Chinese electric vehicle maker XPeng on Wednesday premiered its third production model, the XPeng P5 smart sedan, which is set to boost the startup’s position in the world’s largest auto market.
Describing the vehicle as a “new breed,” the four-door fastback P5 will be the world’s first mass-produced smart EV with automotive-grade lidar technology, XPeng said in a press briefing in Guangzhou. The P5 is the firm’s second sedan after the P7.
The P5 will be powered by XPeng’s in-house developed autonomous driving system XPILOT 3.5, which will extend its Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP) capabilities to city roads, the company said. Previously, XPeng’s NGP, which is benchmarked against Tesla’s Navigate On Autopilot, was designed for highways.
Overall, the new XPILOT 3.5 architecture comprises 32 perception sensors — including two lidar units, 12 ultrasonic sensors, 5 millimeter-wave radars and 13 high-resolution cameras, as well as one high-precision positioning unit that will enable the vehicle to handle challenging and complex road conditions.
The P5’s double-prism lidar units can help the vehicle distinguish pedestrians, cyclists, scooters, obstacles and road works in daylight, night time and inside tunnels, XPeng said. Lidar sensors, or Light Detection and Ranging technology, use lasers to help autonomous vehicles gain a three-dimensional view of the road and are a key technology in autonomous vehicles.
With its NGP function enabled on city roads, XPeng said the P5 will be able to handle situations such as sudden cut-ins, automatic follow and speed limit optimization on busy streets.
Following an autonomous driving expedition two weeks ago, XPeng concluded that the average frequency of human driver intervention was as low as 0.71 times per hundred kilometers with its NGP function. This means that the car would have been traveling in autonomous mode for 140 kilometers on average before a driver was forced to intervene.
At the press launch, the company also announced an upgrade to its proprietary intelligent in-car operating system Xmart OS in the P5. The latest Xmart OS 3.0 platform supports “full-scenario all-voice interaction” in its smart cockpit, which also features a 15.6-inch touch screen at the center console.
“The P5 brings a new level in sophistication and technological advancement for smart EVs,” Chairman and CEO of XPeng He Xiaopeng said.
“Each new XPeng model aims for a new high in technology, and the P5 is our most advanced and technically ambitious model yet. Our homegrown technology, distinctive design language and user experience philosophy, all reflect XPeng’s drive to grow from its Chinese roots to realize its global vision of leading the world’s Smart EV market,” he added.
The P5 will be showcased at the Shanghai Auto Show, where full details of the model’s configurations, performance and pricing will be revealed. Xinzhou Wu, Vice President of Autonomous Driving at XPeng, told CNBC that the P5 will be priced lower than the P7 and will roll out to customers in China in the third or fourth quarter.
Right now, Guangzhou-based XPeng makes its G3 smart compact SUV and its P7 sports smart sedan. The P7, seen as a direct rival to Tesla’s Model 3, starts at 229,900 yuan ($35,130) and features 60.2, 70.8 and 80.9 kWh battery packs that allow for driving ranges of between 480 and 706 km.
Xpeng’s first assembly line is in Zhaoqing, Guangdong and has a capacity of 150,000 units. The company is currently building its second and third wholly-owned plants in Guangzhou and Wuhan respectively and will have a lineup of seven to eight models by 2024.
Announced just last week, the 733,000 square meter production base in Wuhan will be built in collaboration with the local government and will have the capacity to produce 100,000 EVs a year.
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Despite seasonal industry-wide slowdown in car sales and ongoing complications due to a global chip shortage, Alibaba and Xiaomi-backed XPeng delivered more than 13,000 EVs in the first quarter of 2021, marking a 487% jump year-on-year. March deliveries for the company reached 5,102 units, a 384% increase year-on-year and a 130% increase month-on-month.
In comparison, rival Nio delivered 20,060 vehicles in the three months ending in March 2021, an increase of 423% year-on-year. In March alone, Nio delivered 7,257 vehicles, marking a new monthly record at 373% year-on-year growth. Newest figures from the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) showed Tesla sold 18,318 Shanghai-made Model 3 and Model Y cars in February 2021, up 470% year-over-year.