China Evergrande plans to slow down its pace of investments in electric vehicles as sales of the environmentally friendly cars continue to fall in the mainland, but the company says it is on track to debut its “Hengchi 1” model next year.

The company, which sees itself as Tesla’s main challenger in China, will invest a total of 45 billion yuan (US$6.4 billion) by 2021, chairman Hui Ka-yan said at a conference organized by Evergrande that brought together global car-related companies in Guangzhou on Tuesday.

The production line of Nevs 93, Evergrande’s electric car, at its Tianjin factory. (Picture: Handout)

The investments will be reduced from 20 billion yuan this year to 15 billion yuan next year and will be further cut to 10 billion yuan in 2021.

Hui, China’s third wealthiest individual, said on Tuesday that the Hengchi 1, the first car developed by the company, will debut in the first half of next year and will go into mass production in 2021.

The company had already invested 16 billion yuan in EVs by June this year, officials said during the interim results briefing in August.

The country’s third largest home builder has stated that its aim is to become the world’s largest maker of new energy vehicles.

“We aim to become the world’s largest and strongest maker of new energy vehicles in three to five years,” Peng Jianjun, Evergrande’s vice-chairman said in August.

And as part of that plan, the company’s subsidiary Evergrande Health has gone on a shopping binge this year, acquiring controlling stake in National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs) for US$930 million, invested more than US$300 million in a new venture with supercar maker Koenigsegg, and paid US$154.4 million for a 58% stake in lithium-ion battery maker Shanghai Cenat New Energy.

However, sales of EVs in China fell 46% in October to 75,000 units compared to September.

It was the fourth consecutive month of slowing sales after the Chinese government cut subsidies by as much as 60% on purchases of electric vehicles in late June.

In June, Evergrande Health started production of the Nevs 93 in Tianjin. The car was developed by Nevs before it was acquired by the Chinese firm in January.

Hui Ka-yan, chairman of China Evergrande, is betting big on electric cars. (Picture: Nora Tam/SCMP)

Hui said on Tuesday that the company will build 10 plants in China, Sweden and other countries taking part in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. It currently has eight plants in use or under construction in Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenyang, Guangzhou as well as one in Sweden.

It aims to make 1 million cars a year within the next five to 10 years before ramping it up to 5 million units a year in the following five years.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk said last week that its new Shanghai Gigafactory, its first outside the US, will make at least 1,000 cars a week by the end of the year.