Jidu Auto, a new electric vehicle (EV) joint venture between Chinese technology giant Baidu and local automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, said it planned to spend CNY50bn (US$7.7bn) in the next five years to develop smart EV technology.

The new company, 55% owned by Baidu and 45% by Geely, said it planned to hire up to 3,000 staff for the project over the next three years, including 500 software engineers. The company has offices in both Shanghai and Beijing.

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A company spokesperson also confirmed further details of its new EV operations, including branding, would be released in the third quarter of 2021.

Jidu Auto CEO Xia Yiping confirmed tot he Reuters news agency the first EV is scheduled to be launched within three years with one new model to be released every year or 18 months thereafter.

He added the vehicles would be designed to appeal to young buyers and sold initially directly to customers without using dealerships.

The new EVs would be based on Geely’s open-source EV platform and likely produced in Hangzhou Bay in Ningbo city where Geely also has several plants.

They would likely use chips designed by Baidu which has significant experience in developing smart automotive technology including autonomous driving with its Apollo unit and high-definition maps.

A number of Chinese technology giants have announced plans to enter the nascent global smart EV market over the next few years, including mobile communications giants Xiaomi and Huawei, Tencent and Taiwanese mobile phone manufacturer Hon Hai (Foxconn).

Apple has also said it was exploring opportunities in the global EV market.