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Lighting up the NEV sky with more twinkling stars

Cross-industry car making has always been catchy. With the flooding in of intruders or “savages” described by traditional auto OEMs, they either muddle the waters or energize the NEV industry. All in all, change comes.

Hanergy, a global clean energy enterprise, released four solar energy vehicle models in early July, saying that they are not lab samples and have the basis to be commercialized.

More than one year has passed since its shares were suspended from trading, and the grand ceremony seems to signal a glorious return.

Though Hanergy maintains a steady pace in its solar energy vehicle program, still the news triggered quite a few of doubts, from technical feasibility, product positioning to cost control and industry chain integration, no less than the applauses it received.

One key problem is energy conversion efficiency. If solar energy is solely used to power a vehicle, with a 31.6 percent conversion rate for Hanergy, a 5-6 hour sun bathing in a sunny day can generate 8-10 kWh of electricity and ensures an 80 km range, according to Hanergy’s introduction of one of the models.  

But sunny days are not frequent visitors. In rainy, cloudy, hazy days, its range seems to be a problem. Even with lithium batteries on board, the solar energy vehicle seems to be white elephant for many.

But remember, it is in the primary development stage and it’s too early to decide on the future.

In the early age when first patch of cars were launched, people say that they need only cozier wagons and it’s more convenient to use wagons since horses can easily find grass and feed themselves, while fueling a car is troublesome. But the next 100 years witnessed the thriving vehicle market with ever stronger, faster and fancy vehicles.

Toyota and Honda chose to develop fuel cell vehicles (FCV). Toyota has launched its Mirai FCV to the market in 2015 and plans to produce 30,000 units annually by 2020. Open report says Tesla CEO Elon Musk has ridiculed the technology, referring to it as “fool cell technology.”

Honda Clarity, Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo, Lexus LF-FC all follow the trend and join the growing queue.

So on NEVs, be it solar energy, electricity or fuel, just try it out in this newly plotted field.

On how to keep electric vehicles running on the road, there is also arguments on whether to swap batteries or simply charge them.

As an advocate of battery swap, Chen Wei, vice president of Lifan, spoke highly of the business model at several industry gatherings. He believes the pattern makes use of supposedly wasted “trash electricity,” saves drivers time and labor and brings batteries longer time spans.  

But he was questioned by Tellus Power president Pang Lei at the recent New Energy and Electric Vehicle Synergetic Development Workshop. Pang believes due to differences on design of each vehicle, location of batteries and performance of each battery, it is hard to swap batteries and the model has been proved by history as unreliable.  

Just one week before the dialogue, BAIC BJEV has briefed about the progress on its battery swap station construction which started last year and aims to have 100 stations by yearend to provide more than 10,000 units of taxis with battery swap services.

For Lifan itself, its EVs have run on roads in Hangzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu and Mianyang.

Maybe arguments will continue on and on, but NEV industry progresses day by day.

The newly plotted NEV industry seems to be a level playing field and many upstarts hope to overtake the corners, as the saying goes in the industry. But stay tuned on policies and keep alert.

It is said recently that JAC would suspend production of its newly launched electric SUV model the iEV6S, because Samsung SDI battery it used on the model is not on the list of the nation’s approved battery suppliers, the model would get no subsidies.  

In China, NEV industry has close ties with policies, so be ready for the marathon with full energy and a clear mind. 

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