China’s Xpeng Motors recently unveiled its answer to the Tesla Model 3, the P7 sedan. The vehicle is impressive, packing up to 440 miles of range per charge under NEDC standards at a price that undercuts more established rivals. But the company’s competition with Tesla goes beyond the pavement and well into the courtroom.
Xpeng issued a press release on April 27 announcing the official launch of its second production model vehicle. The P7 is currently available for order in China in three versions: a 4WD High Performance trim that can hit 0-100 km/h in 4.3 seconds, an RWD Super Long Range variant that goes 440 miles under the NEDC cycle, and the entry level RWD Long Range. The all-electric sedan uses 12 ultrasonic sensors, five millimeter-wave radars, and 14 cameras to operate its autonomous driving system, which is known as XPILOT3.0. After subsidies, the car will cost between $32,462 and $49,404.
“Today is a milestone in the 5-year history of Xpeng Motors,” Chairman and CEO He Xiaopeng said. “The P7’s launch solidifies Xpeng Motors’ leading position in China’s smart EV market. Our ability to launch the P7 in the challenging conditions of the COVID-19 crisis is a testament to the strength of our young company.”
However, Xpeng’s presence in the world of electric vehicles goes much further than the launch of its new car. The company is currently in a legal battle with Tesla, who is suing a company engineer for allegedly stealing Autopilot’s source code prior to starting his employment at the Chinese automaker.
Tesla accused Guangzhi Cao of downloading Autopilot’s source code to his personal computer and transferring it via Apple Airdrop before selling it to Xpeng for financial gain. Airdrop is a complicated method to trace because it uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. Cao, for his part, maintains that he did download some of Autopilot’s source code to his personal computer, but he argued that he deleted it before leaving Tesla to join Xpeng.
Unfortunately for the Chinese EV startup, Tesla’s Autopilot source lawsuit is turning ugly. The most recent developments in the lawsuit state that Xpeng is claiming Tesla’s requests are “stereotypical” after the company demanded information from an ex-employee of Apple. Just like Cao, the ex-Apple employee left his job for Xpeng and was criminally charged with providing information to the Chinese automaker, Automotive News stated.
“Tesla’s latest demands crossed the line, seeking to rummage through our IP on Tesla’s terms — and smearing us along the way with misrepresentations and innuendo,” a spokesperson from Xpeng’s U.S. affiliate, XMotors, said. “Tesla’s overreach and distortions confirm this is just a fishing expedition meant to bully and disrupt a young competitor.”
Interestingly enough, Xpeng executives have been vocal supporters of Tesla in the past. President and Vice Chairman of Xpeng, Brian Gu, has passed along compliments to Tesla, comparing them to technology giant Apple. “Tesla reminds me of Apple. It educated the high-end market for China, but it also spurred a lot of competitive, diverse brands like Xiaomi and Huawei to come up with really cool and affordable products,” Gu said.
Additionally, CEO He Xiaopeng stated that the company probably would not exist if Tesla didn’t release 200 patents to the public a few years ago. One of the reasons Xpeng was founded was because Elon Musk made Tesla’s patents available. It was so exciting,” he said. However, these patents did not include any Autopilot coding, which is instrumental in Tesla’s lead in the autonomous vehicle industry.
Xpeng’s full press release is available here.