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Flying cars and freeing up your time: Industry discusses future of mobility at GFM 2017

HANGZHOU – Geely Holding Group Chairman Li Shufu surprised the audience of more than 800 people attending the 2017 Global Future Mobility Forum (GFM 2017) on November 11 by announcing in his keynote speech that the 30-year old private automaker has acquired U.S. flying car startup Terrafugia Inc.

“We recently reached a final agreement and received approval from the U.S. Department of Defense to acquire this company,” said Li. “We are going to introduce the first flying car in 2019 in the U.S. market and a flying car with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) in 2023.” Geely officially announced the completion of the acquisition two days later in Hangzhou, adding Terrafugia as the newest subsidiary to its expanding global empire.

Li’s keynote speech at GFM 2017, part of the 2017 Global Future Mobility Forum & International Exhibition organized by China EV 100 and China Info 100 in Hangzhou on November 10-12, highlighted a conference that brought over 100 industry officials and executives from both traditional automakers and new carmakers to discuss the future of mobility.

Li also revealed for the first time the new Polestar Modular Architecture (PMA) dedicated to battery electric vehicles that Geely and subsidiary Volvo Cars are working on. The PMA will come in PMA-1 and PMA-2 open base platforms that will result in more than 10 battery electric, high performance and smart connected vehicles for the LYNK & CO and Geely brands. The first Geely vehicle to come off of this platform will be an A+ segment urban crossover with a range of 500 km, while an A0 crossover, A sedan, B SUV and B sedan will ensue. The first and second models for the LYNK & CO brand will be an A+/B urban crossover with a range of 600 km and an A0 urban crossover with a range of 450 km. A series of crossovers, city sedans, coupes and SUVs will follow later.

“We are going to open these platforms to every automaker in the world to help reduce their R&D costs, shorten development cycles, lower procurement costs and improve customer usage efficiency,” said Li. “What we are trying to do is simply how to solve transportation problems through electrification and smart connectivity and provide convenience to end consumers. These are our responses to industry transformation.”

While Geely is trying to take off with its flying cars, NIO wants to help free up your time while inside the car, according to William Li, founder and chairman of the smart EV startup, which is due to launch its first vehicle, the ES8 battery electric SUV, on December 16.

“From a technical point of view, in our first production vehicle in 2018 (the ES8), we can free up 50 percent of your time under typical urban driving conditions, which means more than half the time it will be safer with assisted driving,” said Li. “By 2025, we will completely free up your time inside the car, which will become a mobile living room. You can do whatever you want. It’s like a 10 square meter moving house.”

According to Li, globally people are stuck in traffic for 130 billion minutes per day, equivalent to more than 90 million people stuck behind wheels for a whole day. China is the most congested country on earth, where people are stuck in traffic on average for 104 minutes per day.

“This is a huge waste of production time and once the vehicle takes over driving for more than 90 percent of the time, consumers will care more about connectivity and what functions and experience the car will offer inside rather than physical nature such as acceleration speed,” said Li.

Li told the media that the first deliveries of the ES8, which is expected to retail at around ¥400,000 and has received nearly 10,000 orders, will commence in Q1 2018. It will announce official pricing, charging business model as well as a “NOMI” AI companion at the ES8 launch in Beijing.

NIO is already developing its fourth vehicle model, according to Li, and plans to launch one new vehicle a year. The startup already has 56 investors, nearly 200 suppliers and more than 2,000 engineers with annual R&D expenditures of nearly $1 billion.

Li believes EVs will eventually replace traditional gasoline vehicles not because of their environmentally friendliness pushed by governments, but because of better experience for users and the capability to iterate and upgrade themselves through features such as OTA. NIO is expected to invest ¥2 billion alone in charging in 2018 to introduce new business models that Li is confident will change the charging experience. He also reassured that the auto industry need not worry about disruption from car sharing.

“Do not worry. I am also the chairman of Mobike (China’s leading bike sharing platform). So I have the right to say so,” said Li.

Chen Qingtai, director general of China EV 100, said in his keynote that bike sharing has successfully conducted a mass scale social practice, and electrification is just the first step of the transformation of the automobile that need to become more smart, connected and shared to serve its purpose to benefit the society and solve urban transportation problems.

“The Chinese government must prepare and be ready for the pending mass commercialization of EVs,” said Chen. “A recent report predicted that by 2030, China’s EV parc will reach about 80 million units. If that were to become reality, the entire energy structure including smart grid, transportation infrastructure, new generation of mobile telecommunications, industrial chain, employment and laws & regulations will need to be adjusted.”

The forum and exhibition drew more than 3,000 attendees and 83 leading enterprises and startups to showcase their products on over 20,000 square meters of display space, including new entrants into the industry such as NIO, Leapmotor, WM Motor, Xpeng Motors, DFD and DialEV.

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