Chinese electric car maker Xpeng Motors has secured permits for its new sport sedan to test drive on American roads, revving up preparations for head-on competition with Tesla in its home market.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration granted a vehicle import licence to the Guangzhou-based company earlier this month, which will allow Xpeng’s domestically-made vehicles to conduct open road tests in the country, the car maker announced on Tuesday.

The Xpeng P7 intelligent coupe, which will come equipped with Alibaba's in-car mini-apps suite, in September 2019. (Picture: Handout)

The P7 electric sports sedan is Xpeng’s second production model and has a driving range of about 706km per single charge, the longest among electric vehicles sold in China. The range was verified by the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Road tests in the US will provide a “supplement” to the company’s research in China, and does not mean that Xpeng will soon enter the US market, according to He Xiaopeng, co-founder and chief executive of the company.

“Currently, our main focus is to bring the P7 to the Chinese market,” he said, “ensuring quality production and mass delivery in the second half of the year and providing customers with the best post-sales services.”

Having said that, He added that the company has a strategic plan for overseas expansion.

Backed by Alibaba, IDG Capital and Xiaomi among other investors, the five-year-old company is one of the country’s most prominent EV start-ups and has been hailed as a Tesla challenger.

The P7, premiered at the Shanghai Auto Show last April, retails at between 240,000 yuan (US$34,240) and 370,000 yuan, nearly a third of the price of a Tesla Model S in China. Xpeng earlier said it had more than 15,000 pre-orders as of November.

The P7 is expected to become the first production model smart vehicle to carry the Alibaba In-Car Mini App, which offers users a suite of in-car digital information and entertainment functions. Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.

Xpeng has also received a renewed autonomous vehicles testing permit from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, according to the company.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post.)