William Li says he founded the company because he was concerned about Beijing's pollution.
In front of hundreds of partners, investors, and members of the media, the leaders of a two-year-old electric car startup called NextEV cut a (digital) ribbon, drank champagne, and popped confetti for the grand opening of their Silicon Valley headquarters.
The company, which was founded by William Li—a Chinese entrepreneur who created online car sales company Bitauto—has plans to build a series of electric and autonomous cars that it intends to first sell to Chinese consumers, and later to consumers around the world.
Li recruited former Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior, to lead his U.S. division, and at the event, Warrior, who said she was employee number 16, described the company’s mission “to change transportation.” Li, who flew in to California from Beijing, told the crowd that he founded the company because he was concerned about the pollution that his two children were breathing in Beijing.
For more on an electric car that can go zero to sixty in under 3 seconds, watch Fortune’s video:
NextEV’s Silicon Valley office will house hundreds of engineers and developers that are working on software, artificial intelligence, and machine learning for vehicles. Already, 250 people work out of the San Jose office, and another few hundred are supposed to be hired. The company also has offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, and Munich.
Warrior also announced at the event that NextEV has just been chosen as one of 18 companies allowed to test out autonomous vehicles on California roads.
NextEV is one of a handful of startups that are building electric vehicles backed by Chinese investors, looking to tap Silicon Valley’s software talent and sell into China’s huge and growing market for electric vehicles. The Chinese government is offering incentives for companies and consumers who buy electric cars in a bid to reduce the country’s serious air pollution problem.
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Down the street from NextEV, is LeEco, another Chinese-backed company building electric vehicles. Another is Atieva, based in Menlo Park, Calif. Chinese auto parts company Wanxiang is restarting Fisker Automotive, building its electric Karma car. Then there’s Faraday Future, a company building a factory in Nevada with backing from Chinese entrepreneur Jia Yueting. All of these companies tend to cite Tesla TSLA as an inspiration and as a potential competitor.
At the grand opening in Silicon Valley, a series of city and state officials took the stage to explain why NextEV was able to receive various forms of government support and to promote a growing clean energy company ecosystem building in the region.
Missing from the event were any cars. However, a Chinese website just published some photos of NextEV’s “supercar,” a high-speed, high-performance (and very expensive) luxury vehicle that it appears to be already testing on tracks. The website said the car is being developed in Germany and tested in the U.K.