Xiaomi ramps up electric vehicle plans as Apple's hopes suffer battery blow

Xiaomi offices behind a roadsign
The Chinese mobile phone giant plans on producing 300,000 vehicles annually by 2024. Photo credit: Getty Images

Chinese mobile phone giant Xiaomi is planning on building an electric vehicle (EV) factory that will be able to produce 300,000 vehicles annually, according to Beijing authorities.

The plant will be constructed in two phases, with mass production scheduled to begin in 2024.

It follows an announcement in March it was investing US$10 billion in a new EV division, with chief executive Lei Jun leading the new venture.

"The decision was made after numerous rounds of deliberation among all our partners, and this will be the final major entrepreneurial project of my life," he said at the time.

Reuters reported the company has been opening thousands of stores to boost its smartphone business with a plan to eventually use them as a channel for EV sales.

Meanwhile Apple's electric car hopes have suffered a blow after its global battery development chief Ahn Soonho left the company.

Ahn is now the chief technology officer at the battery division of Volkwagen (VW) Group Components, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Earlier this month it was reported the German car manufacturer was considering building a new electric car factory to make a new model code-named 'Trinity'.

A brand new plant would be less complex than amending existing operations, VW brand chief Ralf Brandstaetter said at the time. The factory, near the main factory in Wolfsburg, would make around 250,000 cars each year.

"We feel that the competition from old and new rivals is intensifying, and we need a strong answer to this," Brandstaetter said. "We have a team here at VW that can do this."

Volkswagen has previously outlined plans to build six battery factories across Europe with partners by the end of this decade.

It's not yet known whether Ahn's departure will have any impact on the Cupertino-based company's plans to launch its car by 2025.

Reports earlier this month suggested Apple was now focused on creating a fully autonomous vehicle under the leadership of Kevin Lynch, who started working on the car earlier this year. 

He took over as head of Project Titan, the internal codename for the car project, after Doug Field left the company in September to join Ford.

Apple's car would ideally have no steering wheel and pedals, with an interior that could involve seats around the sides of the vehicle so passengers face each other, the reports said.

That could mean the car's infotainment system would sit in the middle, letting all passengers interact with it during the ride.

While Apple has lost experts like Ahn and Field, it has also been hiring others to help its push for a quicker than expected release.

That's included the onboarding of CJ Moore, who was Tesla's self-driving software director, as well as experts from Volve, Daimler and General Motors in recent months.