Carmakers Venture Into Hybrid, Electric Models
China suppliers have jumped at the chance to produce hybrid and fully-electric vehicles that are as efficient as those produced by industry giants.
China’s carmakers are focusing on electric vehicles to take advantage of the increasing demand for “green” products. Most are at par with international manufacturers in terms of technology and cost.
Boston Consulting Group, a business strategy consultant, found that electric and hybrid cars will account for 23 percent of all new vehicle sales by 2020 in China, Japan, and the US. This equates to approximately 1.5 million electric vehicles and 11 million hybrid vehicles.
China’s automotive battery and car manufacturers developed plans for electric cars in response. Today, the top 30 car manufacturers in China have similar goals. In order to create their own hybrid and fully-electric vehicles, vehicle producers have joined forces with international carmakers or battery suppliers. Many companies have developed their own models, but few exports. Currently, companies that export hybrid and electric cars ship them to the EU and Singapore.
The industry is still very young, and there are no common standards. There are many types of technology being used for charging equipment, batteries, and motors. Specifications can also vary.
However, R&D focuses on three factors that have the most significant impact on performance: the battery, the electric drive system, and the electric control system. The most difficult of these is battery development. The challenge is to balance charging time and battery life. Electric cars can currently run 100-300km after their batteries have been fully charged. This usually takes 7-8 hours.
However, China-made electric cars are said to perform at the same level as those made in developed countries. For example, the F3DM model by BYD Co. Ltd has two modes: HEV, a hybrid electric vehicle, and EV, an electric vehicle. The roof also has a solar panel. In a fully electric way, the car can travel 60 km. The e6 model from BYD accelerates in 10 seconds and can reach a maximum speed of 140kph. Fully electric units can travel for up to 300 km on a single charge. The battery can get 80 percent in just 15 minutes.
Battery costs are high.
Electric cars can be purchased anywhere, regardless of where they were bought. They are twice as expensive as traditional fuel-based vehicles. The reason is mainly due to the high cost of batteries which can add 40 to 50% to unit prices. However, makers in developed countries like the USA, Japan, and Germany are optimistic that their strong R&D capabilities will help lower the cost of batteries by up to 70% over the next ten years.
China’s significant carmakers are not being outdone. They are confident in their green battery plans and future car development plans. Yang Zhao, BYD’s PR manager, stated that BYD’s vertically integrated manufacturing allows it to keep manufacturing costs down. The company manufactures batteries and almost all other components for cars in-house and manages the entire production process, from parts production to final assembly.
The midsize electric carmakers that started with electric motorcycles and batteries are less competitive in R&D and cannot predict when battery prices will drop. These manufacturers also tend to use lead-acid batteries, which are 50% cheaper than the Li-Fe batteries found in high-end electric cars.
Jiangsu E Motors Co. Ltd models use both lead acid as well as Li-Fe batteries. Two mini electric cars manufactured by Jiangsu DHCLBC Vehicle Manufacture Co. Ltd also use lead-acid batteries. These low-end cars can reach speeds of 65kph.
Three types of batteries are available for electric cars currently. High-end vehicles use Li-Fe models. Li-Fe domestically costs about $25,000 per ton, while imported Li-Fe is around $32,300 per tonne. The cost of dead batteries is approximately $1.80 per Ah. These batteries are lighter and have a minimum 10-year lifespan. They can also be charged for between 1,000 and 2,000 cycles.
These batteries are safe and inexpensive and can be charged less than 1,000 times.
Although NiMH batteries are more expensive than Li-Fe ones, they can withstand fewer charging cycles and last longer. These batteries have been in development for several years but are now only used in hybrid cars imported from Japan.