Techrule's first production-ready racecar, Ren, debuts at the ongoing Geneva International Motor show after a concept car was revealed last year at the same event. (Photo/China Daily)
A business plan Tesla founder Elon Musk wrote 11 years ago goes like this: create a low volume car, which would necessarily be expensive; use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price; use that money to create an affordable, high volume car; and provide solar power.
A Chinese car startup, called Techrules, is following the same steps, or the first three, to be specific, with a super racing car powered by a micro-turbine system as its first model, as it makes its foray into the competitive car market.
The turbine, which is more often found in helicopters, charges a battery pack and the pack powers electric motors that drive wheels, said Jin Xinzhong, president of the company founded in 2011.
Techrules said the turbine is able to get the pack 80 percent charged in 15 minutes and enables a car to run 2,000 kilometers on 80 liters of fuel, either aviation kerosene, diesel, gasoline, biogas or natural gas.
Does it sound surreal? Techrules has unveiled a version it said is “production-ready” at the ongoing Geneva auto show, one year after a concept car drew effusive comments from international media including the BBC at the same event last March.
Together with the racecar, Techrules is showcasing a variable platform that is said to be able to accommodate different models, ranging from racecars and sedans to SUVs and multipurpose vehicles, all of which already sit on the company's blueprint.
Jin, a 52-year-old former planning official, attributed the achievement to Jin Pu, his son, who is also the chief technology officer and co-founder of the company that aims to “create new rules through new technology”, as its name suggests.
“Despite his youth, he has many talented ideas and plans, not even limited to cars,” Jin said of his 25-year-old son during an interview in the company's headquarters in Beijing.
The younger Jin said he studied briefly in the UK from 2008 to 2009, during which he cracked an ancient Greek mathematical problem, of which he did not provide details, though.
Thanks to his talent, the younger Jin said the country beckoned him back. He then spent a year or so at Tsinghua University, before quitting and becoming the youngest scientist in the country's aerospace system. In an interview with the China Business Journal, he said China Aerospace Science& Technology, a major contractor of the country's space program, played a part in the development of the car's powertrain system headed by his 100-member team.
Jin's quitting of a top-class university and strong ability in innovation evoke comparisons to Tesla's Musk, although neither of the two－whom are seen as disruptive forces in the traditional market－are likely to agree.
For Musk, it is understandable that the young Chinese is yet to prove his success, and for Jin and his company, the closer rivals are super racecar makers such as Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini, instead of Tesla.
That would be equally understandable if one can come up with a car that has a torque of 2,340 Nm, gets from 0-100 km in 2.5 seconds, and runs a top speed of 320 km per hour.
But Techrules did find encouragement from the California-based carmaker.
The senior Jin said the company is optimistic about the market, though it has never been in the automotive sector before, because Tesla's performance shows that society is more open than ever to new ideas.
He quoted an anonymous designer at Lamborghini as saying that the Italian carmaker has taken it as a serious rival by hanging a picture of the Techrules concept car on its wall.
It won't take long to see the results. L.M. Gianetti, its engineering partner, said it is ready to produce the car at its facility in Turin, Italy, and if there are any orders the first vehicle will roll out in 2018.
The car will be priced starting from at least 20 million yuan, according to the senior Jin. That will make Techrules a decent rival of established super racecar makers, at least judging from the price.