Protocol | China

Every Chinese tech company wants to make EVs

The market is red-hot and everyone thinks they know how to crack it.

Every Chinese tech company wants to make EVs

Visitors walk past a BYD Co. electric vehicle at the carmaker's booth at the Auto Shanghai 2021 show.

Photo: Oilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chinese tech companies have never been afraid of leaping into areas outside their core businesses. But the next jump they're making is risky, even for big firms: a shift to making electric vehicles.

China's EV market has become piping hot, with a parade of internet behemoths foraying into the car manufacturing business over the past six months. In a policy paper published last November by the State Council, China's cabinet, Beijing spelled out its plan to reach 20% penetration of new energy vehicles by 2025. By 2035, the government envisions EVs will become the dominant new vehicles sold in the country.

As Beijing makes a heavy push to produce more energy-saving vehicles, tech companies, ranging from the old moneyed giants like Baidu and Alibaba to smartphone makers like Huawei and Xiaomi, have been stepping up efforts to gain a foothold in the world's largest EV market.

China added 30,000 new energy vehicle-related companies in the first quarter of 2021, a 298% increase from the same period last year, according to data from Tianyancha, a comprehensive database on Chinese firms. In this fast-evolving EV sector, internet companies are up against not only traditional and established automakers, but also upstarts in the autonomous driving sector, such as NIO and Xpeng Motors.

Here's a list of Chinese tech companies that have in recent months announced plans to make EVs:


The ecommerce giant was the first among China's tech giants to get its hands dirty in the EV maker space. In December 2020, Alibaba set up a three-way EV joint venture with China's biggest carmaker SAIC Motor, a state-owned company, and Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park Development, an investment arm of the Shanghai municipal government. In January, the joint venture launched its first car model, a sedan, under the brand "IM."

Apart from its latest EV push, Alibaba has been developing driverless driving technology. In 2018, Alibaba set up an autonomous driving lab under its global research arm Damo Academy. The tech giant is also a major backer of the domestic EV startup Xpeng Motors.


Search engine giant Baidu in January established a joint venture with China's largest private automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group to make smart electric vehicles.

Baidu, which has been transitioning into an AI powerhouse, has been investing in autonomous driving technology since 2013. In 2017, Baidu launched Apollo, a self-driving platform. Apollo launched driverless car-hailing services on May 2. The Apollo project is separate from Baidu's joint venture with Geely. But Apollo's smart driving capabilities will be applied in manufacturing the first Baidu-Geely car model.


On March 31, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun announced the smartphone maker would set up an EV subsidiary, and said the company would invest $10 billion over the next decade in the smart EV business.


Didi Chuxing, China's car-hailing unicorn, perhaps is the closest to the EV business among the tech companies that have recently moved to make cars.

In 2019, Didi Chuxing formed a joint venture with the domestic automaker BYD to make EVs designed for ride-hailing services. BYD is the controlling shareholder of the venture.

On April 18, Didi Chuxing announced a partnership with Volvo to develop self-driving cars for a planned future self-driving taxi fleet.

In a separate attempt to step up its EV making efforts, Didi is also building an EV subsidiary, for which it's actively poaching talents from automakers, according to the Chinese financial publication LatePost.


On April 19, Huawei, the world's largest telecom equipment maker (and one battered by U.S. sanctions), signaled its pursuit of the EV market by unveiling an electric car with the HarmonyOS operating system, the Huawei-built OS powering its phones. The vehicle, Arcfox Alpha S, was co-developed by Huawei's driverless car solutions arm and a subsidiary of the state-owned carmaker BAIC Group. Reuters reported in late April that Huawei is also considering taking control of a domestic automaker's EV unit.


360, China's largest producer of cybersecurity products, announced on April 26 that it had led a $465.8 million series D round of funding into the EV startup Hozon Auto, which owns the brand Nezha. This move would make 360 the second largest shareholder of the startup. According to the Chinese publication Jiemian, it only took 360 three months to research the market and decide to enter the EV business.


OPPO, China's second-biggest smartphone maker by shipments, became the latest internet company to make its foray into the EV market. The company confirmed to Beijing Business News on April 28 that it is investing in the EV business, becoming the third Chinese phone maker to tap into China's burgeoning EV market. Chinese tech publication 36Kr had reported earlier that OPPO's founder Tony Chen was researching the EV market, and other executives were interviewing to fill positions in a new self-driving team.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Xiaomi announced its EV subsidiary on March 30; it was announced March 31. This story was updated on May 10, 2021.

Protocol | Workplace

Performance reviews suck. Here's how to fix them.

Slack integrations and keywords and AI, oh my!

Time will tell how smart HR technology has the potential to be, or how smart users want it to be.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Arguably nothing elicits more of a collective groan at work than performance review season. Managers hate giving them. Employees theoretically want them, but dread receiving them. It's as clear how much time and effort they take as it is unclear how useful formal performance reviews actually are in measuring and evaluating performance.

It's an arena ripe for disruption.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at

Keep Reading Show less
A technology company reimagining global capital markets and economies.
Protocol | Workplace

This startup will fire unvaxxed workers. Big Tech won’t say the same.

In an industry built for remote work, will companies fire workers who refuse to get vaccinated?

Several big tech companies stopped short of saying whether they would fire workers for not getting vaccinated.

Illustration: simplehappyart via Getty Images

As employers wait for the Department of Labor to issue a new rule requiring employee vaccine mandates, a big question looms: Will companies fire workers who don't comply?

Many of the tech giants won't say. A couple of companies have confirmed that they won't: Both Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Pure Storage said vaccination is not a condition of employment, though it's required to come to the office.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

With Andrew Bosworth, Facebook just appointed a metaverse CTO

The AR/VR executive isn't just putting a focus on Facebook's hardware efforts, but on a future without the big blue app.

Andrew Bosworth has led Facebook's hardware efforts. As the company's CTO, he's expected to put a major focus on the metaverse.

Photo: Christian Charisius/Getty Images

Facebook is getting ready for the metaverse: The company's decision to replace outgoing CTO Mike "Schrep" Schroepfer with hardware SVP Andrew "Boz" Bosworth is not only a signal that the company is committed to AR and VR for years to come; it also shows that Facebook execs see the metaverse as a foundational technology, with the potential to eventually replace current cash cows like the company's core "big blue" Facebook app.

Bosworth has been with Facebook since 2006 and is among Mark Zuckerberg's closest allies, but he's arguably gotten the most attention for leading the company's AR/VR and consumer hardware efforts.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Protocol | Fintech

Here’s everything going wrong at Binance

Binance trades far more crypto than rivals like Coinbase and FTX. Its regulatory challenges and legal issues in the U.S., EU and China loom just as large.

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao is overseeing a global crypto empire with global problems.

Photo: Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Binance, the largest global crypto exchange, has been hit by a raft of regulatory challenges worldwide that only seem to increase.

It's the biggest example of what worries regulators in crypto: unfettered investor access to a range of digital tokens finance officials have never heard of, without the traditional investor protections of regulated markets.

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at or

Latest Stories