In a very interesting move, the Chinese auto manufacturer Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company (BAIC) has apparently opened up a new electric vehicle (EV) research and development (R&D) center in Silicon Valley.
As it stands now — during the “launch phase” — the research center is reportedly home to 20 employees, who are expected to developed “4 to 6 models per year.”
A press release on the subject explained the motivation behind the development thusly: “BAIC chose Silicon Valley for this investment because it serves as a focal point for innovations on the cutting edge of science and technology. The numerous, and prestigious, universities, the thriving technology start-up sector and the presence of such industry titans as Google, Apple, and Tesla, should leave little doubt as to why this decision was made.”
Electrek provides some context:
The announcement is one of many examples of Chinese investments in California’s quickly evolving electric vehicle industry. The times of Tesla Motors being the only player in the EV market are long gone and China seems particularly interested.
Here are some examples: LetV, China’s Netflix, hired 200 engineers in California to work on “Le Supercar”, an electric supercar the company is reportedly planning to launch. Atieva is an EV company founded by a former Tesla Motors executive and financially backed by Chinese interest including LeTV and BAIC. The company is working on an electric vehicle which they plan to unveil at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show. Faraday Future (FF) is still in “stealth mode”, but is reportedly working on an electric vehicle. The whole founding and funding of FF is murky, but they might also be backed by Chinese money: Tesla officials are saying that LeTV is backing the company.
So, while Tesla is currently still at the top of the pile with regard to the electric (and otherwise) automotive industry in California, things are gearing up to potentially change in the coming years — with others such as Google, Apple, and now BAIC showing more and more interest.