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These 11 EV Startups Are Chasing Tesla. They -2-

NOTABLE BACKERS: Chinese mobile gaming behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd., Scottish hedge fund (and major Tesla investor) Baillie Gifford & Co., Chinese state investors

MAIN MODEL: The ES6 is a five-seat SUV with a starting price of roughly 358,000 yuan ($52,000).

WHAT EXCITES INVESTORS: NIO's stock gains outpaced Tesla's share-price surge this year, and the company's market value has eclipsed GM as of Thursday's close. Sales of its luxury electric SUVs, made and sold in China, are growing. It has also started providing subscription plans for batteries which allow users to buy cars without batteries at a lower price and swap them out for a monthly fee based on their energy needs.

WHAT COULD GIVE INVESTORS PAUSE: Despite a strong 2020, NIO's future seemed in doubt last year. It posted a net loss of $1.6 billion in 2019 and laid off roughly a fifth of its employees. It got a 7 billion yuan (roughly $1 billion) lifeline from Chinese state investors this spring, but it will need to boost sales and margins to remain competitive with Tesla, which opened its Chinese factory last year.

Li Auto, Inc., Beijing, China

CEO: Li Xiang

YEAR FOUNDED: 2015

OWNERSHIP: public

MARKET VALUATION: $30.7 billion (as of November 19)

NOTABLE BACKERS: Chinese e-commerce heavyweight Meituan Dianping, TikTok creator ByteDance Ltd., BlackRock

MAIN MODEL: The Li ONE is a plug-in hybrid luxury SUV that uses a small gasoline engine to generate power for lithium-ion batteries and lists for around 328,000 yuan ($49,500).

WHAT EXCITES INVESTORS: Li Auto can appeal to drivers in parts of China where charging stations are less plentiful while still qualifying for some state subsidies. Li's hybrids require smaller and cheaper battery packs, saving the company on costs.

WHAT COULD GIVE INVESTORS PAUSE: Li's focus on hybrids may help it alleviate drivers' worries about charging in the short-term, but analysts say the company will need to successfully manage an eventual transition to an all-electric future over the longer term. Hybrids also don't get the same favored treatment that pure battery-electric vehicles do from some local governments.

XPeng, Inc., Guangzhou, China

CEO: He Xiaopeng

YEAR FOUNDED: 2015

OWNERSHIP: public

MARKET VALUATION: $35.3 billion (as of November 19)

MAJOR BACKERS: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Chinese phone company Xiaomi Corp., Qatar Investment Authority

MAIN MODEL: The P7 is a battery-electric sedan that starts at 250,000 yuan ($37,000).

WHAT EXCITES INVESTORS: Xpeng makes SUVs and sedans that undercut Tesla's Chinese models on price. The company is also developing its own autonomous-driving software and has an in-car operating system with its own network of apps. Like its Chinese competitors, the company has a deep-pocketed tech backer in Jack Ma's Alibaba.

WHAT COULD GIVE INVESTORS PAUSE: The Chinese government has helped stimulate electric-car demand with subsidies that are expected to be fully phased out by 2022. XPeng's software focus is both capital-intensive and highly competitive, and the company has warned in filings its efforts could be hindered by further deterioration of the U.S.-China relationship.

Faraday & Future, Inc., Los Angeles, Calif.

CEO: Carsten Breitfeld

YEAR FOUNDED: 2014

OWNERSHIP: private

VALUATION: unknown

MAJOR BACKERS: Birch Lake Holdings LP, ATW Partners

FIRST MODEL: The FF91 is a luxury SUV with over 1,000 horsepower and more than 300 miles of range. The company says it can deliver the SUV nine months after raising more funds. Pricing is expected to start at more than $100,000.

WHAT EXCITES INVESTORS: Faraday has tried for years to develop a luxury SUV that will compete directly with Tesla. The company recently secured a bridge loan of $45 million as the company looks to raise more funding to make the FF91. Mr. Breitfeld is known in the auto industry for his development of BMW's i8 hybrid sports car.

WHAT COULD GIVE INVESTORS PAUSE: Faraday Future has spent more than $2 billion and has yet to sell a single vehicle, after originally targeting 2017 to bring its first model to market. Founder Jia Yueting declared personal bankruptcy last year from personal debts in China and the company is still looking to raise the funds needed to start production.

Arrival Ltd., London, UK

CEO: Denis Sverdlov

YEAR FOUNDED: 2015

OWNERSHIP: private but expected to go public through a reverse merger known as a SPAC by end of the year

VALUATION: $5.4 billion (valuation estimate at the time reverse merger was announced)

MAJOR BACKERS: Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., BlackRock, United Parcel Service Inc.

MAIN MODEL: an electric passenger bus expected in the fourth quarter of 2021

WHAT EXCITES INVESTORS: Arrival plans to build electric buses for urban transit or delivery vans at smaller, automation-intensive assembly plants the company calls microfactories. The factories, it says, can be built for tens of millions of dollars, far less than a conventional assembly plant. The company has an order from UPS for 10,000 vans.

WHAT COULD GIVE INVESTORS PAUSE: Many of its prospective customers -- cities and transit authorities -- are in fiscal trouble due to the pandemic and dropping urban transportation ridership. Arrival also faces a strong set of existing competitors due to widespread acceptance of electric buses in certain parts of the world. Most new buses sold in China are already electric, analysts say.

Write to Ben Foldy at Ben.Foldy@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 20, 2020 10:14 ET (15:14 GMT)

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