Taiwanese electric vehicle company Xing Mobility is launching a funding round to commercialise a frontier battery technology it hopes will see widespread adoption from companies that want to turn vehicles electric – from trucks to jet-skis.
Founded in 2015 by car enthusiasts Azizi Tucker and Royce Hong, the company began with a rally-inspired supercar called Miss R which has a projected acceleration from 0 to 100km/h in 1.8 seconds — marginally better than the Tesla Roadster’s 1.9 seconds. ‘Xing’ means movement in mandarin.
But it is the company’s battery technology that the founders say promises a wide range of applications, and has drawn interest from vehicle makers internationally. The ingredient behind Miss R’s jaw-dropping power output is a modular liquid-cooled battery system, which can give continuous high-power outputs without overheating, and can be quickly adapted to different vehicle sizes and shapes.
This, says Hong – who also chairs Panasonic Taiwan – is the company’s ticket to a much wider market. Likening Tesla to Apple because of its development of sophisticated technology for use in its own ecosystem, he said Xing – 'movement' in Mandarin – aspires to be more like an Android system, providing battery and powertrain systems for widespread adoption by vehicle makers lacking Tesla's huge research and development budget.
Tucker and Hong met at Ted X Taipei in 2013 where Hong had been invited to give a talk on design, and the two quickly bonded over their common obsession with cars.
Tucker, a former Nasa engineer, was an early Tesla employee, managing its supply chain when it still sourced a lot of its parts from Asia. Hong was one of the first six employees at Taiwanese online retail giant PC Home, before leaving to found his own digital marketing agency, Agenda – later sold to Britain's WPP.
Hong bought the first Tesla in Taiwan – a Roadster – and says his first spin in a Tesla left him mesmerised by the instant power delivery of electric vehicles which don’t need to rev up like conventional cars.
“It was a completely different type of driving experience than I had ever imagined,” Hong says. “I started to believe in the potential of electric vehicles – that they were eventually going to change the world.”
The two started working together on a hobby to build an electric supercar. In 2015, they founded Xing Mobility with friends-and-family angel funding of about $7 million.
They developed Miss R, which they say is the world’s first electric supercar with both on-road and off-road capabilities. While it takes off a little faster than the Tesla Roadster and has a top speed of around 270 km/h, it has an estimated range of 269 kilometres – about a quarter of the Roadster’s.
With a low production volume and a price tag of $1 million per car, it’s not pitched at the mainstream, but rather at cashed-up enthusiasts. Tucker has told local media it is more likely to be found in the desert than parked outside Harrods.
They soon discovered a major challenge in keeping batteries cool amid high-power charging and discharging. Inspired by server farms and bitcoin mining machines – which immerse circuits in fire-retarding, non-conductive fluid to keep them cool – they developed a battery that employs the same concept.
Its cells are immersed in 3M’s Novec fluid inside stackable plastic cases – a modular design that fits together like Lego blocks, making these batteries easily customisable to different vehicle sizes and shapes. The fluid is pumped through a heat exchanger then back into the cases, allowing precise control of temperature and pressure.
The system has the added advantage of extending battery life, Hong says, and largely eliminates the risk of explosions. Controlled explosions – which involved firing nails through the cells when they were in use – resulted in a dull puff of steam that didn’t damage surrounding cells. This was a lot less spectacular than the control test without fluid which caused about $10,000 of damage to the testing lab, Hong says.
And when they’re spent, the fluid and cells can be removed and the shells used as stackable storage boxes in the home garage.
“Tesla use a very complex way of routing cooling pipes around the battery cells,” Hong says. “They do it very well, but invested spending billions in R&D and equipment to achieve this. A company like ours can’t afford that kind of equipment and those kinds of resources.
“We had to come up with unconventional ways of dealing with the thermal challenges. That led us to begin applying immersion cooling technology in our battery pack innovation which drastically reduces the complexity in manufacturing at same time providing better thermal transfer.”
Demand flowed in from around the world when the battery was launched at the start of this year, with interest from around 150 buyers.
“Currently we are seeing great demand from around the world, from big Class 8 semis, small construction equipment, recreational vehicles, urban city vehicles, and a lot dune buggies and race cars,” Hong says.
“They came to us, saw our car, and knew we understand what they’re looking for in terms of power, performance and durability.”
Customers hail from Europe, Japan, South-East Asia and increasingly the United States, Hong says. None yet are from China, he says.
The company is now rushing to commercialise and deliver its battery and drivetrain systems, and is launching a series A funding round seeking a relatively modest $15 million to $20 million to ramp up production.
“People keep asking why we are raising so little,” says the company’s CFO, Godfrey Ngai. It is to make sure the company “stays hungry and stays focused” he says.
He anticipates a larger Series B round in less than two years to build the company’s own manufacturing facilities.
So why are they doing it in Taiwan and not China, where the market is huge and rivers of gold are flowing into the EV sector?
Two reasons, Hong says. Taiwan has a comprehensive industrial supply chain made up mostly of small and medium-sized businesses which are flexible with turnaround times and minimum orders, he says. It’s a good place to develop a new product.
And the small size of the island means the furthest supplier can be visited in a day round trip, enabling the fast fulfilment of orders and personal visits so Xing staff can do in-person quality control.
This article has been updated to refer to Class 8 trucks, rather than Class A