Top US Chip Maker Benefits from Chinese EV Boom

More than a decade after Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) unveiled the Roadster and proved that road-worthy electric vehicles (“EVs”) were more than just a pipe dream, the race for EV supremacy is heating up. Tesla is undoubtedly the world’s largest electric vehicle producer, securing more than 70% of the American market for itself and enjoying best-selling status in Europe. However, conquering China, which is the largest vehicle market on the globe, has proven to be a challenge for Tesla and other American automakers. That honor belongs to a variety of Chinese companies.

The only American automaker currently benefiting from the Chinese EV boom is a computer chip maker. Despite not achieving much penetration in the Chinese market, Tesla has done well in other regards — specifically, the company’s insistence on building its own computer chips. While the global semiconductor shortage forced other EV makers to halt production, Tesla simply rewrote some software and used a different kind of chip that was in abundance. But for American chip giant Nvidia, the chip shortage has been a major opportunity for expansion into the Chinese market.

Nvidia has become the go-to company for semi-conductor chips as Chinese EV makers ramp up production amidst the chip shortage. Nio and Xpeng are powering their autonomous driving systems with Nvidia Drive Orin chips, and technology company Baidu is planning on using the same chips in its upcoming vehicle. Polestar, which is owned by Hangzhou, and  Zhejiang-based auto giant Geely have used Nvidia chips in the Polestar 3. Nvidia has invested a lot of time and effort into autonomous vehicles and is rolling out technologies designed to make autonomous driving a reality.

However, Chinese and other automakers aren’t focusing on autonomous vehicles. Instead, they are looking to develop vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (“ADAS”) that would perform some actions semi-autonomously. Xpeng’s system is called Xpilot while Tesla’s is Autopilot. These systems assist the driver with functions such as pedestrian detection and avoidance, lane departure warning and correction, traffic sign recognition, and automatic emergency braking.

According to Aakash Arora, electric vehicles with these driver assistance systems tend to be more popular with EV drivers. Early electric vehicle adopters are also more likely to be early technology adopters in general, and they would prefer EVs with more technology features.

With the competition among Chinese automakers getting more intense, Nvidia has found itself in a lucrative position. And since designing its own chips isn’t something most automakers do, Nvidia may be laughing all the way to the bank for quite a while as automakers such as ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. Ltd. (NASDAQ: SOLO) seek to cut into the market share currently enjoyed by EV giants.

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