Technology

An electric moment for China


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China’s accelerating progress in electric vehicle production has passed a significant milestone in the first half of 2022, with BYD becoming the world’s biggest EV producer by sales.

The Shenzhen-based manufacturer, part-owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, reported it sold 641,000 vehicles in the first six months of the year, in company filings on Tuesday.

In comparison, Tesla said on Saturday it delivered 564,000 vehicles in the first half. That included 254,000 vehicles in the second quarter, well down on the 350,000 Wall Street had expected, as Elon Musk’s company suffered parts shortages and pandemic-related production shutdowns at its plant in Shanghai.

BYD has had its own problems, with the authorities investigating claims it has used harmful pollutants in paint used at a plant in central Hunan province. However, while other big EV makers such as Tesla, Li Auto, Xpeng and Nio were hit hard by Covid-19 lockdowns in the first half, BYD managed to keep up production, as its factories were away from the regions and cities under the most severe restrictions.

While Tesla first developed cars before going into battery production, BYD started as a battery maker and then began manufacturing vehicles. Since April, it has overtaken South Korea’s LG as the world’s second-biggest producer of EV batteries, behind China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology, known as CATL.

The next step for BYD will be aggressive international expansion. China is the world’s largest car market, but exports more than doubled last year to more than half a million electric vehicles. Even so, about a third of those sent to Europe were from Chinese-owned European brands, such as Volvo Cars and MG Motor, while just 2 per cent represented Chinese brands. Almost half were from Tesla and the remaining 14 per cent were from European joint ventures in China.

Chinese marques look certain to grow their electric share in Europe and the US. As Lex points out, China increasingly dominates the lithium battery supply chain and its manufacturers have been able to operate on wafer-thin margins and sell cars cheaply. European drivers facing high prices and long waiting lists for electric vehicles would take a serious look at models like BYD’s $15,000 (after subsidies) Dolphin model and the world’s best selling electric car last year — the $4,300 Hongguang Mini.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. TikTok’s ecommerce expansion on hold
TikTok has abandoned plans to expand its live ecommerce initiative in Europe and the US, Cristina Criddle reveals, after the social media platform’s foray into QVC-style shopping in the UK was hit by internal problems and struggled to gain traction with consumers.

2. China shuts down comment on major hack
China is rapidly censoring news of the alleged hacking of a Shanghai police database that threatens to expose the personal data of more than 1bn Chinese people, in what could be one of the largest-ever leaks of private information.

3. Sequoia’s VC (Vote of Confidence) for China tech
Sequoia Capital China is close to raising nearly $9bn to put into Chinese start-ups, defying global investor apprehension about Beijing’s zero-Covid policies, a crackdown on tech groups and heightened geopolitical risk.

4. Twitter takes on Indian government in court
Twitter is challenging India’s government in court for the first time over its orders to block tweets and accounts, saying some were excessive and outside the scope of officials’ legal authority. The legal fightback is a potential test case in the struggle between social media platforms and prime minister Narendra Modi’s government, which last year obtained greater powers to force technology companies to suppress content.

5. Ron Johnson’s unenjoyable post-Apple career
Former Apple Store supremo Ron Johnson has had less success since leaving the iPhone maker. Sujeet Indap and Ortenca Aliaj in New York have an analysis of the failure of his latest project, Enjoy Technology, the ecommerce company that listed through a Spac in October, but whose shares have now been wiped out as the company has filed for bankruptcy.

Line chart of $ per share showing Enjoy shares have quickly crashed

Tech tools — Xiaomi 12S Ultra

 Xiaomi 12S Ultra smartphone

Xiaomi’s latest top-end smartphone, the 12S Ultra, has a standout feature, with its huge Leica rear camera bump. You can also use it as a phone, says Mashable, but the 12S features the largest sensor on any smartphone in Sony’s IMX989 1-inch sensor. Digital Camera World details a primary 50.3MP camera that “adopts an eight-piece aspheric lens, which will combat common smartphone issues including flare, ghosting, and chromatic aberration . . . a 48MP ultra-wide camera features a Leica Summicron 1:1.9-4.1 / 13-120 aspherical lens with dual-PD autofocus, and macro mode support and a 48MP periscope telephoto camera featuring dual-PD autofocus and HyperOIS complete the 12S Ultra’s serious triple camera system”. However, you may be only able to buy this in China, where it goes on sale this week from about $900.

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