From smartphones to cars: Rush to build EVs catch up with tech companies

The automobile industry is witnessing several megatrends that are disrupting the conventional industry and the business model as well. The auto industry is not anymore dominated by conventional OEMs, but several startups and technology companies around the world are coming forward to lead the transformation in the segment. In fact, in many cases, these startups and technology firms are bringing major disruption in the sector, being part of the CASE.

As the auto industry is focusing more on electric vehicles, autonomous driving technology, the importance of startups and technology companies are growing significantly. Some of the technology companies that are known for making smartphones have already come to the fore with their electric and self-driving car projects.

Here are the global technology majors that are vying for a chunk of the world electric and autonomous car market pie.

Sony Vision-S EV is one of the most attractive electric cars unveiled in recent past.
Sony Vision-S EV is one of the most attractive electric cars unveiled in recent past.


Apple started its Project Titan back in 2014, with more than 1,000 car experts and engineers developing an electric vehicle. The project has witnessed several headwinds including internal strife, leadership issues, and other problems, etc. However, the consumer technology product giant has overcome development problems and is moving ahead with plans to develop a consumer-facing autonomous car.

In December 2020, it was confirmed that Apple is working to launch a car in the next three to six years. Apple is working with Hyundai as a manufacturing partner to produce the vehicles, and the tech firm is developing next-level battery technology to extend range and efficiency. Apple's initial vehicle chassis could be based on Hyundai's E-GMP electric vehicle platform.

Apple might also work with General Motors and Stellantis for subsequent models. The collaboration with manufacturing partners is aimed at shortening the car development time. The Apple car is expected to be sold as a very high-end model or significantly higher than a standard electric vehicle.



South Korean technology giant Samsung joined hands with French auto manufacturer Renault back in the 1990s to develop cars. Together, they formed a company dubbed as Renault Samsung Motors, which displayed XM3 Inspire Concept at the 2019 Seoul Motor Show, which bears resemblances with the Renault Arkana that debuted at the 2018 Moscow International Auto Salon in Russia.

With Samsung's expertise in sensors and radar technology, the company is ambitious about grabbing a chunk of the global electric self-driving car market.



Chinese technology and smartphone giant Huawei has developed a hybrid car named as the SF5. Developed in association with SERES, the Huawei car was showcased at the Auto Shanghai.

Dimensionally, the SF5 measures 4,700 mm in length, 1,930 mm in width, 1,625 mm in height, and has a 2,875 mm long wheelbase. It gets sweptback LED headlights and a mesh grille, flanked by LED DRLs.

The SF5 has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine that acts as a generator. It generates power for the battery pack that delivers energy to up to two electric motors to produce a combined power output of 551 PS and 820 Nm of torque. This car is capable to sprint from 0–100 kmph in about 4.7 seconds and it can run up to 180 km on electric mode alone.



Another Chinese technology company Xiaomi too is working to join the electric car space. Xiaomi founder Lei Jun revealed that the first car from the brand will either be a sedan or an SUV. However, it doesn't plan to launch any sports car. He also confirmed that the Xiaomi electric car will be priced between CNY 1,00,000 and CNY 3,00,000 (approximately 11 lakh to 35 lakh). It plans to invest $10 billion for the EV project.

Lei said that it only took around 75 days of research and discussion before the company decided on the EV project. Details about the Xiaomi electric car are yet to be known. However, it is expected to take around three years before the Xiaomi car hits the roads.



Oppo is the second biggest smartphone manufacturer in China that also owns popular smartphone brands like OnePlus, Vivo, and Realme. The company is planning to build its own car. Oppo is seriously studying to understand how to build a car. However, it has not yet formally started the project.

Oppo is already a major player when it comes to self-driving technology. The company has several patents on self-driving technology such as distance measuring devices, cameras, and electronic equipment for car positioning. Oppo is expected to use that expertise to build its first-ever car, which will not only be an electric model but come with autonomous driving technology onboard.



One major technology companies in the world, Sony too has shown interest in making cars. The company has even showcased Sony Vision-S concept at the CES2020. The Sony Vision-S is an all-electric concept sedan developed by Sony in collaboration with various automotive companies such as Magna International, Continental AG, Elektrobit, Benteler and Bosch.

The Sony Vision-S is equipped with 33 sensors, including CMOS, solid state lidar, radar and time-of-flight cameras that collectively form an advanced driver assistance suite called 'Safety Cocoon'. Inside the cabin, it gets a panoramic touchscreen with Sony's 360 Reality Audio.

The Vision-S gets a dual electric motor setup with two 200 kW electric motors and all-wheel drive. The sedan can accelerate from 0-100 kmph in 4.8 seconds, with a top speed of 240 kmph.

First Published Date: 05 May 2021, 14:53 PM IST
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