Internet giants drive into the electric vehicle space

(BVO) – Pull over, auto giants – tech companies are moving into the fast lane.

With Internet-enabled electric vehicles making inroads worldwide, Chinese Internet players Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have each announced plans to develop their own smart EVs.

REUTERS REPORTER, PAMELA AMBLER,

“With no gearbox, no combustion engine and simplified transmission, the key mechanical barrier to entry into auto manufacturing has lowered significantly. It’s no wonder that technology companies are clamouring to get in on the action.”

Leading the pack is the now well-established Tesla – known for its high-end, zero-emission sedans.

An early adopter of the technology, investment manager Mark Tinker is bullish on the future of EVs and he sees real opportunity for innovation in the sector.

HEAD, AXA FRAMLINGTON ASIA, MARK TINKER,

“Most of this is about technology. This car, for example, has its own 3G and you just get an update. I liken it to driving an iPad. And I think it’s that same disruptive technology that we’ve got here now because really you are buying design and you are buying software. You’re not really buying lots of complicated engineering. It’s a great opportunity. But it’s also a big risk. The established car companies – obviously there’s a huge threat to their competitive position now because why couldn’t there be – you know, look what Apple did to the PC market. Look what Apple did to the laptop market.

REPORTER ASKING: ‘Big game changer?’

Massive game changer.”

Taiwan-based Hon Hai, better known as Foxconn, just announced a partnership with Tencent, the owner of instant messaging app WeChat.

Hon Hai has no car-making experience, but they do have a headstart – they manufacture the touch screens for Tesla Motors.

Established German auto brand Volkswagen rolled out the e-Golf in Asia just a couple weeks ago.

Thorsten Jaede, Managing Director of VW Hong Kong.

MANAGING DIRECTOR, VOLKSWAGEN HONG KONG, THORSTEN JAEDE,

“We have Apple, Google talking about cars. And from our perspective, we welcome this competition. We welcome that they will bring in also new people into this business again. Young people who today don’t want to buy a car, but they think maybe differently about a car with different technologies.”

Even with all the hype, widespread e-vehicle adoption in Asia has so far failed to materialize.

Consumers seem put off by the high purchase prices and a lack of charging infrastructure.

In crowded cities like Hong Kong, parking is at a premium and doesn’t always come with plugs.

Challenges aside, the automobile as we know it is at a pivotal moment.

In a matter of years, we may be driving computers rather than cars.