Together with Huawei and the EV battery maker CATL, China’s state-owned Changan Automobile Group has unveiled the EV model Avatar E11. Previously a joint venture of Changan Automobile and NIO, Avatar Technology plans to release 11 IoT-enabled electric vehicles, with Avatar E11 being the first in line.
Announcing the release, Changan Automobile also used the occasion to pronounce a new vision that will come to define China’s coming EV landscape. Instead of going it alone, Chinese automobile makers will enter an ecosystem-level competition where automakers will form symbiotic relations with other industry players. It also underpins Changan Automobile’s strategy. Dubbing them as “New Automobiles”, the company notes that future EVs will become mobile smart systems, playing a vital part in edge computing. Moreover, they will become units of energy and data storage.
This shrewd observation also explains why Huawei sees salvation in the automobile sector, as U.S. sanctions gradually push Huawei out of the smartphone market, previously its main growth driver. Unlike its peers in China that have entered car manufacturing business, such as Xiaomi and OPPO, Huawei has repeatedly denied that it would become an automobile maker, and prefers instead to focus on its “Huawei Inside” branding strategy, seeking to leverage its know-how in telecommunications and AI to ultimately become a key component provider to EV makers.
Notably, Huawei’s background in telecommunications has given it a strong head start when it comes to developing the hardware and software essential for ADAS, and the company claimed that it had achieved Level 4 autonomy under certain circumstances. Meanwhile, Huawei is also confident that it will bring LiDAR cost down to US$100 in the future, a significant reduction compared to its current high costs – a reason deterring its widespread adoption, notably by Tesla.
As Chinese EV industry has become increasingly characterized by automotive IoT, it is Huawei’s Harmony OS that will ultimately define Huawei’s place within China’s automotive industry. Following U.S. sanctions that barred Huawei from accessing Android, Harmony OS immediately rose in prominence, and was first deployed in 2019 on Huawei’s smart televisions. Combined with HiCar, Huawei’s self-developed smartphone-to-vehicle interface, Harmony OS is likely Huawei’s best entry ticket into the EV industry and might even define its place in it. In fact, Harmony OS was already deployed in the Arcfox Alpha S EVs released by Beijing Motor Corp., another state-owned automaker, in early 2021. It was the first EV bearing the Huawei Inside mark and claimed to achieve Level 3 autonomy.
According to Huawei, it plans to spend an annual budget of US$1 billion on auto-related R&D, including research into ADAR system.