Home » I Visited The Craziest Electric Car Brand In China. It Blew My Mind

I Visited The Craziest Electric Car Brand In China. It Blew My Mind

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And on that sunny day, I went out to visit a HiPhi shop in Beijing. HiPhi is one of the many new Chinese EV brands, but they sure are the maddest of all. I am a great admirer of madness, so a visit to HiPhi was atop of my list. The fun started immediately with a white HiPhi Z, a powerful sedan coupe with suicide doors and giant wheels. Behind the Z is a HiPhi Y, and a bit further back a huge pole with the HiPhi logo. On the left are HiPhi home chargers, which are designed around the HiPhi logo. Further to the left, with the blue rooftops, is a fish market.

The front of the building says ‘Delivery Center’ but, in truth, I was visiting a dealership; customers can test drive and buy cars here. The dealer is located within an enormous car market in western Beijing, not far from a fish market. I have been to the area dozens of times, and gazed at the used car dealerships, repair shops, and car modification shops.

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In recent years, new EV brands have also opened shops there. In the good old times, there were large and somewhat misty dumping grounds, with all sorts of old and brand-new abandoned vehicles. That part of the market is sadly gone today. But that’s OK, because in that time, we got HiPhi, and like I said before: It’s absolutely bonkers.

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A Look At These Crazy Cars

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Before we get into what HiPhi actually is, let’s look at the brand’s three cars: the X, the Y, and the Z. (HiPhi has unveiled a fourth model, the HiPhi A, basically a hardcore variant of the X jointly developed with Chinese-German car maker Apollo, but it hasn’t been launched on the market yet). All three cars are totally mad, by far the maddest Chinese cars on the market today. They are beautiful cars, well-designed and well-made, with all sorts of crazy details that most carmakers wouldn’t even dare to design in their wildest dreams.

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My welcome to the dealership came in the form of an unmanned desk with an authentic stone look. Behind the desk was an impressive wall with the HiPhi logo. On the right side an extra air conditioning unit to cool down staff that would, I presume, normally man the desk. Atop the desk were bottles of reasonably cold water, brochures, and hand sanitizers. The latter were leftovers from COVID-19; there are hand sanitizers all over China still, but nobody is using them anymore, so they are often looking dusty and quite crappy. (I once used a hand sanitizer when I entered a small supermarket, the lady behind the counter looked at me kind of weirdly. Hey! It was just for fun, you know?).

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This kind of advertisement is typical for many new EV makers. It shows HiPhi’s suppliers, trying to impress customers. It is a mix of Chinese and foreign suppliers. Impressive indeed. The dealer only had the HiPhi Y and Z in the shop. The X was missing. They told me it was out with a customer. I waited around for an hour but the X didn’t return. Too bad! But there was more than enough to see. Let’s start with the Y.

The HiPhi Y

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The Y is the most normal and cheapest HiPhi, but it’s still weird. It’s an over 5,000-pound, rather large five-seat full electric SUV with frameless doors and light units that can show graphics and text.

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Chinese car buyers love to have neck pillows. Back in the day, they had to go after-market to get some. But happily, nowadays, most carmakers — including HiPhi —  simply pre-install neck pillows.


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The Y has a unique rear-door design, called the “Second Generation Smart NT Wing Doors.” NT stands for ‘no touch.’ The lower part opens conventionally, but the upper part moves up. There is a window in the wing, too. HiPhi is very proud of its door design, and it features prominently in advertising.

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(Note the neck pillow above).  The screen situation is impressive. On the left is a 12.3-inch instrument panel, in the middle is a giant 17-inch infotainment screen, and on the right is a 15-inch passenger-entertainment screen. I found the graphics on the main screen to be ultra-clear.

The drive selector is mounted on the column jutting off the column holding a strange two-spoke steering wheel. The wide center tunnel has several storage spots, as well as a 50W wireless charger. It has a 25-speaker Meridian Audio system.


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The Y is available in four trim levels: Pioneer, Elite, Long Range, and Flagship. The first three are single-motor, rear-wheel drive. The output is 336 hp and 302 ft-lb, which isn’t that much for a high-end Chinese EV in 2024. Top speed is limited to 190 km/h (118 mph) and 0-100 takes 6.9 seconds. Energy consumption is a steep 15.6 kWh per 100 km (it’s a big car).

The rear-wheel drive version can be had with two kinds of batteries: a BYD FinDreams LFP battery with 76.6 kWh for a 560 km range (348 miles), or a CATL ternary lithium battery with 115 kWh for an 810 km (503 miles) range. The Flagship is a dual-motor all-wheel drive car with rear-wheel steering. The output is 505 hp and 457 ft-lb. Top speed is limited to 190 again, but 0-100 takes only 4.7 seconds. The battery is the 115 kWh ternary lithium battery again, and energy consumption is even steeper at 16.4 kWh per 100 km.

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(Check out these HiPhi-branded folding storage boxes).


The HiPhi Z

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If the Y is crazy, the Z is absolutely mental. It’s a low-slung sedan-coupe with a super busy design. I walked around the machine a couple of times and got dizzy trying to figure out what’s going on. The Z has running lights on each side of the front bumper, in each door, in a pod at the rear, and in the rear light units. It’s totally insane, and I love it. It has a large LIDAR unit atop the windshield, and HiPhi logo on the ‘hood’ is illuminated.

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The Z is so brilliant. It is low, it is long, and it has suicide doors. The doors are wide and thick, and the windows roll all the way down. The one I saw is a ‘Phantom Day White’ car, which has purple detailing on the roof, doors, and fenders. The seat belts are purple too! That is nice attention to detail by the HiPhi design team. Even the floor of the shop seems to match the car’s design, but I guess that is a coincidence. The Z is a long, wide, and low car, and it weighs over 6,000 pounds.

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The vehicle has 22-inch Michelin Pilot Sport EV tires and the most confusing alloy design I have ever seen. It is multi-layered with tiny slats to improve the aerodynamics. The illuminated HiPhi logo always stays upright, like on a Rolls-Royce.

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The doors have LCD screens that can show graphics and text, with input via the main screen.

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The Z doesn’t have a fuzzy instrument panel or passenger screen. It only has a driver-focused main screen. There is a large-diameter steering wheel with two spokes and a load of haptic buttons on each side, the wheel looks a bit 1980s futuristic.


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Strangely, for such a large car, it only has a single cup holder. The drive selector is located on the center tunnel, which is a little old-school. Most high-end Chinese cars have the drive selector on the steering wheel column.

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The Z is a four-seat car with two captain seats in the back, divided by a high armrest section.

The rear is the best part. It has a wing integrated with the roof, and another pop-out wing just below it. There is a wide rear light strip and with an illuminated square section in the middle, with the HIPHI name in the center. It has LCD screens on each side.


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It’s the ass of the future.

The HiPhi Z is a powerful dual-motor all-wheel drive car with rear-wheel steering. The output is 672 hp and 820 Nm (605 ft-lb). The top speed is limited to 200 km/h (124 mph) and 0-100 (0-62 mph) takes 3.8 seconds. The car has a drag coefficient of 0.27 Cd, so it should slip through the air nicely. Electricity is stored in a CATL ternary lithium battery, buyers can choose between 90.18 kWh for a 535 km (332 miles) range or 120 kWh for a 705-kilometer range (438 miles). The average energy consumption is a steep 17.7kWh per 100 kilometers.

This is a big car.

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The HiPhi Z has an impressive ADAS package with 32 sensors including one LIDAR sensor above the windshield. The L2 ADAS system is called HiPhi Pilot. The Z costs a lot of money, but based on the madness-per-yuan, it is surely worth it. The price range is 510.000 to 630.000 yuan, which is $70K-$84K.

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The shop was large and nicely decorated, with large green sofas and beige office chairs. There was a cabinet with books and wuzzy statues, and the plants were real. Too bad there weren’t any customers to enjoy all this niceness. I was in the shop for over an hour and saw three staff members (all in this photo) and zero visitors.

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The image above shows a super cool 1:18 scale model of the Z, complete with a home charger. It went for 1200 yuan or $166. Not cheap, but these Chinese dealer models are often of very high quality. I know, because I collect them. I have like 100 1:18 scale models, some dating back to the late 1990s.


In the old days, I had to go out and visit dealers to see if they wanted to sell me one, as these models were only for customers. Later on, they sold them to anyone. Nowadays you can buy them online. Easier, but not as cool. Maybe I can write a story about collecting Chinese dealer cars later on.

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Above is a separate room with similar furniture. Not sure why it was separated. There was a big TV, two fire extinguishers, and a poster on the wall showing the X.

[Ed Note: This is a gorgeous dealership! -DT]. 

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The HiPhi store even featured a large playground. Lots of dealers have playgrounds now; this trend started in the late 2010s. The toys and tables looked brand new. The screen was off. Kids won’t love that, but anyway, no kids around!

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The delivery area and workshop were squeaky clean. I counted four Z’s and two Y’s. But again, no X.

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It was time to leave. It had been a good visit. Nice folks and a nice shop. I was presented with cold water and a bunch of brochures. But two things were missing: I didn’t see any actual customers and I didn’t see the X.


Finding the X

The X remained elusive. I wanted to have it in this story, so I needed to find one. I knew where to look: Off to the shopping mall I was. Many Chinese EV brands use “experience stores” in malls as their primary sales channel. More on that in a later article. I went to such a mall to check out a HiPhi experience store, to see if I could find the X. I drove all the way, headed into the mall, up escalators and elevators, and ultimately found the HiPhi shop, which was near shops from BYD, Hycan, and Tesla. And guess what?

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They didn’t have the X either. Just the Z and the Y again. That was weird. Fortunately, I knew of another mall with a HiPhi shop. I had a quick lunch in one of the many restaurants, and on I went to the next mall. That mall was near the embassy area, where I used to work. I parked my borrowed Jeep in the underground lot and went up via the usual maze of escalators. After an hour I located the HiPhi experience store, and…

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… they had the X! The X sits between the Y and the Z on the madness ladder, but closer to the Z than to the Y. The car that I saw was painted in Danyan Orange. The name refers to a special kind of crystal rock found in Hunan Province.


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The X was the first HiPhi that launched on the Chinese EV market. It is a large SUV-MPV with enormous 22-inch wheels. The design is wild with a short hood, wide arches, a heavily sloped windscreen, and…

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… the doors. The X has the craziest doors of any Chinese production car. The doors open rearwards and upwards. The upper part has a window/sunroof again, and it opens at a 45-degree angle. The side doors are huge, making for very easy entry and exit. The doors open with a tiny button on the B-pillar. It looked kind of flimsy, but it worked fine. HiPhi sells the X with four seats or six seats. This orange car is a six-seater, and the seats in the back are very tiny. Only big enough for small kids.

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A TV, a board, and a home charger. There is an English slogan there: “Aim High,” a slogan that HiPhi is using on and off.

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The steering wheel looks quite normal by modern Chinese standards, with four spokes and a slightly flat bottom. The seats are flat, too, but the black leather is very nice. The X has a 14.6-inch instrument panel, a huge 16.9-inch main screen, and an even larger 19.9-inch screen for the passenger. It is a large and spacious vehicle powered by single motor at the rear making 299 hp and 410 Nm (302 ft-lb); a dual-motor all-wheel drive is also offered, making 598 hp and 820 Nm (605 ft-lb).

The RWD does 0-100 in 7.1 seconds and the AWD does it in 3.9 ticks. The top speed is limited to 200 km/h (124 mph). There is only one battery on offer; a 94.4 kWh CATL ternary lithium unit. The RWD has a range of 650 kilometers (404 miles) and the AWD makes it to 560 (348 miles).

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This is a screen in the door! It can show all sorts of graphics; here it shows a sound-wave effect in red.

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The X has a shark-fin D-pillar design and the largest rear lights of any recent Chinese car.

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In the showroom, posters advertising the Y show a non-Chinese lady in a wedding gown, showing it is possible to stand straight up and look pretty and hold a bunch of flowers. Good to know. Nice wedding car. Lady stands– full throttle 505 hp– the ceremony will be over soon.


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On the back of the X, the HiPhi name is illuminated, but how long will it still shine? The brand is going through some trouble, you see. But before we get into that, let’s take a step back.

What is HiPhi?

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HiPhi (高合) is a Chinese high-end luxury EV brand owned by “Human Horizons,” a Chinese technology and mobility company. HiPhi bills itself as a tech brand — software first and then the car. The company states that its brand spirit is “Exploration, freedom, and creation.”

The HiPhi name has a complex meaning: Hi corresponds to High, which represents high realm, high taste, and high compatibility. Phi represents the Golden Ratio rule, symmetry and unity, and perfect integration. The HiPi logo is a stylized Greek letter phi (ϕ). The brand’s advertising is often related to space, showing spaceships and faraway planets. The company used to be headquartered in Shanghai, but they moved their operations to the great beach city of Qingdao in Shandong Province in 2022.

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Ding Lei. Via Baidu. Full bio here.

The founder is Ding Lei (丁磊), aka David Ding. Mr. Ding has had a long and distinguished automotive career. He joined Shanghai Volkswagen in 1988, right at the beginning. In 1995, he switched to Shanghai-GM, becoming CEO in 2005. He left the car business in 2011 and held various high-ranking roles within the Shanghai government. In 2017, he founded Human Horizons, which launched the HiPhi brand in 2019. HiPhi doesn’t have a production license for car making, a problem that many other new Chinese EV makers have faced. Production is therefore outsourced to a joint venture with the Yueda Group, best known for their other joint venture with Kia. The factory is jointly owned. (This is a similar setup that NIO used to have with JAC).

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Trouble in HiPhi land

Sadly, it seems that the HiPhi brand is a tad too mad even for China. Chinese consumers are eager to try new brands, technologies, and designs, even at high prices. But there is a limit, and it appears that HiPhi was over it. The HiPhi brand got a lot of positive press and loads of attention but sales have been slow from the beginning. In China, it is generally accepted that to survive, a new independent brand should sell around 10,000 cars a month. HiPhi, however, never sold more than 1900 units a month, and sales dropped like a stone late last year, to only 564 units, and even further in January, to only 232 cars.

By that time, rumors were flying around saying that HiPhi had suspended production and was unable to pay its bills. HiPhi confirmed it faced some difficulties, and said it was looking for new investments. They didn’t find any. Next, dealers and shops were closing. HiPhi said it was restructuring its sales channels. The latest news as of February 19 (when I wrote this article) is that HiPhi has postponed paying wages for January and that wages will be reduced. There have also been stories about a suspension of production for six months, but this has been denied by the company. Details aside, HiPhi does appear to be in trouble. It comes at a painful moment, just when it has launched an export offensive in Europe. If HiPhi goes under, it will be a sad end for a promising brand.

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This story ends with a Diamond Blue X I saw on the street, baking in the sunshine after a short summer rain.

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1 month ago

This is one of the problems with chinese brands. All the excitement, all the technology, only for them to not have support or even a company a few years after your purchase. There is something to be said for the reliability of having a legacy automaker around.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 month ago

These are bat guano crazy. Over two tons for the lightest?!? And 20″ low profile tires? Those will be spendy to replace. Interesting design but a firm “meh” for performance. CLTC range is wildly optimistic and I’m not sure those 0-100 times are accurate. As they say, all sizzle no steak.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 month ago

On one hand, I like how unconventional and out-of-the-box these are. I’m a big fan of visibility especially at night, so I won’t decry large light assemblies. I also like the lights in the doors, and think they’d be great for side marker and turn signal functionality. Unless it’s not being used as a motor vehicle it shouldn’t be used anything more than a basic signaling device. The user-configurable lights are a fun idea, and I don’t disagree with having some functions like that (a thumbs-up or -down, something that says “Check Your Lights” for folks driving with their lights off or high-beams on, “Panic” or similar for an especially hard stop, etc.) available. The doors and roof flap things are neat, but I hope the roof doesn’t HAVE to open if the side doors do, in the event of rain/snow or overhead obstruction.

On the other hand, it has the same robo-futuristic gaudy “gee-whiz” styling and features that are rotting the industry. Slap a GM or Nissan badge on and folks would be convinced that’s what it is, because angular wheeled blobs with squinty headlights at bumper level are in vogue right now, apparently. The rear door design is too complex, although better realized than “falcon” doors. I’d be concerned about the risks if closing the roof on a fully-closed window (unless they move in a sequence to prevent that?).

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
1 month ago

Someone send the Z to get the Mansory ‘treatment’.

1 month ago

Hmm, I guess some people are just easy to impress. These are really just slightly overwrought and horrendously inefficient EVs for rich tech bros, that it turns out nobody actually wants to buy after the initial novelty-of-the-new moment has passed.
The Z was displayed at Goodwood FoS last year and, okay, it’s intriguing at first, but it just seems overstyled. And 6000lbs!! That’s about 2.7 tonnes, which is R-R Phantom territory. There’s nothing environmentally conscious about that, which I thought was meant to be the point of the EV revolution…

1 month ago

I legitimately don’t understand this love for Chinese cars. Sure, they’re gimmicky, and I guess they are making huge strides with their EV technology over there, but they are backed by a dictatorial communist regime. China is not our friend, very much the opposite. Chinese companies taking over market share in America and Europe is not a good thing.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy

I don’t see this article as espousing love for China, but instead showing the vehicles produced by this company. This is a blog about vehicles, and so I for one would want to know about any and all vehicles.

1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Wyman

Fair enough. It’s just that I see tons of articles on here about Chinese cars and EV’s, about how quirky they are, how varied, and indeed, sometimes how legitemately *good*, but it always feels like it’s written as if they’re made in Japan or South Korea. “Look at how our cool friend in Asia is making quirky cars!!” That style, ya know? But like I said, China is absolutely *not* our friend. It’s (I’m repeating myself) a communist dictatorship that’s ruining fair competition by sponsoring their (car) manufactures.

The lighthearted tone of the articles is just diametrically opposed to the somber, scary, unfair reality of what (the CCP’s) China is, wants and stands for.

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