Xiaomi's EV empire in the making

The smartphone maker has so far recruited more than 300 employees for its EV company and is still looking for new members.

Photo from Tuchong

Photo from Tuchong



Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi announced the debut of its electric vehicle (EV) business on September 1 and set its headquarters in Beijing.

The Hong Kong-listed tech company said on Twitter-like social media Weibo that Xiaomi EV Inc has completed registration with a capital of 10 billion yuan (US$ 1.54 billion). Xiaomi's founder and CEO LEI Jun is the legal representative of the EV company.

In late March, Lei said Xiaomi will invest US$10 billion into its EV business in the next ten years, starting with an initial 10 billion yuan this year. Xiaomi’s EV company has so far recruited more than 300 employees and is still looking for new members.

Lei also posted a photo of 17 core members of Xiaomi EV on Weibo. Among them, 16 are senior executives of Xiaomi Corp.    

Connecting the dots

Since it launched its EV project, Xiaomi has been expanding fast. Earlier this year, Xiaomi invested in eight chipmakers.

It has also been stepping up the pace this year to form its own EV ecosystem which according to many industry insiders, could be the key feature that Xiaomi distinguishes itself from other EVs.

Xiao Ai, the AI voice assistant of Xiaomi, is widely considered to be the bridge to connect the dots within the system. Xiaomi’s data showed the monthly active user of Xiao Ai has reached 100 million.

In February, Xiaomi’s AI division was merged into the company’s technological committee which was set up in 2019 to transform Xiaomi into an artificial intelligence-driven company. The head of the committee is YE Hangjun, he is also in charge of the self-driving R&D.

A week before Xiaomi announced where its mysterious headquarters would be, the company closed the acquisition of Deepmotion Tech, a self-driving technology company based in Beijing, with a deal valued at around US$77.4 million.

Most of the core members of Deepmotion are alumni of the top computer science lab Microsoft Research Asia. Sources told Jiemian News that Deepmotion will be an important part of Xiaomi EV’s self-driving team, reporting directly to Ye.

A glimpse of future Xiaomi EV

If one is keen to see what Xiaomi EV looks like, the latest investment of the smartphone maker could provide a vague picture.

In June, 3D-sensor (LiDAR) maker Hesai Technology announced a US$300 million Series D round of financing led by Xiaomi. The funding would be used in the R&D and mass production of the company’s high-performance hybrid solid-state LiDAR, which could be applied to EVs.

A month later, Geometrical-Pal, a Shanghai-based startup specializing in integrated systems for self-driving, announced a US$ 62 million financing led by Xiaomi as well. The radar system G-Pal developed is capable to tell the shape of obstacles in front of an EV.

Both Hesai and G-Pal focus on the safety of self-driving but are vastly different in terms of technical difficulties. It is not hard to see that Xiaomi is still probing into every possibility of the self-driving supply chain that may one day be the partner of its EVs.

Apart from self-driving, Xiaomi looked away to solve parking problems. In June, it invested US$190 million in ZongMu Technology, a supplier of self-driving and advanced driving assistant systems specializing in valet parking which had been mounted on FAW Group’s Hongqi brand limos.

On August 23, tech company AIpark received funds from Xiaomi. The company claimed to be the “world’s first” to apply the high-level image recognition technology to the commercial use of city smart parking management. AIpark’s solution has been used in Beijing, Guangzhou, and other major Chinese cities to tackle the parking problems. Drivers can easily locate a vacant parking spot in a crowded business district with AIpark’s app.

And here goes the power issues. In July, Xiaomi injected 187.5 million yuan into Ganfeng Lithium, the world’s largest LiOH product provider. Ganfeng has worked with Tesla, BMW, and Volkswagen on power solutions, it is clearly a friend that Xiaomi doesn’t want to miss out.

Another energy company Xiaomi invested in is Svolt Energy Technology, formerly the battery business unit of Great Wall Motor. Svolt is the first battery maker in the world to achieve mass production of cobalt-free batteries. Svolt announced the breakthrough a month before Xiaomi’s investment.