There are hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles on the roads across the U.S. and the European Union, and endless news of American EV maker Tesla's latest moves. But the truth is that China is the center of the battery and electric transportation universe. This is borne out by the sheer volume of capital being deployed in the largest EV market in the world, a market that saw 579,000 electric passenger cars sold last year.
With the caveat that battery and EV claims require some healthy skepticism, here are a few recent billion-dollar EV financial events in China.
Farasis gets $1 billion in financing?
With a claim of more than 3,000 employees and a manufacturing base in China, lithium-ion battery builder Farasis Energy claims that it has secured more than $1 billion in a "C round" of financing from undisclosed investors to open a large-scale European battery production facility. There were also unsubstantiated reports of a $790 million funding round from undisclosed investors earlier this year.
Farasis has won millions in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards for novel lithium-ion chemistries and claims that it has “regularly ranked first in terms of shipments of NCM-based lithium-ion pouch cells to the Chinese automotive market."
The company has not responded to email and phone inquiries to date.
Nio's $1 billion IPO
Chinese EV startup Nio, helmed by former Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior, was looking to raise $1.8 billion on the NYSE, but the IPO came up short, raising $1 billion at a share price of $6.25. The stock has seen some gains since the IPO, but was hit hard this week by President Trump's tariff threats.
Note that Nio has raised $1 billion, and as of a few weeks ago, had delivered just 481 SUVs, while receiving deposits for more than 17,000. The company just started delivering its first volume-manufactured vehicle, an SUV, with a driving range of 220 miles, along with a price of $70,000 prior to incentives. Nio is developing a smaller SUV for delivery in 2019.
Nio is building its SUV in an arrangement with Jianghuai Automobile Group, a large state-owned automobile builder in China, and so scaling manufacturing volume is less of a challenge than it might be for other startups. The company uses lithium-ion batteries from a number of suppliers and plans to offer battery-swapping options and some measure of autonomous driving.
This is an early-stage company that is going to continue to lose enormous sums of money over the coming quarters, as well as require massive investments in manufacturing and R&D. Nio lost $758 million in 2017 and has lost $502.5 million this year so far, while generating just $6.9 million in revenue. All of this business is from China.
The EV builder is based in Shanghai, but employs 520 people at its San Jose, Calif. U.S. headquarters. Nio plans go after the U.S. EV market after it has established itself at home.
Total dominance in electric buses
Here's a shocking stat in a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance: There are almost 400,000 electric buses deployed globally and 99 percent of them are in China.
BNEF forecasts that by 2040, 80 percent of the world's municipal buses will be electric and that the imminent transition to electric will be "as fast as the supply chain and charging infrastructure will allow."
China wants Chile's lithium resources
Although the financial and regulatory details are murky, Tianqi, China’s largest producer of battery-grade lithium, is looking to publicly list on a Hong Kong bourse in order to finance a $4 billion stake in Chilean lithium developer SQM, according to a prospectus and reporting in The Financial Times. Tianqi still needs trust-related regulatory approval for the acquisition.
Demand for lithium is set to grow substantially in the coming years, driven by the electrification of transportation — although lithium producers have seen a decline in share price due to oversupply worries.
DOJ looks for fraud in Musk's 420 tweets
Tesla might be paying a large price for undisciplined tweets from CEO Elon Musk.
Bloomberg reports that Tesla and Elon Musk are facing a criminal investigation for fraud, following the CEO's tweet last month claiming that he had "funding secured" from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund in a go-private effort at $420 per share. Bloomberg notes that Tesla is also under civil investigation by the SEC for that same tweet.
Tesla responded with a statement: "Last month, following Elon's announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it. We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process. We respect the DOJ's desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received."
Tesla's stock price is up 3.2 percent on the bad news.
Funding secured from PIF for Lucid Motors
Lucid Motors was originally named Atieva and started out in 2007 as a battery pack developer with a founder from Tesla and VC funding from Venrock. The company eventually pivoted to becoming a premium EV builder with massive funding from Beijing’s China Environment Fund, Mitsui & Co., Jafco and Beijing Automotive Industry Holding.
After a number of near-death experiences and delays, Lucid Motors has finally secured more than $1 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to finance the launch of the its first EV, the Lucid Air. The funding will be used to build its factory in Casa Grande, Arizona and finish development and testing of its initial model — with commercial launch targeted for 2020, according to an announcement from the firm.
Lucid's $1 billion comes from the the same Saudi fund that Elon Musk claimed would help take Tesla private in last month's potentially criminal tweet.
Watch out for when the Chinese manufacturing machine starts to crank out electric vehicles and do what it does best (and what Tesla is struggling with), which is the ability to scale to massive volumes. Expect a flood of smart, sleek EVs from China's BAIC, BYD, Cherry, Geely, Zhidou, Hawtai and Zotye, just to name just a few.