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ELITE OF THE EV SPHERE: Out of the seven top EV tech executive, five are Chinese. (Clockwise from top left) William Li of Nio Inc., Elon Musk of Tesla, Wang Chuanfu of BYD, Henrik Fisker of Fisker, Robin Zeng of CATL, and He Xiaopeng of XPeng Inc. But this list is not complete.
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IT’S NOT JUST ELON MUSK, 51 | Company: Tesla | Net worth: $225 billion | There are key personalities that belong to “elite" of the global electric vehicle (EV) circle. They are Elon Musk of Tesla, Wang Chuanfu of BYD, William Li of Nio Inc., Henrik Fisker of Fisker, Robin Zeng of CATL, and He Xiaopeng of XPeng Inc. Of the seven on our list, five are Chinese: William Li, Wang Chuanfu, Robin Zeng, He Xiaopeng and Lei Jun of Xiaomi EV. Though Tesla is today the world's largest EV company in sales — and also the largest automaker by market value — the most advanced Chinese EV makers are hard at work in the EV space, unleashing compelling products that could rival Tesla in tech and desirability. Here they are:
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ZENG YUQUN, a.k.a. Robin Zeng, 54 | Company: CATL | Net worth: $46 billion | The motor propels an electric vehicle (EV). The battery pack forms its heart and soul. The Chinese dominate this space. Right on top is Zeng, the chairman of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL), the world’s undisputed leader in EV batteries. Based in Ningde, China, CATL reported revenue of 50.3 billion yuan ($7.3 billion) in 2020 and $20.206 billion in 2021, a 159% increase. Even Tesla buys batteries in huge quantities from CATL, which leads in innovation. Recently, tt unveiled its new “Qilin” battery pack with a claimed range of over 1,000km (620 miles), charges faster, is said to be safer and more durable than existing batteries. Its energy density of 255 watt-hour per kg is 13% higher than Tesla’s new 4680 battery. CATL also makes parts for major clients including Bosch, Jaguar Land Rover.
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WANG CHUANFU, 56 | Company: BYD | Net worth: $24.7 billion | The brand stands for “Build Your Dreams”. Its chairman, Wang Chuanfu, a chemist, is considered an EV industry giant in his own right. China is the world's largest auto market. BYD sold so many EVs it's one of the top three automakers in China. Backed by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (since 2010), BYD builds its own battery packs and has become a major electric car brand in China — and some of its models compete with Tesla in popularity.
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LI BIN, a.k.a. WILLIAM LI, Age: 47 | Company: NIO | Net worth $3.2 billion | The company, known as the “Tesla of China”, has pioneered and scaling up battery swap station. Li is dubbed as the “Elon Musk of China”. Fortune recently named NIO as the “Most Innovative Company”. NIO co-founder and CEO Li established the EV maker in Shanghai and started taking orders for its first electric SUV in December 2017. After raising $2.1 billion in funding, it went public in September 2018 on the New York Stock Exchange. It first car was the EP9 electric hypercar, presented the same day the brand was launched. NIO revealed the ES8, a seven-seater electric SUV in December 2017, and began deliveries of the ES8 in June 2018. NIO launched the ES6, a five-seater electric SUV, in December 2018, and began deliveries in June 2019. In 2021, NIO more than doubled its electric car sales. In March this year, NIO reported 9,985 electric car sales, which is 38% more than a year ago, after nearly doubling its ES8 (5-seat SUV) sales in 2021, and 39% for its (7- or 6-seat SUV).
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HE XIAOPENG, 44 | Company: XPeng | Net worth: $5.1 billion | He co-founded several companies including XPeng Motors, an intelligent electric vehicle manufacturer, and UCWeb, the Chinese mobile Internet service provider (in 2004). Alibaba bought UCWeb in 2014 for $4.3 billion, making He a billionaire. From 2014, Xiaopeng served as senior executive of Alibaba Mobile Business Division, then quit his job in 2017 to start Xpeng Motors. XPeng currently manufactures G3 intelligent electric SUVs in China. The company's P7 intelligent electric sports coupe model came to market in the spring of 2020. XPeng bets that driving assistance features and other tech will be the key to winning new customers. It rivalry with Tesla and top-tier home-court rivals could reshape how we drive.
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LEI JUN, 52 | Company: Xiaomi EV | Net worth: $10.7 billion | In September 2021, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun took charge of the tech giant's new EV unit, leading a team of 300. The move is significant for Xiaomi, the world's second-largest smartphone maker (after Samsung). Based in Beijing, the company has invested an initial 10 billion yuan ($1.55 billion) into its new unit, known as Xiaomi EV, and has earmarked $10 billion over the next 10 years. In August 2021, Xiaomi announced its acquisition of self-driving technology developer DeepMotion for about $77 million. The company seeks to advance Level 4 autonomous vehicles, able to operate without driver controls under normal conditions.
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