SAIC’s Yez concept car is the first automobile, concept or otherwise, that’s ever been conceived to have a negative carbon footprint. That is, it removes more pollution than it creates.
SAIC is an acronym for Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and is a name almost no-one outside China has heard before, yet last year it slipped quietly into the top ten manufacturers of automobiles in the world. SAIC owns 50% of China’s leading car producer, Shanghai Volkswagen, and 51% of the second largest producer, Shanghai General Motors. It is currently seeking to increase its stake in the three-way GM-SAIC-Wuling joint venture that sold more than a million minivans in 2009.
It recently acquired 50% of General Motors India, and the famous British sportscar marque MG. It owns at least a controlling interest of a dozen other automotive companies in China, including bus, transport, construction and earth-moving equipment and electric motorcycle companies.
Now, it has raised USD 1 billion specifically for building its own automotive brand names, so that in addition to making and selling brands such as Volkswagen, Skoda, Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac, it . The SAIC Yez is just the start of envisioning sustainable personal transport on a massive level, and the background to it all is as interesting as the Yez itself.
In the China, the scale of almost everything is an order of magnitude greater than we’ve seen before, and understanding what’s happening in China right now is key to recognising the importance of the Yez. Not only does the Yez power itself from renewable energy sources, it completely redefines the relationship between the motor vehicle and nature by removing pollution from the environment.
Using a combination of power sources such as mains power, the sun and the wind, the Yez also employs some very novel technologies such as photoelectric conversion (man-made photosynthesis), making the Yez akin to a leaf in the good deeds it performs for a choking global environment. Yez is a construct of a Mandarin word that means “leaf” – the word LEAF was already taken by another important vehicle about to hit the market around the world, including China.
So the Yez is a landmark automobile concept. It also comes from somewhere we’re not accustomed to seeing concept vehicles come from – China, a land with more people than anywhere else, unparalleled growth for a large country, and the largest quantity of realistic optimism the world has ever seen. There are some massive changes afoot in the automotive industry and they all surround the extrapolation of China’s remarkable rise. To understand why the Yez is such an important statement from SAIC, and from the Chinese automotive industry, it’s necessary to take in a bit of history.