Chinese automaker Aiways is testing its battery-powered U5 on a marathon journey from China to Germany, where the SUV is scheduled to arrive in time for the Frankfurt auto show in September.
The 14,231-kilometer (8,843-mile) trip will take an Aiways convoy through the Gobi Desert, Kazakhstan, Russia and into Europe. Engineers will test everything from the E-Drive powertrain to the chassis settings and steering characteristics.
Two U5 prototypes left the city of Xian at the eastern end of the Silk Road in central China on Wednesday. Aiways wants the vehicles to reach Frankfurt in the first week of September.
Aiways plans to launch sales of the U5 in Europe in April.
The U5 convoy will travel first through the Gobi Desert of northern China, then follow routes used for centuries by Silk Road traders, arriving in Kazakhstan at the end of July. The convoy will then enter Russia, passing through Moscow and St. Petersburg before entering Europe through Finland. The northernmost leg of the drive takes the U5s through Sweden, Norway and Denmark, before entering Germany.
"This long-distance engineering drive on some very challenging road conditions will ensure the car offers the real-world electric performance, reliability and range demanded by Chinese and European consumers," Winter Wang, Aiways chief technical officer, said in a statement.
Aiways says the U5, which is roughly the same size as an Audi Q5, has the most compact electric powertrain of any zero-emission vehicle. It is built on a modular platform using a blend of aluminum and high-strength steel, with the battery pack sandwiched in the floor.
The U5 has a range of 460 km (286 miles) that can be extended to 560 km if the customer chooses to lease additional battery packs, Aiways says.