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Chinese entrepreneur announces ambitious plan to develop electric vehicles from Singapore

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SINGAPORE, July 14 (Xinhua) -- A Singapore-based investment holding firm led by a Chinese entrepreneur announced an ambitious plan on Saturday to develop and market electric vehicles from the city state.

Lihe Investment Holdings and its partners from China and the United States said they expect to invest some 300 million U.S. dollars in the first three years of the Mayton Electric Vehicle project. The total investment is expected to reach 900 million over five years.

Lihe Investment Holdings, which was established by Chinese entrepreneur Yan Wei and his partners in Singapore in November last year, will have a 51 percent stake in the joint venture firm Mayton Automotive, Lihe's chief executive officer Wan Dean said at the brand's identity launch in Singapore on Saturday.

China-based Hebei Shanghong Technology and the United States- based Maytown Technologies will hold 30 percent and 19 percent stakes in Mayton company, respectively. Maytown Technology is an affiliated company of Lihe Investment Holdings, too.

Mayton Automotive will start by targeting the Singapore market and gradually expand to the Chinese, U.S. and other markets. The main production and research base will be located in Hengshui, a city in China's northern province of Hebei.

Wan said the company hopes to combine "the comparative advantages of the three local markets integrated across the full spectrum of the value chain -- research and development, parts manufacturing, vehicle assembly, branding, design, distribution and marketing, etc." It aims to eventually create a strong brand following in the market for alternative energy cars.

The company has strength in terms of the key technologies involved in the manufacturing of electric vehicles such as battery, the hybrid system and the vehicle design, he said.

Lang Tong, a professor in electrical engineering department of Cornell University, will be an important partner involved in the development of charging network infrastructure.

The company said it chose to start with Singapore because the island city state is an ideal place for the trial of electric vehicles as current battery technology permits a driving range of 150-250 km on a full charge, whereas the average driving distance per day among Singapore drivers is only 55 km.

"In other countries people may worry about how long one charge of the electric vehicles can last. That concern simply disappears in Singapore," Tong said.

Singapore government is supportive of the development and adoption of electric vehicles, and is testing and assessing the impact of the electric vehicles on the electricity grid, the company said.

The company said it has the support of the local government in Hengshui, where the production and research and development of the company will be mainly based.

Wan said the first two prototypes of Mayton Electric Vehicle will be ready for testing and certification by the end of this year. Its testing and certification will be aimed for European compliance.

The company's production facilities will be operational by May 2013, with the initial production of 10,000 units planed for July 2013 to target the Singapore and Chinese market. The production capacity of the firm will be expanded to 80,000 units during 2014 and 2015 with the replication of assembly lines in other cities.

Wan said the company will start by targeting the mass market with electric cars priced at between 200,000 and 300,000 Chinese yuan (between 31,746 U.S. dollars and 47,619 U.S. dollars) and gradually expand to cover both the high-end and the mass markets.

The initial batches will be powered by a hybrid energy system before a gradual shift to purely electric.

"It will be more than just a means of transport. It will be a lifestyle," said Tong.

Mayton Automotive is also trying to get the support of Singapore authorities for a project to test some 200 electric vehicles at Punggol to study the drivers' usage and charging+ patterns, vehicle to grid communication and pricing and scheduling considerations. Punggol is a new town that has been known as an eco-precinct with a younger population.

Mayton also announced the results of an electric vehicle design concept contest, and the establishment of a research and development center in Singapore with a cost of 10 million Singapore dollars (8 million U.S. dollars) over the next five years.

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