The German executive has had a soft spot for China ever since visiting the country 20 years ago to study the language. His wife is Chinese, and he is never shy to show how fluent he is in Mandarin. Yet he was well aware of China’s shortcomings — including its dangerous levels of air pollution.
Listening to the three air purifiers humming in his office every hour of every day, Kirchert had little doubt that a day would come when Beijing would not be able to tolerate more gasoline engines on its streets — especially given Beijing’s support for cleaner cars.
So when he met his former colleague Carsten Breitfeld in Hong Kong one day at the end of 2015, it did not take long before the two began talking about the potential of electric cars. Breitfeld is a world-renowned expert in electro-mobility and headed BMW’s plug-in hybrid i8 program as the German automaker’s vice president.
By the spring of 2016, the two had launched an electric vehicle startup, Future Mobility (now called Byton), in China.