Chinese new energy vehicle start-up Hozon New Energy Automobile opened a design centre in Beijing last week to help speed up its product development.

The company said it had begun pre-sales of a new electric vehicle, the SUV model U, ahead of its official launch at the Shanghai motor show later this month. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in December.

The new design centre in Beijing will work closely with the company’s R&D centres in Shanghai and Jiaxing and the Beijing modeling centre. The new 4,000 sq m facility will focus on design, including digital design, and “physical optimisation”.

Hozon’s main production centre is in Tongxiang in Zhejiang province. It also has an autonomous driving R&D centre in the US as well as engineering facilities in Germany and Italy.

The lithium-ion battery powered SUV model U has an NEDC range of 500km (300 miles) and maximum range of 660km. It has a 2,750mm wheelbase and is equipped with AI systems that analyse drivers’ speech and behaviour and provide relevant services.

The company’s first model, the No1 SUV, was launched last November and the company aims to sell a total of 30,000 units this year. An updated version of this model will be launched in June.