So what do I mean by the “electric Camry?” My family has owned 2 Toyota Camrys. Why did my father buy a Camry instead of the 300 other choices available to him in the 1980s? Because he wanted a “nice” car at a reasonable price. People aren’t generally buying the Camry as the cheapest transportation option or the fastest or the roomiest or the most luxurious choice. People that buy a BMW or Camaro want to be noticed, while those that are buying a Camry just want the quiet satisfaction that they bought a very nice car and a very good price. In other words, it is a safe and reasonable car that won’t be criticized by anyone in their family. It isn’t a car for enthusiasts, it is a good car for “regular” people. So after spending too much time on explaining my title, in this article, I will explain how Xpeng’s newest sedan aims for the sweet spot of the global upper middle class market. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend 200 words explaining “sweet spot.”
Xpeng, The Company
Here at CleanTechnica, we have written over a 100 articles over the last 4 years that mention the company, including this article last month about its updated compact SUV, this article explaining why Xpeng and Nio customers don’t just buy a Tesla, and this one announcing its plans to double production capacity to 200,000 cars a year. The P5 will be Xpeng’s 3rd major model, providing a more affordable and more laid back car than its very successful P7 Sedan.
The Basics Of The Xpeng P5
- The mid-sized sedan will have be priced from RMB 160,000 to 230,000 (about $25,000 to $35,000) after subsidies.
- It is the first mass-produced smart car with advanced L2 driver’s assistance using LIDAR (2 units in the front bumper in the 2 highest spec models), and Xpeng is planning to deliver its first units in the fourth quarter. As opposed to Tesla, which is going all in on vision (although the company is keeping its ultrasonic sensors for parking), Xpeng is using 5 radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors, 13 cameras, 1 sub-meter-range high-precision positioning unit, and 2 LIDAR units (LIDAR only in the top 2 trims). Two of the lower spec models are available with no driver’s assistance. It’s unclear whether buyers of those models will be able to upgrade to use the driver assistance features at a later time.
- The car offers 3 range choices — 450 km, 550 km, and 600 km — using the very optimistic NEDC testing cycle. Although this translates to 285 to 372 miles, I think an EPA rating of 200 to 300 miles is likely.
- All models offer a 15.6″ center mounted touch screen, voice assistant, panoramic glass roof, advanced sound system, and heat pump air conditioning system.
- The top spec offers the smart sleeping cockpit, premium fragrance (?), leather seats, and 8 speakers. As a person that likes to nap or sleep in my car, I’ve got to say I love the sleeping kit pictured above!
- Xpeng vehicles can receive over-the-air updates. We have seen how that has been an important capability for Tesla to use to constantly modernize its cars and greatly improve their resale value by allowing 3- and 4-year-old cars to have the vast majority of features its new cars have. It also reduces the cost of recalls if you are able to solve the problem without bringing the cars into a dealer.
- Acceleration is expected to be 7.5 seconds for 0 to 60 miles an hour. This helps differentiate the car from the sporty P7 sedan, which with its available gull wing doors and 4.4-second 0 to 60 time makes it a poor man’s Lamborghini in performance and style.
- Xpeng is rumored to be developing a global spec P5 for export to Norway and later, all of Europe. Selling the car in more markets not only lets the company spread the development costs over more units, it also is a powerful status signal to domestic buyers that the product is up to international quality standards.
- In the area of crash safety, although the P5 hasn’t had any results published, the company’s G3 compact SUV achieved the highest rating ever for a car in the Chinese crash testing, while its P7 sports sedan recently received a 5-star rating in this same test.
All images courtesy of Xpeng Media Library
Xpeng & Tesla Lawsuit And Disagreement On LIDAR
You may have heard that Tesla claimed that Xpeng stole Tesla and Apple code for drivers assistance. An engineer that left Tesla to work for Xpeng even admitted he uploaded source code to his iCloud account. Luckily for Xpeng, the lawsuit was settled out of court, with the engineer (who has since left Xpeng) making a payment to Tesla. It was never proven that the engineer gave any code to Xpeng and a neutral 3rd party appointed to compare Tesla’s code and Xpeng’s code for driver assistance didn’t find any Tesla technology in Xpeng’s code.
Another area of extreme difference in opinion is on the technology of LIDAR. Tesla has been an outspoken critic of LIDAR, claiming it is useful as a “crutch,” but that our roads are designed to be navigated by people with vision. More recently, Tesla has doubled down on vision, even removing radar from its latest Model 3 and Y sedans. Xpeng is convinced otherwise and it will be interesting to see how quickly each advances over the next year. There is no doubt that each system can do a great job of driver assistance, but nobody knows for sure which strategy will be the winner for full self-driving.
I think the Xpeng P5 has a lot going for it. It has many of the high tech features that make the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y so popular around the world. When it came out that the car would be priced about $14,000 less than the least expensive Tesla Model 3, there were a flurry of articles that this would put a lot of pressure on Tesla. I think that has some truth to it, but the Model 3’s acceleration, sporty handling, more advanced FSD computer, and company reputation will keep it a class above Xpeng for now. It is important to realize that Tesla will need its China designed “$25,000 Model” in the next year or so to continue to expand sales in China as competitors like BYD, NIO, Xpeng, and others continue to release better cars and SUVs.
Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Tesla [TSLA], BYD [BYDDY], Nio [NIO], and Xpeng [XPEV]. But I offer no investment advice of any sort here.