to control certain models of the BMW using Xiaomi 13 and 13 Pro as well as Xiaomi 12 and 12 Pro.
According to Xiaomi, such collaborations are necessary for creating products that make customers’ lives easier. The Xiaomi Digital Car Key allows drivers to use the designated smartphones to lock or unlock and start their vehicles.
Users can also manage, store, and share their digital key with family and friends within Google Wallet or other platforms. The device makes use of NFC technology, similar to the Apple car key. According to a source, the car key can be remotely deactivated if you lose your phone.
Xiaomi confirmed that the digital car key will roll out in Q2 of 2023 through an OTA update if need be. The company explained that only vehicles manufactured after July 2020 will support the tool. It is unclear which BMW models will be compatible with the tool. However, it is highly likely that many BMW EVs should make the list.