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Electric cars in China

Alibaba-backed startup unveils 'intelligent' SUV in China

Xpeng's G3 can self-park and capture images of the landscape

Xpeng will begin taking orders for the G3 electric SUV Thursday. (Photo by Yu Nakamura)

BEIJING -- Chinese electric car startup Xpeng, backed by investment from Alibaba Group Holding, is gearing up to release the G3 sport utility vehicle with a self-parking feature as competition sharpens in the world's largest market for electric vehicles.

The Guangzhou-based company formally announced the G3, its first commercial release, on Monday. Preorders will be available starting Thursday, with delivery expected at the end of this year.

The vehicle is able to parallel-park on its own when the driver presses a button on the remote control from outside the car. The price will range from 200,000 yuan to 280,000 yuan ($31,600 to $44,300), with government subsidies significantly reducing the actual cost to buyers.

A swivel camera attached to the roof captures images of the surrounding landscape such as a mountain or the ocean and makes them viewable on a tablet computer or a smartphone inside the cabin. A fast-charging feature recharges the vehicle by 80% in just 20 minutes.

"Ordinary electric vehicles will face intense price competition and suffer the same fate as gasoline vehicles," Chairman He Xiaopeng said. " Our cars make full use of artificial intelligence. AI cars will have an edge."

Xpeng was founded in 2014 by He and former engineers from GAC Group. In January, a Hon Hai Precision Industry unit announced its investment in the electric vehicle company. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun also invests in Xpeng as an individual.

Xpeng's rival NIO, based in Shanghai, counts Tencent Holdings as an investor. The electric vehicle field is just the latest battleground for Alibaba and Tencent, China's internet service giants.

The Chinese market for electric vehicles grew about 60% last year to around 650,000. With the government moving to enforce a new-energy vehicle regulation next year, market growth is expected to pick up further.

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