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When thinking of Chinese cars, and electric cars, in particular, the most common reaction are that they are ugly deathtraps. Such assumptions might have been true in the past but the Chinese Government set a goal to dominate the EV sector, and results are starting to show. Chinese and international automakers are scrambling to ready themselves for the new requirements starting in 6 months when their sales should consist of 10% EVs after which it will increase to 12% by 2020. More stringent technical specifications to qualify for tax incentives also came into effect in April this year leading to a flurry of range improvements of existing and new models.
On May 22, 2018, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology responsible for regulating the EV sector released its latest catalog of newly approved new energy vehicles, which includes buses, cars, and commercial vehicles. A total of 1987 models were entered in the latest batch of which 348 models were passenger cars consisting of 294 pure electric cars and 54 plug-in hybrids from brands such as BYD, SAIC, JAC, and Guangzhou Automobile. (The list should not be confused with the list the Ministry together with the State Administration of Taxation release to show which EVs are eligible for exemption of tax on vehicles and other state and provincial subsidies.) The catalog which is the 4th this year contains all variants of a model and upgrades to older models. The actual number of new EVs sofar in 2018 is just over seventy which I will list below.
Although there were the usual bunch of ugly ducklings, there seems to be a general trend of improved quality options to the consumer, which should cause concern for Western automakers. The handful of imports that formed part of the list included the usual suspects, being PHEV models from BMW, Audi, Ford, and Mercedes.
The quality and technical abilities of Chinese EVs are improving rapidly. The improvements in Chinese engineering capabilities can be ascribed to its increased exposure to western technical expertise through ownership of Western automakers, such as in the case of Geely owning Volvo or through R&D centers in Silicon Valley, Germany, and Italy such as NIO. New models released this year are packed with technology. The SAIC Roewe Marvel X will be the first mass-produced car equipped with AR (augmented reality) technology.
Chinese automakers are becoming quite proficient at developing battery electric vehicles (BEV), and the 2018 cohort of SUVs and sedans all have a range between 300km/188mi and 500km/313mi (NEDC). The plug-in hybrid models are also pushing 80km/50mi which in real terms is around 30 miles, equivalent to the best EVs from Western automakers. Significantly most of the EVs in the 2018 batch is available at or below $25,000 to the consumers after subsidies, with more than half priced at $10,000 or less.
Not only are new EVs pushing the envelope in quality, price, and range nearly al existing favorites received significant range upgrades at no increase in price as some EV models now enter their fourth generation. The 2018 A00 class models, the most popular market segment now all have a range between 200km/125mi and 300km/188mi, more than enough for city life.
The surge in new EV models in the first half of 2018 is definitely not an anomaly, there are much more exciting EVs coming to market in the next couple of years. Last week Geely announced that it intends to bring 20 new electrified models to market by 2020, that’s less than 18 months away, meaning they will have to launch an EV each month. The Weima EX5 and EX6 and SiTech EV are some of the exciting new EVs that will enter the Chinese market later this year.
The threat posed by China’s increased dominance of the EV sector is not limited to the local market but also to big auto in the West as some of these models and brands are destined for Western markets. Chery is in the process of creating an EV brand that will exclusively operate in Europe. NIO and Borgward will bring the NIO ES8 and Borgward BXi7 to Western markets while SF Motors is setting up shop in the USA to manufacture the SF5 and SF7 EV SUVs. SAIC is also bringing its MAXUS electric commercial vehicles to Europe from 2019 while Geely’s Lynk & Co is destinated to be an international brand.
Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, recently, lashed out at the local auto sector for their reluctance to commit to investing their efforts in EVs. Minister Altmaier warned the countries large automakers which include BMW, Daimler, and the VW Group that they will be left behind by international competitors. Altmaier demanded automakers to except that electric vehicles are the future and implement reforms to set the course for an environmentally-friendly future of mobility. This is not the first time that German politicians spoke out against their sector, in August 2017 (Top 5 EV News Week 33/2017) German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she doubted if German automakers were sufficiently innovative enough to progress the electric vehicle technology. Altmaier stopped short though of calling for a ban on diesel vehicles. A recent ruling by German courts gave cities the right to introduce driving bans on diesel vehicles. Judging from China’s latest approved new energy vehicles, it seems that the politicians for one are right.
China’s 2018 batch of new EVs in the diagram is listed below. Just click on the link to get the full specs. Remember you can purchase an annual subscription granting access to my full online database of monthly Chinese new EV batches, vehicles qualifying for tax subsidies and Chinese EV sales. Contact me here for more details of this unique service.
Three brothers are attempting to break two Guinness World records while raising awareness for EVs and funds for Boys & Girls Clubs by traveling 18,000 miles to 30 Major League Baseball stadiums and watching a full game, all within just 28 days. Two of the brothers, Steve and Dave Ahart will complete the adventure in a Tesla Model 3 with Mike Ahart providing support. The Ahart’s hope to break the World records for “Fastest Time to Visit all Major League Baseball Stadiums” and “Longest Journey by Electric Vehicle (non-solar).” They further aim to get 10,000 people to pledge to take their first EV test drive and raise $1.2 million in total for the Boys & Girls Clubs chapters in each of the MLB cities they visit. Please support their cause at the epicevroadtrip.com.
Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, on Monday, lashed out at the local auto sector for their reluctance to commit to investing their efforts in EVs. Minister Altmaier warned the countries large automakers which include BMW, Daimler, and the VW Group that they will be left behind by international competitors. Altmaier demanded automakers to except that electric vehicles are the future and implement reforms to set the course for an environmentally-friendly future of mobility. This is not the first time that German politicians spoke out against their sector, in August 2017 (Top 5 EV News Week 33/2017) German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she doubted if German automakers were sufficiently innovative enough to progress the electric vehicle technology. Altmaier stopped short though of calling for a ban on diesel vehicles. A recent ruling by German courts gave cities the right to introduce driving bans on diesel vehicles.
In related news, coinciding with a visit by President Xi Jinping’s to the resort island of Hainan the Xinhua News Agency reported that China would use the island as a test case by being the first to ban the sale of fossil-fuel vehicles. No timeline was given in the report, but it read that China will control the number of vehicles in Hainan in “a scientific way.” The move follows on this weeks announcement by the Chinese Government it will remove the cap on foreign ownership on auto companies. EV producers gained the advantage as the rule will apply to them from this year while commercial vehicle manufacturers will follow in 2020 and passenger vehicle makers only in 2022.
Honda announced that it would hold the world-premiere of a new concept electric car at the upcoming Beijing Auto Show this week. Honda states the car is developed exclusively for the Chinese market and that a production version is to build in the country by the end of the year.
Toyota will present plug-in hybrid versions of the Toyota Corolla and Toyota Levein in Beijing. The two sedan models are also exclusive to the Chinese market and will hit the road in 2019. Both Honda and Toyota announced publically that they do not believe the EV revolution will hold, focussing their efforts more on fuel cell electric vehicles.
Buick unveiled the Velite 6 PHEV and BEV and the Enspire EV Concept this week. The three cars will be on show at the Beijing Auto Show this week. Buick announced that the Velite 6 PHEV will be available for China only later this year while it still has to decide on a release date for the Velite 6 EV. For specs and more info follow the link.
BMW teased the BMW iX3 SUV in a Twitter campaign this week. BMW will unveil the first model in its altered EV strategy at the Auto China Beijing 2018 on the 25th of April. BMW is moving away from a dedicated EV series, the i-series, to having model ranges now include all drive types. The BMW iX3 SUV PHEV and BEV is undergoing testing currently and will be available in 2019.
Chinese EV start-up SiTech unveiled the first of its range of connected EVs, the DEV1, this week. The DEV1 offers an impressive range and lots of tech at a low price. Like most new Chinese EVs of late, the DEV1 also comes with face recognition for keyless entry. The car will be presented in Beijing this week.
BYD announced the unveiling of its new electric concept at Auto China, the E-SEED at Auto China Beijing 2018.
It’s clear that the Chinese Governments aggressive policy to support the adoption of EVs is paying dividends, and the rest of the world can jealously look on as all their favorite brand’s launch models exclusively for the Chinese market.
The Indian multi-national company Mahindra-Mahindra and Italian based Pininfarina announced the creation of the worlds newest luxury brand called Automobili Pininfarina. The company will be based in Europe and specialize in the development of luxury electrified vehicles. Mahindra, which currently lies second in the Formula E championship will combine its technical experience with the legendary automotive design prowess of the Italian company. The new brand will launch its first vehicle, an electric hypercar in 2020.
Automobili Pininfarina will be led by Michael Perschke, as its Chief Executive Officer. Michael brings with him over 25 years of experience with premium German brands at both headquarter director-level as well as in various market roles. He was the Managing Director of Audi in India and a member of the Management Board of Volkswagen Group Sales India, from 2010 to 2013. Michael will play an instrumental role in developing the strategy for Automobili Pininfarina. He will be joined by Per Svantesson as Chief Operating Officer. Per brings with him relevant experience including his stints with the Volvo Group and NEVS.
Recently Chinese deputy minister of Industry, Xin Guobin, warned the country risks falling behind in the autonomous vehicle sector. Up to now, guidelines are fragmented with individual companies like Baidu gaining approval to test vehicles while cities such as Beijing and Shanghai embarked on issuing local guidelines for self-driving tests. In this light the Chinese authorities this week laid out national guidelines for the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. According to the guidelines the no vehicle is allowed to be tested on public roads without being tested in non-public tracks. Once authorized vehicles will only be allowed to be tested on designated roads, and a test driver must at all times be behind the wheel. The minister also indicated that technologies required for autonomous driving such as 5G communication and intelligent roads should also receive attention.
According to an Autonews report Nissan and DeNa, a Japanese gaming company, plans to join forces in the development of self-driving taxi early in the next decade. In a previous article, we reported on the two companies running a test program on a 4.5km public road in Tokoyo.
Alibaba confirmed to China Daily that it is working on a Level 4 autonomous driving capable system, joining its local internet giants Tencent and Baidu and internationally Google. According to a McKinsey report, self-driving cars in China has the potential to become a $500 billion market.
A year after Aston Martin‘s disastrous partnership with LeEco the British automaker is returning to China shopping for new partnerships. The failed partnership with LeEco, owner of Faraday Future, caused the delay of the delivery of Aston Martin’s first EV, the RapidE, from 2018 to 2019. In an interview with Bloomberg the CEO of Aston Martin, Andy Palmer, indicated that Aston Martin is not looking to produce EVs with its badge for the Chinese market but rather to collaborate on materials and technologies to improve the performance of its EVs. To this end, Aston Martin announced a 5-year trade and investment drive worth $860 million (£600 million). Palmer further indicated that it is considering using China’s largest battery maker, CATL, as the supplier for the RapidE. CATL this week raised $2 billion in a bid to become the worlds largest battery maker for EVs.
Hopefully, Aston Martin learned something from its misadventures with LeEco as its investments in the EV sector could only see returns from 2025.
Nissan‘s local partner in China, Dongfeng (DFL), announced its updated new midterm strategy named “DFL Triple One” this week for the period through 2022. Part of the RMB 60 billion plan, which aims to increase sales to 2.6 million units, is to develop more than 20 electric models with plug-in and pure electric powertrains across all brands over the five-year period which will equate to 30% of all DFL sales. The rollout will start with six models in 2018 and 2019 across the Nissan, Venucia and Dongfeng brands. INFINITI will have 25% of its portfolio electrified in 2022, transitioning to 100% by 2025.
The”DFL Triple One” plan will also target Leading Intelligent Mobility technology advancement through deploying Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), ProPILOT, e-parking and connectivity technologies in all brands in China. It is expected to introduce level 1 and level 2 autonomous driving technologies starting with the Venucia brand in 2019, depending on the relaxation of regulations by the Chinese Government.
DFL TRIPLE ONE Plan aligns fully with DFG Plan 2020 as well as Nissan’s midterm plan, Nissan M.O.V.E. to 2022.
Hyundai Motor has released a teaser image of its first fully-electric subcompact SUV ahead of the official unveiling on February 27 at the Geneva Auto Show. Hyundai Motor will release the Kona EV SUV in the summer of 2018 becoming the first automotive brand across Europe to make an all-electric subcompact SUV available to everyone. The All-New Kona Electric will feature two different powertrain versions offering customers one of the most powerful electric engines on the market with a class-leading range of almost 470km/293miles (internal target under WLTP regulations). The 2018 Hyundai Kona will include a wide range of convenience and connectivity features as well as active safety and driving assistance technologies.
Polestar, the Volvo performance brand, announced the release date and pricing data for the Polestar 2 pure EV sedan targeted at the Tesla Model 3. The Polestar 2 and the Polestar 3 SUV will be available in left and right-hand drive form. Polestar will launch the Polestar 2 in the second half of 2019 and production will begin around the start of 2020. Around 50,000 units of the EV sedan will be produced annually and sold through exclusive Polestar stores and the internet at a price of around €40,000 (£35,000).
Automotive News China reported that SAIC would launch an electric crossover targeted at the Tesla Model X by the end of 2018. The SAIC Crossover will accelerate to a speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) within 4.9 seconds and will be equipped with such as features automatic parking, according to information SAIC disclosed on its website.
Mercedes Benz launched the 3rd generation of its popular Sprinter LDV this week. The Sprinter sold over 3.4 million vehicles in 130 countries and will now be available from 2019 with an electric drivetrain as the Mercedes eSprinter LDV. The new eSprinter which can be configured for over 1,700 custom purposes and is standard equipped with Mercedes PRO connect solution providing fleet managers with a tool to connect with all drivers and vehicles in his/her fleet.
Renault announced that the cumulative EV sales for Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi from 2010 is 540,623 with Nissan leading with more than 300,000 vehicles since December 2010 and Renault following with 150,000 units, making the alliance the global leader for 100% electric passenger cars and light commercial electric vehicles. Sales for 2017 was up 11% from the year before reaching 91,000 units for the year, short of BAIC and Tesla. Already the new Nissan LEAF received over 40,000 orders globally including 13,000 orders in Japan; 13,000 reservations in the United States; and over 12,000 orders in Europe. Nissan also announced the launch of the Leaf in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. The company is also exploring introducing the zero-emission car in other markets in the region, including Indonesia and the Philippines.
Toyota announced that it sold 1.5 million electrified vehicles in 2017, up 8% from 2016. The figure is however misleading as only 51,000 is attributable to the Prius PHEV, the only EV according to our definition off electric vehicles. A further 2,700 units are attributed to the Mirai FCEV. Note the lack of pure electric EVs.
Aurora, the company which already partnered with VW and Hyundai to develop self-driving systems this week joined the list of suppliers for the Byton Concept EV unveiled at the 2018 CES. At the time Byton announced that the first models will be partially autonomous, providing advanced driver assistance systems, with full autonomy to be enabled from 2020 through a software upgrade. Aurora was co-founded by Chris Urmson and Sterlin Anderson, the former heads of Alphabet Inc’s Google’s self-driving program and Tesla’s autopilot program.
Lyft, the American ride-hailing company, expanded its self-driving program by opening offices in Munich where it will develop advanced localization and geometric mapping technologies.