Chinese automaker JAC Motors (江淮汽车) launched an electric-only ride-hailing service called Hexing (Hexing on-line Hailing) (和行约车/Hexing Yueche) on the 9th of January in Hefei, Anhui, China. I have been monitoring this service since launch. Today, I will explain the service, its future expansion plan, and my experience in the vehicles.
Similar to other ride-hailing services, you easily download the app by scanning a QR code prominently displayed on any of the vehicles, and whenever you need a ride, you enter your destination and request pickup. The app is minimalist and functional, but the best thing is that all 2,000 cars in Hefei are all-electric vehicles.
The drivers don’t own the cars. They are more like employees of the service. The service owns the car but the drivers are allowed to use it for work — the reason given is so that the drivers and cars go through a thorough background check and technical checks before passengers go in them. This is a big issue in China due to a number of cases of assaults and murders in ride-hailing vehicles in China.
Hexing has three cars available:
JAC iEV A50 (long-range sedan)
JAC iEV 7S (long-range SUV)
SOL E20X (Volkswagen–JAC joint venture long-range SUV)
The service is presently limited to Hefei, but the plan is to expand rapidly.
In Chinese press releases, JAC/Hexing mentioned that the plan is to expand to 10 cities across Anhui and have 10,000 cars on the road by the end of 2019. In 3 years, they plan to expand to every major city in China with a combined fleet of 50,000 electric cars. At the moment they have a fleet of 2,000 cars in one city.
Automakers, Post Ownership, & Autonomous Vehicles
I think it is no surprise that JAC is creating a ride-hailing service. Numerous reports and articles are coming out about consumer trends shifting towards ride hailing and autonomous cars getting closer to reality, so it is wise to get ahead and create an in-house service that will use JAC’s car production.
JAC is already investing in partnerships to create self-driving JAC vehicles, such as a partnership with Baidu (“the Google of China”), which is well known for investing heavily into self-driving technology and has recently claimed that its technology can achieve level 4 autonomy.
Other international companies and Chinese companies are planning the same, such as Tesla, BMW, Xpeng Motors, and many others which I plan to test in the future. Why are these companies doing this? Because the combination of electrification and autonomous vehicles will dramatically impact demand and use of vehicles, just as the smartphone impacted the dedicated digital camera market.
My family decided to travel to see my wife’s family during the Dragon boat festival and to finally try out the app for that trip. The JAC iEV A50 pulled up and quickly loaded up us and our luggage. The app was quick, but finding drivers was slow due to the holiday — other days it took only a minute.
The A50 was comfy, quiet, and quick. The driver acted professionally and drove perfectly. I decided to ask some questions about what the driver knew and his own experience. I asked how he got the job and he said he applied on the website and had to pass a number of tests and get a certificate to drive for the service. I inquired if he owned the car. He said Hexing owned the car. I asked how he charged and he said he uses the public charging but that it is free due to Hexing providing a card and them partnering with State Grid. I wanted to understand the driver’s side well, so I asked about how he likes the car. He said it was comfortable and made his new (internal combustion engine) personal car felt very uncomfortable by comparison. (No surprise to any EV driver.) I asked about the acceleration and he confirmed he liked it. On working and compensation, I found out he has to drive a certain number of clients per day to get his wage, but after that number, he can either stop or earn extra fares. We also talked about cars and the fleet and he confirmed what I had already found out.
All in all, it was a very pleasant and informative experience. I’ve used the service 6 times now, and the drivers are very professional and courteous.
The Volkswagen Link
This Hexing service is linked to Volkswagen. The two companies previously signed an agreement with the Hefei city government to start a ride-hailing service and short-term rentals of electric vehicles in Hefei. The SOL brand is the JAC–Volkswagen joint venture and Hexing uses the SOL E20X.
The name of the app/company — 和行约车 Hé xíng yuē chē — like many companies names does not mean anything in particular. It could be understood as many things, including “a peaceful trip” or “with the car.” I used Hexing as shorthand, but that is westernization of the Pinyin.
My wife and I found the service good, better than the local taxi services and Didi Chuxing, and while it is the early days, I think this service is a good example of one of many shifts that automakers are making to get ready for the future of consumer transit — be it ride-hailing, autonomy, carsharing, connected vehicles, or vehicle as a service or advertisement medium. Additionally, Hexing is a good start for JAC to get its electric cars more widely known throughout China, which might also benefit its electric car sales.
All photos by Timothy Dixon (CC BY-SA license)
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