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© Didi Chuxing

German carmakers have been recording record sales in the Middle Kingdom for years. In contrast, major Chinese brands such as BAIC Motors, Dongfeng, Geely and Zoyte remain virtually unknown in Europe. One reason for this could be the somewhat less than impressive reputation that Chinese manufacturers have here for the originality of their models’ design. Something that is often overlooked is that repeating and recreating trusted designs is seen positively in China and that the automotive industry there is at the cutting edge of technology, particularly with regard to electric vehicles. Chinese manufacturer BYD and vehicle-for-hire service DiDi Chuxing have now debuted a joint electric car in Beijing in the form of the D1.

Hire service DiDi Chuxing has dominated the local market without any competitor following Uber’s withdrawal from China. According to its figures, it receives 60 million bookings per day and has 550 million registered passengers. That makes for more than ten billion trips per year. In the same period, Uber’s worldwide operations saw only seven billion fares. Based on the data from these users and collaboration with its total of 31 million drivers, DiDi has developed the D1; it is conceived exclusively for use within a ride-hailing fleet. That means the D1 will not be on display at any dealership and will instead travel from the factory straight into the DiDi fleet. The first 10,000 cars are already expected to be integrated into the fleet this December, with the number growing to 100,000 by the end of 2021.

In terms of design, the D1 seems to look like a replica of the VW ID.3 at first glance. Similarities can be made out with the rims, LED tail lights and shape. Unlike the German original, the D1 possesses an LFP battery that is cobalt-free and flame-retardant and has a 50 kWh capacity allowing an expected range of 418 km: a battery as if made for a ride-hailing car. The electric engine provides 100 kW (136 h.p.) of power, accelerating the car to a maximum speed of 130 km per hour. Electric rear sliding doors aim to make it easier for passengers to get in and minimise the risk of “dooring” cyclists. Because most of China will be experiencing the D1 primarily from the rear seats, they will offer the passenger plenty of legroom, comfortable cushioning and two large screens that not only display the route but also various entertainment and shopping offerings. There are various assist systems (lane-keeping, brake and emergency brake assist) for the driver as well as an AI-controlled monitoring system that checks if the driver has their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The Volkswagen ID.3 is not offered in China and neither is the D1 offered in Germany, so a direct comparison of the two models remains elusive.

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