August 28-September 3, 2017
By ROBERT BLAIN in Melbourne
For China Daily Asia Weekly
The inexorable shift from fossil fuels to electric power continues to gather pace on the roads. Carmakers and countries alike, it seems, are making new announcements on electric vehicle (EV) initiatives every other week.
Indonesia has just announced generous incentives for companies developing EVs, while Malaysia recently pledged to have 100,000 such cars on the road by 2030.
But does all this talk translate to a significant change on the highways, in car parks, and in consumer preference among drivers?
Renub Research, a market research and consulting company, reported in May that the EV sector is set to exceed $100 billion worldwide by 2020.
The groundswell of support for electric cars is steadily increasing, quicker in some countries than others. But nowhere is it being embraced with as much gusto as in China.
In its latest E-mobility Index survey, consultancy Roland Berger tracked the uptake of EVs in seven major countries.
According to the survey: “In terms of the market, China has seen a sharp increase in demand and now moves into second place — behind France — which has a bigger market share despite its considerably lower absolute volumes. In third place comes the United States.”
With 352,000 new EV registrations in 2016, electric car sales in China more than doubled those of the previous year.
The growth looks set to continue as the Chinese government forecasts that 800,000 green energy vehicles will be sold this year, made up of both fully electric and hybrid (electric-and-fuel-powered) vehicles.
According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, a total of 507,000 fully electric and hybrid vehicles were sold in the country in 2016. Estimates show that sales of fully electric vehicles registered by the end of this year could reach around 555,000.
While Germany takes the top spot for EV technology in the Roland Berger survey, China takes the lead in industry.
“In industry, China has confirmed its pole position. The reason for this is the continuing rapid growth of the market, more than 90 percent of which is supplied with lithium-ion cells produced locally. This high local share is partly due to the fact that subsidies only apply where there is local value creation,” the survey said.
Across the globe, however, the uptake of electric versus fossil fuel-powered vehicles still has a long way to go. Other than China, France is the only country to have more than 1 percent electric car ownership.
Still, China is extremely well placed as the switch to EVs gathers pace.
Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, told China Daily Asia Weekly that “there is no doubt China is the global hub for the electric vehicle revolution”.
“China is producing its own electric vehicles, but the export vehicles are first likely to be Western-branded ones.
“For example, (US electric-car maker) Tesla is looking to make batteries in a new Gigafactory near Shanghai. This is the first step in making Tesla EVs in China for the domestic and export market. VW has similar grand plans,” he said, referring to Volkswagen.
For foreign car manufacturers to have power in the EV market, “they need to be in China”, Moores added.
BMW has successfully partnered early with Chinese EV makers, he said, but VW’s involvement will bring a major boost to the market.
“While (VW) has been slow at entering this EV space, once it gets going the group will shape the future of auto mobility. And for that, it will need to be in China in a big way.”
In other developments, Volvo recently announced that all of its new vehicles will be electric or hybrid from 2019. Chinese carmaker Geely is Volvo’s parent company.
Moores believes carmakers’ plans to go electric are justified and that a recent drop in the oil price will not have a long-term impact on the growing market.
“While the oil price has some short-term incentivizing impact on EVs, the reality is that people are starting to buy them not because they are electric but because they are more desirable, cheaper and better priced.
“This will be the trend going forward, and soon, maybe from 2020 onwards, the oil price will become irrelevant.”
China is also very well positioned in the production and export of lithium-ion batteries typically used to power electric cars.
“China already produces the bulk of lithium-ion battery cathode material,” said Moores. “It is locking up the lithium supply chain through Ganfeng Lithium and to a lesser extent Tianqi Lithium. It controls cobalt supply and battery grade refining and produces the vast majority of the world’s graphite anode material.”
Nearly 70 percent of all new lithium-ion battery capacity being built in new megafactory structures will be based in China, he said.
“These are being constructed by Chinese battery majors like CATL and Lishen, as well as Japanese and Korean joint ventures with Samsung SDI, LG Chem and Panasonic,” said Moores.
In real terms, China’s lithium-ion battery capacity in 2016 was 28 gigawatt-hours. By 2020, this is estimated to leap to 174 GWh, according to data from Visual Capitalist, a Canadian digital media brand.
It is likely that Chinese EV makers with robust battery production will be headed for greater success.
“There is no doubt that to date (Chinese manufacturer of rechargeable batteries and automobiles) BYD has led the world in EV production by sheer numbers, however the sway of industrial power will lie with those that produce battery cells and packs and control the lithium-ion battery supply chain,” Moores said.
Ron Zheng, a Shanghai-based partner with Roland Berger, said a number of Chinese EV makers can carve up market share among themselves, particularly in the neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) market.
NEVs are compact, electric-powered cars, typically with a top speed of around 40 kilometers per hour — considered ideal for inner-city motoring.
Zheng told China Daily Asia Weekly that local Chinese automakers hold a 90 percent market share of China’s NEV market, as they “started the NEV business early and already had some of the top-selling models”.
“Carmakers SAIC, BYD, BAIC and Geely are the current leaders as they possess strong technology capabilities, while Chery, JAC, Zotye, Changan and GAC are also showing great potential,” Zheng said. “The competitive landscape will change again with new entrants such as NextEV launching their products after 2018. These fancy-looking and fully connected cars will attract customers with good buying power.”
Zheng added that by 2020, market share will be a mix of traditional players (49 percent), joint ventures (37 percent), new entrants (10 percent), and with imports (dominated by Tesla) accounting for around 4 percent.
Tesla sales on the Chinese mainland are proportionally smaller than in Hong Kong. According to Bloomberg, 7 percent of all new cars sold in Hong Kong in 2016 were Teslas — boosted by a waiver of the first registration tax for e-cars, representing a saving of $56,000.
However, new legislation means this tax can no longer be fully waived, which is likely to greatly reduce Tesla sales in the city.
Environmental concerns aside, overall cost is also a key factor in China.
“Consumers have a very complex buying decision-making process,” said Zheng. “They will go through comparing the NEV and internal combustion engine vehicles on purchasing cost, which is decided by the NEV price, subsidy, purchasing tax discount and license plate fees in some cities, such as Shanghai.
“In addition, total cost of ownership is a vital factor, which is decided by the price gap between petrol and electricity, maintenance cost and residual value.”
He added that driver satisfaction is also important, and this will be improved by better range on a single charge, and wider coverage with battery-charging infrastructure.
Zheng added that government policy also has an impact on the desirability of EVs in China. “Incentives are very important for the industry to boost at the beginning, but subsidies are unsustainable due to government budget control and the intention of developing local original equipment manufacturers’ capabilities.”
Such a shift of the industry from government-driven to market-driven is inevitable, he said.
Moving up in scale, electric-powered public buses are also likely to become the norm, and China is forging ahead.
Moores from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence said that China has considerable focus in the often “overlooked” electric bus sector. He pointed to China-based battery manufacturer CATL, which plans to expand its cell capacity from 8 GWh to 100 GWh by 2020 to meet expected demand.
“The numbers are staggering. But that shows the (increase) needed to supply electric vehicles and buses.”
Geely’s EV goal picks up speed Chinese carmaker’s Volvo unit takes bold initiative with plans to let go of traditional engines and fully embrace electric vehicles
August 28-September 3, 2017
By ROBERT BLAIN in Melbourne
For China Daily Asia Weekly
China’s Geely has been the quiet achiever in the electric vehicle (EV) market.
While building domestic market share in the EV segment, the automaker headquartered in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, has also been making inroads globally.
Back in 2012, Geely bought the financially strapped London Taxi Company — manufacturer of the English capital’s iconic black cabs. That company was recently relaunched as the London Electric Vehicle Co.
But it was Geely’s 2010 purchase of renowned Swedish carmaker Volvo that put it firmly on the global automotive map. Their successful pairing has just pulled off quite a coup. With Volvo’s announcement in July that all of its cars produced from 2019 will be electric — or at the very least hybrid — Geely has upped the ante in the EV stakes.
The question now is whether Geely’s all-electric initiative with the iconic Swedish brand will enable it to leapfrog rival European automakers as momentum for electric cars continues to build. At the very least, it paves the way to making internal-combustion-engine Volvos a thing of the past.
Even so, there are concerns the switch by Volvo Cars to electric-hybrid vehicles by 2019 may be coming too early, before there are sufficient battery-charging stations. However, the two carmakers are confident the time is right.
“This is about the customer,” said Hakan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars, in a company statement. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.”
This planned collaboration with Geely will strengthen Volvo’s ability to develop next-generation electrified cars, Samuelsson said.
According to Jose Pontes from website EV Obsession, it is not “folly” to go all-electric now, but rather, it is “where the market is going”.
He told China Daily Asia Weekly: “So the question is not if, but when — and the prize of taking the chance of being a pioneer is having the better part of the market. Because Volvo has taken the chance of electrifying its lineup, it makes sense to create scale and expand it through the other brands, including the Geely brand.”
In partnership with Geely, Volvo Cars will unveil a range of electric car models, including fully electric cars and plug-in hybrids. In all, Volvo will launch five fully electric vehicles between 2019 and 2021.
“The Geely group is looking more and more like the Volkswagen Group, with several brands in different segments of the market, so it would make sense to copy the VW tech-expansion strategy into the Geely group,” said Pontes.
He said that Geely can start by launching state-of-the-art technology in its premium brands — Volvo and Lotus — and then spread it “a couple of years later into the lesser brands”. He added that this creates scale and makes the technology cheaper to build.
Geely announced in May that it was acquiring a controlling stake in Lotus, a British maker of sports cars, from Malaysian automaker Proton.
The Geely-Volvo EV move will be run out of China with a subsidiary at Volvo’s base in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Li Shufu, founder and chairman of Geely, said in a statement: “We will unlock significant benefits across our portfolio by sharing both technologies and next-generation vehicle architectures.”
Volvo’s Samuelsson said that the announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car. “Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a total of 1 million electrified cars by 2025. When we said it, we meant it. This is how we are going to do it,” he said.
Industry consensus suggests the timing of the ambitious EV initiative appears to be right.
“I think Volvo and Geely’s recent announcement was a bold statement and has captured the global tone of where we now are with electric vehicles,” said Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, an online publishing and consultancy business.
“Automakers that are smaller in size have to take drastic action in the face of electrification. Those caught in the middle — mid-sized companies producing mid-price vehicles — risk going out of business. Volvo sees this and has acted first. That’s sensible as the industry is only heading in one direction — electric,” he said.
Geely has been establishing its credentials slowly but surely in China’s EV market.
Chinese automotive heavyweights BYD and BAIC have garnered significant attention with their electric car offerings, notably the e6 and EU260 models respectively.
But Geely has also performed respectably in this space.
Fred Lambert, editor-in-chief at EV website Electrek, described Geely’s Emgrand EV as “probably the most polished all-electric vehicle in the Chinese EV segment”.
“The decent sales performance should encourage Geely to move forward with its EV programs, and the company’s work with Volvo to develop a new EV platform architecture will serve as the base for those vehicle programs,” he said.
Geely delivered 12,000 Emgrand units in 2016, Lambert added.
EV Obsession’s Ponte named Lynk & Co as the real gem in Geely’s stable. The automotive brand launched last year and is a subsidiary of Geely.
“On top of a brilliant branding strategy, placing (Lynk & Co) as an irreverent and ‘young’ make, the Volvo-technology-assurance stamp of quality could make people look at it more as Volvo’s younger, hipper sister, rather than as just another Chinese brand.
“Even in Western markets, where Volvo is in need of a cheaper brand to help it win scale, Lynk & Co has a real chance of success, because of the Volvo connection, which would be reinforced if the European units were made alongside the Volvo ones, in Europe,” Ponte said.
But Geely is also keeping its eye on the prize at home.
Electrek reported that in 2016 alone, China doubled its fleet of electric cars to over 600,000 — more than the US and all of Europe combined.
“Plug-in hybrids are still dominating the Chinese electric car market. But China’s EV market is different for its variety of EV models available. Over 60 models are available, 13 of which sold over 10,000 units in 2016,” said Electrek’s Lambert.
Generous government EV subsidies — up to 100,000 yuan ($15,000) for plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars — have undoubtedly helped drive the EV market. But with a 20 percent cut in green vehicle subsidies this year, competitors in the industry must stay on their toes to ensure they cash in on the acceleration of EV ownership.
With the Chinese government poised to allow foreign EV companies to manufacture in China without being part of a joint venture, the competition is expected to hot up further.
But Geely is well placed to secure its share of the EV market as it continues to pursue its electric car interests — both locally and globally through its partnership with Volvo.
Interestingly, the presence of international EVs could actually be a boost to Chinese electric automakers.
Tesla, based in California’s Silicon Valley and listed on New York’s Nasdaq stock exchange, has plans for localized production in China. It is the highest-valued carmaker in the United States with a market capitalization of more than $60 billion.
“I think the market is going to be so big that competition like Tesla helps the overall push to EVs. Tesla’s popularity and availability in China will help all domestic EV manufacturers,” said Moores of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.
Li of Geely, meanwhile, remains assured that his company’s EV tie-in with the Swedish automaker will stand both companies in good stead.
“I am confident these synergies can be achieved while preserving the separate identities and strategic autonomy of our different automotive brands,” he said.
Electric cars race ahead Formula E becomes a surprise hit with motorsports fans in China while acting as a proving ground for environmentally friendly technology
August 28-September 3, 2017
By ANGUS McNEICE
When Alejandro Agag took the wheel as CEO of the Formula E championship five years ago, cynics claimed the sport would struggle to catch on.
Electric racing cars are unable to match the power and noise of those with combustion engines, and many hardcore motorsport fans doubted Formula E would be thrilling enough to build a real support base.
What the doubters failed to recognize is that some of the biggest car manufacturers in the world were already locked in an arms race to successfully develop electric vehicles for mass production. And many identified the fiercely competitive world of racing as the ideal proving ground for their technologies.
The teams, sponsors and partners for Formula E’s inaugural 2014-15 season boasted some of the biggest names in the auto industry, including Michelin, Williams, Audi and Renault.
There was also strong name recognition among the drivers. Nico Prost and Nelson Piquet Jr, sons of Formula one stars Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet, and Bruno Senna, nephew of racing legend Ayrton Senna, were behind the wheels of the new generation of race car.
Formula E pulled in 190 million viewers worldwide that season. Against the odds, Nelson Piquet Jr won the championship by one point for Team China Racing.
“It was the underdog team, with the smallest budget at the time,” Piquet Jr said, speaking from the tarmac at Tempelhof Airport, site of the Berlin ePrix on June 10-11. “To step into the car and win it was an amazing feeling.”
Chinese involvement has increased rapidly since then. Team China Racing rebranded as NextEV NIO, owned by Chinese premium electric car manufacturer NIO.
Team Techeetah, owned by Chinese sports marketing company SECA, entered the sport last year after acquiring Team Aguri. Jia Yueting, founder of electronics firm LeEco, is one of the investors behind US team Faraday Future Dragon Racing.
In May, basketball star Yao Ming’s company Yao Capital and public equity firm China Media Capital (CMC) together acquired a stake in Formula E Holdings. The deal made the Chinese investors the third largest shareholders in the company. Li Sheng, CEO of SECA, which is backed by CMC, now sits on the Formula E board.
Agag, the CEO of Formula E, said: “We had the hope that we would get traction in China and now, with Chinese teams and Chinese investors, that is confirmed.
“In China, electric vehicles are a priority, and they see Formula E as a platform to develop their strategy in electric mobility.”
Agag called the level of Chinese involvement in Formula E a positive surprise.
“Chinese companies are taking it seriously,” he said. “We had contact from a lot of Chinese investors. We decided to do this strategic investment with CMC and Yao. They are very committed to us, they are great financial and strategic investors and they can help us grow in China.”
Agag said Chinese TV viewing of Formula E is consistently rated in the top five, with between 1 million and 3 million tuning in to watch ePrix events on CCTV.
The championship has held an ePrix in China in all three seasons — twice in Beijing and once in Hong Kong — and Agag is in talks about adding Shanghai to the calendar.
“The priority for season five is to have a race in the Chinese mainland,” Agag said.
“All the teams want it. We are going to keep Hong Kong and we had a very good meeting in Shanghai with the deputy mayor. We looked at some very cool locations there to do the race.”
Agag links China’s enthusiasm for Formula E with the country’s efforts to combat climate change. China invested $102.9 billion in renewable power and fuels in 2015, more than a third of the global total, and the government is discussing legislation that would see domestic automakers produce a mandatory percentage of electric vehicles annually.
“The Chinese government is taking leadership in the fight against climate change,” Agag said. “We are getting toward a point, in two, three or five years, when suddenly there will be a massive change toward electric cars. And China will be at the forefront.
“China is the place where the battle will be won. If we win in China with electric cars, the whole world will follow.”
Buyers benefit from Formula E technology Advances such as longer battery life are quickly transferred to road vehicles
August 28-September 3, 2017
By ANGUS McNEICE
While the young sport of Formula E has evolved rapidly over the course of three seasons, its founding aim has remained constant — to demonstrate the potential of electric vehicles through motorsport.
It has done this in part by taking electric cars to the public, staging urban races where city dwellers in Monaco or Paris can watch from their windows as the cars whip by at speeds of up to 225 kilometers per hour.
And it has done this through advances in technology, producing new motor, inverter and gearbox solutions that are transferrable to commercial electric vehicles.
Ivan Yim, managing director of Chinese Formula E team Techeetah, said: “With Formula one, it typically takes five to 10 years for the technology to go from there into your commercial road car.
“In the context of Formula E, the technology is immediately available for use in commercial road cars.”
Battery and charging technology developments are key areas in the world of electric vehicles. Formula E drivers must change cars during a pit stop, halfway through the race, due to limited battery charge. This made BMW hesitant to join the championship, as the range of electric cars compared with combustion engines is a common concern for potential consumers.
This is all due to change next year. The Williams battery that all cars are mandated to use will be replaced by a new McLaren cell that can last the entire length of a race, and all cars will use them when season five begins in late 2018.
In season one, all cars had the same McLaren power train — the term used to describe the parts of the car excluding the battery and chassis, namely the motor, transmission, driveshaft and differential.
From season two onward, teams could use different designs. In 2018, BMW will join as one of nine manufacturers of Formula E power trains.
Jean Todt, president of motor-sport’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, said: “The homologation of the power trains that will be used from season five is a very significant step because it means the cars will be able to run for twice as long while, at the very least, maintaining the same performance level.”
He added: “This highlights how motorsport can stimulate and accelerate development of new technologies which can then be applied to road cars.
“And in this case, it has even more of a key role, given that at the moment, electricity is one of the more practical alternatives when it comes to finding new forms of more sustainable mobility in the future.”
According to Gerry Hughes, team principal of team NextEV, the link between innovation in Formula E and the commercial electric vehicle industry is what makes the sport so attractive to manufacturers.
NextEV is owned by Chinese electric car manufacturer NIO, where Hughes is also head of the performance program.
“There are direct synergies and links between what we’re doing here in the field and in road vehicles,” Hughes said. “We are in the dawn of a new era. Formula E is very relevant to the consumer on the high street.”
Battery technology steering e-car sales To stand out from rivals, manufacturers raise investment in R&D for better lithium-based products
August 28-September 3, 2017
By ZHENG YIRAN
China is the world’s largest market for electric cars and at the heart of this new energy drive is the lithium battery.
Sales of electric vehicles in the country have surpassed those of Europe and the United States since 2016, and will continue to lead until 2040, said a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance released in late July.
In April, the government issued guidelines to raise the percentage of e-cars to more than 20 percent, or about 7 million vehicles, of total vehicle production and sales by 2025.
Already new energy models have surged by 14.4 percent to 195,000 vehicles in the first half of this year, accounting for 1.5 percent of China’s auto sales, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Market potential is so huge that companies throughout the manufacturing chain are battling for supremacy.
“China’s new energy vehicle industry, as well as the power battery sector, has evolved to a stage where there are rivalries in technologies and resources,” said Zhang Xiaofei, president of Shenzhen Gaogong Industry Research Co, an industrial analytic company, specializing in batteries, e-vehicles and new materials.
Lithium battery production is growing at breakneck speed in China, fueling investment in research and development (R&D). This has triggered major breakthroughs in the sector as the batteries become smaller and generate more energy.
“We have invested a lot in research and development,” said Chen Wei-feng, assistant chairman of Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL), a domestic battery maker.
“Our R&D input in the past two to three years has reached 3 billion yuan ($447 million),” Chen added.
Founded in 2011, CATL took advantage of the nascent new energy sector in China. The company has since become the major battery supplier for global brands such as BMW Brilliance Automotive, Geely and BAIC.
Data released by lithium battery specialists Realli Research showed that CATL has become one of the leading players in China. In the first half of this year, installed battery capacity at CATL reached 1,312.4 megawatt-hours, with a market share of 20.98 percent.
The company pulled clear of BYD in second place, which accounted for 17.35 percent. Behind BYD were Shenzhen-based OptimumNano and Hefei Guoxuan High-Tech Power Energy.
LeEco-backed electric vehicle startup seeks new funds US-based firm secures $14m in bridge financing as it reduces reliance on troubled primary Chinese investor
August 28-September 3, 2017
By LIA ZHU in San Francisco
The electric vehicle startup Faraday Future has recently secured $14 million in bridge funding while it seeks new investment sources.
The startup’s planned $1 billion funding is aimed at protecting itself from the financial woes of its primary backer, Chinese tech company LeEco.
In July, the assets of Jia Yueting, LeEco’s founder and chairman, valued at about $183 million, were frozen by a Shanghai court after LeEco failed to pay interest due on bank loans taken out to fund its smartphone business.
But Faraday Future said that development has no impact on the startup’s daily operations, as LeEco and Faraday Future have been separate companies since the latter was founded in 2014.
“The $14 million is the bridge funding till the Series A. We are in the process of seeking $1 billion in funding through a Series A fundraising campaign, with a target of $500 million by the end of Q3, and the other funding by early 2018,” said Dan Zhu, a spokeswoman with Faraday.
The company has pledged its corporate headquarters in Los Angeles as collateral to secure the rescue loan from Innovatus Capital Partners, a New York investment firm, for a term of one year, according to The Wall Street Journal on Aug 3.
Faraday Future has recently signed a lease on a new factory in Hanford, California, as it shifts its manufacturing focus to a turnkey facility that offers a faster path to production. A cleanup process has begun to prepare the site for the arrival of the manufacturing equipment.
In early August, the company hosted an event for the new facility, which is 1 million square feet (92,900 square meters) and will eventually employ up to 1,300 workers.
“We know there is a lot of work and risks ahead, but this event represents a major step forward for the company,” said Stefan Krause, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, in a statement.
Krause, a former Deutsche Bank executive and chief financial officer for BMW, joined the startup recently to drive investor diversification.
The company also hired Ulrich Kranz, former senior vice-president at BMW, as chief technical officer.
Faraday Future will continue the process of site preparations, including planning, refurbishment and permitting.
Following the departure of current tenants in late November, the company expects significant activity on site in early 2018. But it did not provide an update on the construction of the originally planned 3 million-square-foot factory in North Las Vegas.
Qiong Liu, North Las Vegas city manager, told Reuters that the company would build a 60,390-square-meter facility beginning later this year. It has ended talks with the city of Vallejo, California, for a planned second factory on a 63-hectare site on the city’s Mare Island.
LeEco and Faraday Future are intricately linked. LeEco’s chairman Jia has personally invested $300 million in Faraday Future.
The cash crunch at LeEco has worsened since November last year, when Jia admitted publicly that the company was expanding too fast into smartphones, automobiles, the cloud and Internet finance.
In May, Jia stepped down as CEO of Shenzhen-listed Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp, LeEco’s video-streaming branch.