The Belt And Road Initiative’s First Electric Vehicle

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Silk EV’s S9

Op/Ed By Chris Devonshire-Ellis 

The Italian auto engineering and design startup, Silk EV has just announced a Joint Venture with China’s FAW and will be producing an electric hypercar. It is the first BRI investment dealing with electric vehicles. Italy joined the BRI in 2019.

Silk EV are based in Modena, also home of Lamborghini and Ferrari. The vehicle, to be known as the S9 will be part of FAW’s famous “Hongqi” (red flag) brand, once only available to high-ranking Chinese government officials.

A specification for the S9 has yet to be released, although Silk EV stated that 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.”

The car is being designed by Walter de Silva, who has styled vehicles for Alfa Romeo, Audi, and Lamborghini, and headed up design for the Volkswagen Group in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Volkswagen have a long-standing relationship with FAW as anyone who has stood at taxi ranks across the country will know. Silk EV LLC will invest 10 billion yuan (about USD 1.42 billion) in the next five years to build Hongqi S series products, aiming to make it a world-famous luxury sports car brand.

Unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show last year, the S9 is Hongqi’s first super sports model, which claims a maximum speed of 400 km/h and a 0-100 km acceleration time of within 1.9 seconds. It is powered by a newly-developed V8T hybrid system with 1,400 horsepower.

China has several EV startups, although only one, XPeng followed through with exports, starting deliveries to Europe in December 2020. China’s more established automakers have focused on exploiting the huge opportunity in China’s domestic electric vehicle market, and especially after the government began incentivizing the purchase of clean energy vehicles from 2014.

China’s Xpeng EV – it has a longer range than a Tesla

With electric vehicle technology maturing, and China controlling the bulk of the supply chain, an outward expansion by an established player makes sense. FAW is an innovative partner for Silk EV, having also kickstarted EV startup Byton.

The Byton EV

Xu Liuping, FAW’s chairman and party secretary of FAW, said 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 car-making excellence in Jilin province — the center 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.”

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Silk Road Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Asia, and assists foreign investors into the region. For strategic advisory and business intelligence issues please contact the firm at or visit


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