Image of a car on the Atieva website
Seems like starting an electric car company making luxury vehicles is all the rage in Silicon Valley these days.
Tesla Motors, of course, is now well-established, although its Southern California counterpart Fisker Automotive declared bankruptcy and is now hoping for resurrection under a new owner.
More recently, the mysterious Faraday Future, with supposedly lavish funding from Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, will host a major press event at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
But there may be another entrant yet: a mysterious company called Atieva.
It's headquartered in Menlo Park, just a couple of miles from Stanford University, which gave rise to the region globally known for computing-based innovation.
And Chinese automaker BAIC (Beijing Automotive Industry Corp.) is about to take control of Atieva, through its Beijing Electric Vehicle Company subsidiary.
BAIC C60F Concept
Together, the two companies plan to unveil their first electric-car design at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show next April.
Atieva was founded by a former Tesla vice president and the founder of a networking company back in 2007. And its original mission was to provide monitoring and control software for battery packs in a variety of electrified vehicles.
While it hired a high-profile CEO, Denise Gray--who had run the GM battery lab that validated the battery pack for the first Chevrolet Volt--little more was heard from Atieva after she left.
Now the company has moved from software and battery consulting into full-scale cars, according to an article last week in the British magazine Autocar and other media reports.
“We’re redefining what a car can be by building an iconic new vehicle from the ground up," says a mission statement on Atieva's website--which also includes a sketch showing a car shape.
"We’re a car company, not a design house. And we’re definitely not a traditional automaker."
Image from Faraday Futures online sites, July 2015
And there you have it.
BAIC opened its own technical center in Silicon Valley earlier this fall, and its goal is to produce a range of electric cars that will compete both with new arrivals like Tesla and the efforts of established carmakers like BMW, General Motors, and Nissan.
According to Autocar, other companies involved in the Atieva electric car are the Korean battery cell manufacturer SK Group, the German-based industrial giant Siemens, and Italian vehicle design and production specialist Cecomp.
The Chinese government has become increasingly aggressive in its promotion of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as one way to reduce highly hazardous air pollution in its cities and give the country's industries a leg up in future vehicle technology.
Virtually every Chinese maker now offers, or will soon offer, one or more plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles, often sold under different brand names than their gasoline cars.
With unlimited registrations given to plug-in cars in the otherwise very limited numbers of new vehicles allowed to register in large cities, Chinese buyers are increasingly buying plug-in cars just to be able to get a new vehicle at all.
Whether those cars are ever plugged in remains a different issue.