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Chinese tech firms take wing on world stage

From flying cars to electronic accessories, they highlight innovation in crucial areas

By Mingmei Li in Las Vegas | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-16 10:49

People gather at Xpeng AeroHT's booth showcasing the newly launched electric vertical takeoff and landing flying car at CES 2024 in Las Vegas on Jan 9. MINGMEI LI/CHINA DAILY

Bringing a product from China to the global market has required countless hours of air travel, several days of cargo transit, numerous months of exhibition preparation and years of steadfast dedication to technology research and development.

Over time and with innovative technological experience, Chinese products have demonstrated a strong ability on the international stage, spanning multiple fields, from electric vehicles and smart home appliances to electronic accessories.

At the CES 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Xpeng AeroHT's booth bustled with media and attendees from around the world.

Qiu Mingquan, vice-president of Xpeng AeroHT, made his way through the dense crowd at the tech show. He stopped at a more open spot next to the main stage, where the company's electric vertical takeoff and landing flying car, or eVTOL, was on display. He said he was looking around the West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center already planning for next year's exhibition space.

The subsidiary of the leading Guangzhou-based EV brand Xpeng Motors discussed two products at the CES — a physical eVTOL flying car and a six-wheeled modular flying car, showcased in a concept video.

The innovations offer a novel low-altitude travel experience, characterized by a technologically advanced design. The overall design of the vehicles is also rich in the technological sense, featuring an extensive transparent design, with four large propellers that can retract automatically.

"Drivers can seamlessly transition between flight mode and land mode," Qiu told China Daily. "When you're driving on the road, it functions as a futuristic, intelligent car. In flight mode, the steering wheel folds and retracts automatically, and our gear lever transforms into your control stick."

Orders for the new series of flying cars will open shortly, he said, and both models have passed the testing phase.

"CES is a stage for Chinese companies like ours to showcase our R&D, presenting our latest achievements and products to the world. More importantly, it's an opportunity to learn advanced concepts, technologies and ideas from others, and to see the extent of the latest technological advancements globally," he said.

CES is "the most powerful tech event in the world — the proving ground for breakthrough technologies and global innovators", Qiu said.

However, some major Chinese technology companies on Washington's entity list, such as Huawei, Dji and Xiaomi, are unable to take part in the CES.

"Facing geopolitical realities, as a tech company in a big country, it's almost inevitable to be affected," Qiu said. "These impacts could be either beneficial or adverse, but they are normal. Conflict is a natural part of operating in any country."

Facing these conflicts, he said, the first approach is to "stick to our original mission: Developing products to solve problems for humanity and consumers and building a new mode of dimensional transportation for the future — giving cars wings".

"Second, in key technologies, we insist on complete self-development. This isn't just to avoid future dependencies, but also to better control our costs, quality and R&D cycles, thus enhancing our independent competitive strength," he said.

Companies are also revolutionizing ground transportation by integrating autonomous driving technology and artificial intelligence into sustainable travel solutions.

For example, WeRide launched its autonomous minibus, the WeRide Robobus, at the CES, offering a demo ride of the self-driving minibus. It has been deployed in about 20 cities across China and is now making its mark internationally.

"We have research and development centers in China and in San Jose, California," Liu Zhenya, executive director of engineering of WeRide, told China Daily. "Our presence in numerous Chinese cities has laid a strong foundation for us."

Highly adaptable

The WeRide Robobus is designed to be highly adaptable to various scenarios and local needs, Liu said.

"It can be used for daily public transport, replacing traditional bus routes, and in tourist areas. The bus is equipped with customizable screens and voice announcements to suit different requirements."

Horwin has not only revolutionized the electric car industry, but also brought innovative electric vehicle technology to motorcycles, expanding the possibilities of clean energy and sustainability in various modes of transportation.

Based in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, the company has expanded its electric motorcycle market to Europe and the United States. At CES 2024, it unveiled its new product that attracted attention.

"We have sold over 26,000 motorcycles worldwide," Fan Xuezheng, vice-president of Horwin, told China Daily. Advanced technologies from traditional EVs have been applied to motorcycles, including vehicle's body and driving experience, and front and rear vehicle-sensing, he said.

The e-motorcycle surpasses most electric vehicles in the market in terms of battery range and power, Fan said.

Appotronics is focusing on smart mobility experiences as its future development direction. Previously specializing in laser light technology, the Shenzhen-based company is now combining that expertise with EV interaction.

"The automobile is our third living space, after home and office," Han Meng, senior director of Appotronics, told China Daily. "With the proliferation of electric and smart cars, there's an increasing focus on the in-car experience, particularly comfort."

The company's smart projection systems are designed to be flexible and durable enough for the car environment, and integrate seamlessly with software, effectively merging car and smartphone for a fluid interaction, he said.

"This independently developed Chinese projection technology has been incorporated into Huawei's high-end cars, such as the AITO M9, and is now in mass production."

Chinese companies are also making inroads into the overseas market of smart home appliances, capturing a significant market share.

"Consumers are recognizing the quality of the products that we deliver," David Gold, vice-president of Hisense, told China Daily. "In Canada and Mexico, we are already a top-three brand, and in the US right now, we are number five, so quickly growing in the US as well."

Hisense is one of the largest China-founded companies and has gradually become a world-recognized brand with its smart TV.

" (We depend on) continuous investment from an R&D perspective in our headquarters in China. That's our engine of growth," he said.

Targeting the international market, the Shenzhen-based company Govee is bringing customization and personalization to ambient lighting.

"North America will be our primary market," Sherry Ye, head of marketing of Govee, told China Daily. "We are keen on establishing a closer connection with North American consumers, understanding their unique needs, such as outdoor ambient lighting, and then offering products that cater specifically to those needs within our expertise."

Govee's automatic ambient lights have formed strategic partnerships with several major North American movie and television companies, such as Netflix and Warner Brothers.

Enhancing experience

Chinese companies in the small electronics accessories sector are showcasing their commitment to technical innovation, focusing on resolving minor yet impactful issues that enhance the user experience.

Infusing traditional designs with eye-catching artistic elements, they are adding made-in-China scientific elements into their products.

SHARGE, a startup from Shenzhen in the power supply industry, made its debut at CES 2024 with its latest self-designed power banks.

According to company data, it has achieved global satisfaction above 98 percent and has become the top-selling brand in its price range on Amazon, where it sells power banks for personal use.

"Our new power bank products have taken some pain points of users' experience in real-life scenarios into account. We have made technological breakthroughs in response to these needs," Wu Haoran, overseas market director of SHARGE, told China Daily.

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