Car designer Jet Zhang sits in a sporty silver-and-black car and, with the flick of an eye, a steering wheel emerges from under the instrument panel-cum-movie screen in front of him, transforming the vehicle from an autonomous to a conventionally driven car in seconds.
This is Project N, a China-made concept smart car on display at the Shanghai auto show.
Project N is produced by Shanghai-based Pateo Group Co., a wireless communications and car connectivity provider.
The company is looking to start commercial production in 2018, with an expected price range of 350,000 yuan to 600,000 yuan ($56,000-$97,000).
It is another example of how Chinese companies—including technology and automotive related companies—are hoping to piggyback on new technologies to break into the auto industry.
Just across the exhibition hall from Pateo’s booth, Beijing-based automotive design company CH-Auto Technology Co. is showcasing the Event, its proposed electric sports car.
CH-Auto hopes to start selling its vehicle next year, tapping the opportunity it sees in demand for electric cars.
Pateo Co-founder and Chief Executive Freeman Shen, a former chairman of Volvo China, says a lot of companies are talking about smart cars and connectivity in China, but none has come out with as complete a prototype as Project N.
“I want to have a real car on the road,” he says, adding that he is “pretty sure” his company is the first in China that can show what smart cars look like. “I am not aware of another in the world,” he says.
Forty-five year old Mr. Shen isn’t a newcomer to China’s automotive industry. As chairman of Volvo China from 2010 to 2014, he oversaw the construction of the Swedish brand’s Chinese factories, including its state-of-the art facility in Chengdu that produces long-wheel sedans and sport-utility vehicles. He is the former president of auto-parts giant BorgWarner’s China operations, and he worked in senior management roles in China for car companies such as Fiat and Geely, which owns Volvo.
Mr. Shen says he’s confident Pateo will get government approval for licenses to start production because its vehicle is one of two kinds of green cars that he says will be favored by authorities looking to develop the environmentally friendly technology. Project N is an electric vehicle that comes with a range extender, a small gasoline motor that charges the battery. The other type favored by the government, he says, is a pure electric car.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.