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Chinese start-up Zongmu eyes global expansion for self-driving EV ‘power bank’

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“The concept of ‘FlashBot’ is akin to a ‘power bank’ for smartphones, and it offers a solution to the existing gap in the charging infrastructure,” said Tang Rui, CEO and founder of Zongmu, on the sidelines of BNP Paribas’ electric vehicle and mobility conference in Hong Kong on Monday.

There is an unmet need for electricity chargers amid a rising demand for EVs globally, he said, adding that a shortage of charging infrastructure is a pain point for many economies and slowing the uptake of EVs.

Global EV sales totalled nearly 14 million in 2023, 95 per cent of which were in China, Europe and the United States, which will nearly triple to 45 million in 2030 and 65 million in 2035, according to the International Energy Agency.

Zongmu hopes to launch FlashBot, which was unveiled to the public in January, in tier one cities in China this year.

“The municipal government of Shanghai has given us a lot of support. It will be the first city we launch the services followed by other first-tier cities in China,” said Tang.

“Our autonomous energy robot delivers higher efficiency and flexibility compared with fixed charging stations, all while maintaining a lower cost,” he added.

The firm is in talks with prospective partners in Hong Kong, Europe and North America to discuss expansion opportunities in a bid to increase its global profile.

Tang Rui, founder and CEO of Zongmu Technology. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Zongmu, founded by Tang, a master’s degree holder from Tsinghua University, and his mother Li Xiaoning in 2013, is based in the Shanghai Zhangjiang International Science and Technology Innovation Center. Its main business is intelligent driving systems.

The company’s early investors include Qualcomm (China) Holdings, Fosun (Chongqing) Private Equity Investment Fund and Hubei Xiaomi Yangtze River Industry Fund Partnership. In March, the company submitted a listing application to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

“As we are planning to expand to [major] global markets, seeking a stock listing status will enhance our portfolio and reputation,” said Tang, who did not disclose the listing details.

Tang said Zongmu’s customers are primarily Chinese carmakers that use its autonomous driving solutions and products. The company is also involved in China’s autonomous parking solutions for passenger cars.

“We had business cooperation with all top 10 OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] in China by sales volume in 2022 that accounted for 72.1 per cent of the market on the mainland,” he added.

The company branched into the energy robot business about two years ago.

Tang said that the introduction of the FlashBot positions Zongmu as a unique player in the competitive autonomous driving market.

It expands the company’s business scope, enabling them to capitalise on the opportunities in the industry.

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