SHANGHAI – Senior executives from five of the 13 new energy vehicle manufacturers that have received production licenses to produce NEVs in China updated their progress at a panel discussion at the 2017 China Auto Forum organized by China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) on May 15 in Shanghai.
Wu Huan, president of Qiantu Motor, which received its production approval from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) on October 10, 2016, said the company is primarily focused on product development and validation as well as the construction of its factory site in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. The greenfield plant has an annual output capacity of 50,000 vehicles with particular emphasis on new manufacturing processes such as light weighting, aluminum alloy body structure and composite materials. The factory has nearly been roofed and manufacturing equipment has been placed. The short-term target is to begin trial production and receive product approval from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). The K50 super EV, which utilizes the use of carbon fiber for exterior surfacing, will be the first production vehicle out of the plant.
Chery New Energy Vehicle, which got its approval also in October right after Qiantu Motor, is not a new player per se since it has been producing vehicles for nearly 20 years. Its new NEVs that will hit the market this year will use aluminum alloy body structure and is already into quantity production, according to company president Gao Lixin. So far the company has received about 10,000 units in orders and the second-phase project is smoothly progressing ahead.
Yudo New Energy, which got its approval in January, is currently waiting for approval from the MIIT for its first production vehicles – the π1 and π3 electric SUVs, which were unveiled in February, according to company president Liu Xinwen. They are currently in trial production and once the MIIT approval is received, they will go into quantity production and sales toward the end of the year.
Liu pointed out an important caveat that of the 13 companies that have received NEV production licenses at that time, only BAIC BJEV has gotten approval from MIIT to actually produce and sell the vehicles. The other 12 still need to apply for approval from MIIT for their products to be listed in the national catalogue so that they can actually be sold.
ZD EV, part of Geely, got its approval earlier this year but has been a key player in the micro EV segment, having produced these types of two-seater EVs since 2012, and more than 60,000 units have been sold so far in China. Jin Weimin, vice president of the company, said that the company currently has three production bases with first-phase annual output capacity of 10,000 units and second-phase capacity of 20,000 units. It still faces a tough test before it can get MIIT approval, according to Jin.
Hozon NEV, the 13th company that has gotten approval from NDRC, has been manufacturing NEVs for 18 years, according to company chairman Fang Yunzhou. It is developing three vehicles and plans to begin trial production in September and go through MIIT validation and approval process by yearend.
When asked about their advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional carmakers, Wu’s response was that for Qiantu and parent company CH-Auto Technology, they have more than 14 years of experience in product design and development, especially design of NEVs. The company formed its own NEV division dedicated to the development of EVs in 2010, according to Wu.
“Our biggest challenge is how to meet individualized customer demands with a relatively low production scale at first,” said Wu.
Gao said that Chery has a goal to sell 200,000 NEVs in 2020 and its advantage lies in its independent development of NEV technologies, power assembly, electric motor and control, as well as working with best-in-class suppliers.
Yudo NEV’s advantage is that it starts on a clean sheet of paper and has a unique mixed corporate structure that involves state-owned, private, public-listed companies and individual management, which gives it a flexible and efficient mechanism, according to Liu.
“We have about 370 engineers from traditional carmakers and 180 patents in the area of chassis, body, electronics, interior and exterior, telematics and light weighting,” said Liu. “We also have a unit specifically dedicated to telematics and have two autonomous vehicle prototypes test running near our factory site.”
Jin echoed Liu’s comments, saying that ZD does not have the legacy of traditional carmakers and can focus on satisfying customer experience requirements with less capital and effort. One of unique ZD does, according to Jin, is rather than investing huge capital to build big 4S stores, it operates mini-stores of about 200 square meters with an investment of only about ¥100,000 ($14,493) each. The goal is simply to provide a convenient and pleasant purchase environment.
Hozon, which is focused on building a smart mobile terminal, has the advantage of having worked with Tsinghua University and other institutions of higher learning in the development of intelligent connectivity and telematics as well as autonomous driving, according to Fang.
All five executives agreed that competition and cooperation will coexist and that they are willing to learn from each other and possibly working together in some way such as sharing of resources. Yudo NEV, for example, is willing to supply its electrified chassis platform to the industry. Fang, on the other hand, stressed that competition is not about the Chinese competing amongst themselves but rather whether they can compete as a whole with their multinational counterparts.