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Chinese EV Startup XPeng Motors Granted Permit to Test its New P7 Sedan on Roads in the U.S.

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【Summary】Chinese electric vehicle startup Xpeng Motors announced today that it was granted permission from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test its new P7 fully-electric sedan on public roads in the U.S.

Eric Walz    Mar 17, 2020 10:50 AM PT
Chinese EV Startup XPeng Motors Granted Permit to Test its New P7 Sedan on Roads in the U.S.
The fully-electric XPeng Motors P7 sedan.

Chinese electric vehicle startup Xpeng Motors is one of a new group of electric vehicle startups looking to follow Tesla's lead by building highly advanced electric vehicles. The company, which was founded in 2014, is also developing an advanced autonomous driving system for its vehicles.

Xpeng announced today that it was granted permission last week from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test its new P7 fully-electric sedan on public roads in the U.S. The permission ensures that the P7 has met all the requirements for imported vehicles. The permit was sought for research purposes, so XPeng can test and refine its vehicle before production.

The NHTSA and the U.S. The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all vehicles produced outside of the U.S. meet specific DOT requirements before being operated on public roads. 

The requirements include having mandatory safety features such as driver and passenger airbags, traction control, anti-lock brakes and approved lighting. The permit is required before Xpeng, or any other automaker, can test any of its vehicles on public roads in the United States.

In addition to developing advanced electric vehicles, Xpeng is also working on an advanced autonomous driving system that will offer hands-free driving. The company's automated driving system is called XPilot. 

Xpeng Motors also received a renewed Autonomous Vehicles Testing Permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV),  joining around 60 other companies with the permit, including Waymo, Uber and Tesla and many other global automakers.

"Testing on the roads in the U.S. will supplement the tremendous amount of tests we've already done in China. It's another step forward for our closed-loop R&D approach to autonomous driving, including developing full-scenario vehicle perception capabilities, positioning, planning, decision-making, testing and upgrading. This is the only way to maintain our long-term competitive advantage," said Dr. Xinzhou Wu, View President of Autonomous Driving at Xpeng Motors.

Although the company was granted an autonomous vehicle test permit in the state of California, XPeng's XPILOT was specifically developed for China's road conditions, with features adapted for China's crowded urban roadways, including a unique "low speed follow function", which reduces the chances of aggressive drivers cutting in front of the vehicle in traffic. 

The autonomous driving system also features automated cruise control with lane selection for highways, as well as automatic parking.

Xpeng's P7 4-door coupe slightly resembles a Tesla Model S, which is not surprising since XPeng said it was inspired by Tesla and studied many of Tesla's open source patents. 

The P7 is the second vehicle from XPENG,  joining the G3 intelligent SUV in the company's lineup. The G3 SUV sells for around half the price of a Tesla Model X in China. 

The P7 is also highly efficient with an impressive NEDC range of 438 miles (706 km), the longest range of any EV in China. The range was verified by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China (MIIT).

The P7 also completed a grueling 120-day winter testing phase last month, this year under temperatures as low as -31°F temperature conditions in Red River Valley Automotive Test Center, Heihe, Heilongjiang Province, China.

The cold weather testing was designed to test how the P7's batteries and other electrical components handle the extreme cold. Xpeng developed a proprietary thermal management system to heat and cool the battery pack when needed.

The Xpeng P7 is equipped with a prismatic (pouch cell) battery pack with a capacity of 80.8 kWh and an energy density of 170Wh/kg. It integrates the electric motor, transmission and control system in its high-performance 3-in-1 electric drive system. This setup results in greater efficiency, a more compact structure, lighter weight, more uniform interior layout, and greater reliability, according to XPeng.

The P7 features all-wheel-drive setup with dual electric motors, reaching 0-60 mph in 4 seconds.

The P7 is designed to compete with the Tesla Model S and Model 3 in China with advanced technology but with a lower price. The P7 starts at US$32,450 for the standard model and goes up to US$52,802. The Tesla Model S starts at US$113,298 in China.

The P7 made its public debut in April 2019 at the Shanghai Auto Show. Xpeng said it will be delivered to Chinese customers in Q2 2020. 

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