Electric hypercar is a joint venture between FAW and Silk EV

A recent tech and layout startup called Silk EV, headquartered in Italy’s venerable Motor Valley, is more than just another effort to create an electric hypercar. It’s also the new arrow in the quiver for China’s huge Belt and Road initiative, though the first one deals with electric cars.

On Tuesday, Silk EV revealed that it would co-develop an “ultra-luxury hypercar” called the S9 in the home area of Lamborghini and Ferrari with First Automobile Works (FAW), China’s original state-owned automaker. The S9 will be part of the long-standing Hongqi brand of the Chinese automaker, which means “red flag” and was once made specifically for high-ranking Chinese government officials before it became more readily available.

The two companies did not release any S9 specifications or images, except for a teaser shot. In a press release, Silk EV said the vehicles it makes with FAW will “combine a dynamic, sustainable, and exclusive driving experience with the use of cutting-edge technology and innovation, delivering to China and the world the next generation of luxury new energy vehicles.”  One of the few things revealed on Tuesday is that the car was crafted by Walter de Silva, who designed the cars for Alfa Romeo, Audi and Lamborghini, and led the Volkswagen Group in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

China’s Belt and Road Program is a major endeavour to develop infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe, and Africa that, overall, loosely trace the old Silk Road. Projects cover hundreds of nations, ranging in scale and complexity. There are large railroads, hydroelectric power stations, lakes, and bridges. And in some areas, including Djibouti, China is seeking to do almost all of the above.

Although the Chinese government frames the Belt and Road plan as a ripe one with political and economic prospects, it has been accused of saddening some of its smaller debt allies, leaving them vulnerable to Beijing’s influence. Other ventures were criticized for preferring, or even forcing, the use of Chinese construction firms during unusually opaque bidding procedures.

The best of China’s many EV start-ups have long been targeted at spreading beyond the region, but only one—XPeng—followed the pledge after starting deliveries to Europe in December. Larger, more well-established automakers have remained focused on leveraging the vast potential of consumer electric vehicles within China, particularly after the government started favouring clean energy vehicles a few years ago.

With electric vehicle technology maturing and China owning the bulk of the supply chain, the outward growth of the existing player just makes sense. And FAW is an unsurprising collaborator for Silk EV. Not only is Honqi’s brand familiar in China, however, FAW has demonstrated an interest in electric cars, has helped kickstart Byton’s EV start-up.

Byton has once had its own global aspirations. But last year, it got into financial trouble and is now withdrawn from the US and reportedly being rolled into the FAW.

Although Italy makes sense as a target market for producing and selling a hypercar, it is also a reasonable political partner for a project like this, as it was the first G7 nation to embrace the Belt and Road initiative.

Xu Liuping, Chairman and Party Secretary of FAW, said in a press release that the joint venture with Silk EV “marks a major milestone under the Belt and Road initiative for China, Italy and the global automotive industry.”

“It is a unique opportunity for FAW to build on its legacy of carmaking excellence in Jilin province — the centre of China’s automotive industry — and for FAW Group to come together with Italy’s Motor Valley — renowned for its luxury and racing automotive heritage, integrated ecosystem, and world-class engineering — to become the new benchmark in new energy vehicles,” Xu said.

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