There has been a growing preference among China's vehicle buyers for new energy vehicles (NEVs) in recent years, as indicated by the latest data.
According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the production and sales of NEVs in August reached 843,000 and 846,000, respectively, an increase of 22 percent and 27 percent year on year.
In the first eight months, the figures hit 5.43 million and 5.37 million, respectively, up 36.9 percent and 39.2 percent year on year.
The burgeoning market owes much of its success to the impressive strides made by Chinese NEV companies in enhancing driving experiences through technological advancements, rendering NEVs increasingly appealing to drivers.
ADVANCED BATTERY TECHNOLOGY
According to data from the China Passenger Car Association on NEV sales in the first half of 2023, many top-selling models can now achieve a range of up to 600 km on a single battery charge, putting them on par with vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs). This marks a significant improvement from 2020 when most of the top-selling NEVs in China had a battery range of approximately 300 km.
This increase in NEV mileage is driven by the rapid advancements in China's power battery technology, with a focus on achieving greater capacity, longer range, enhanced safety and reduced costs.
According to a report by Elsevier, a global information analytics company, China accounted for the largest contribution to global clean energy research in 2021 by far, with its largest topic cluster by the number of publications being Lithium Alloys, Secondary Batteries and Electric Batteries. China was also three times more specialized in this cluster than the global average, according to the report.
China's major power battery manufacturers are constantly developing and applying new technologies to their production.
BYD, one of China's largest NEV manufacturers and power battery makers, invented blade battery in 2020. A new generation of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery, the blade battery improves the safety and energy density of the battery through the optimal structure design. It also passed the nail penetration test, one of the most stringent safety assessments in the industry.
In 2023, the blade battery family is not only available for BYD's NEVs but also for other NEV brands, including Tesla's Model Y.
In addition to lithium-ion batteries, sodium-ion batteries, lithium-sulfur batteries and other batteries made with cheaper raw materials are the new focus of the industry for commercialization.
To alleviate consumers' mileage anxiety, the fear of not having sufficient charge to reach their destination, China's NEV manufacturers are not only enhancing battery technology but also adopting innovations.
Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL), a major battery producer in China, released its Shenxing superfast charging battery into the market in August. With a 10-minute charge at room temperature, the battery can provide 400 km (about 249 miles) of driving range.
Belonging to the cost-efficient LFP family, the Shenxing battery leverages the super electronic network cathode technology and fully nano-crystallized LFP cathode material to create a super-electronic network, which facilitates the extraction of lithium ions and the rapid response to charging signals.
It also uses cell temperature control technology on system platforms to ensure that cells heat up rapidly to the optimal operating temperature range, allowing an 80-percent charge in just 30 minutes in temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius.
According to Ouyang Minggao, an expert on new energy power systems and a professor at Tsinghua University, the use of high-power charging for NEVs has become a consensus in the industry.
The 800-volt vehicle-mounted electrical platform supports 350 kW fast charging, with the power battery meeting the maximum 4C charge standard. This means it can be fully charged in just 15 minutes, and technologies such as charge cooling and low-temperature rapid heating, are already available.
Those technologies can make the NEVs cover 200 km with a 5-minute charge, just like the refueling of ICE vehicles, Ouyang added.
Addressing mileage anxiety involves bridging the gap between NEVs and conventional ICE vehicles. To make NEVs more attractive to buyers, manufacturers are adopting smart technologies for a better and safer driving experience.
NEV makers have worked with hi-tech companies such as Tencent and Baidu to introduce cutting-edge technologies into the vehicles.
One of the latest examples is Aito, a NEV brand jointly developed by Huawei and Chongqing-based automaker Seres Group. It launched a sports utility vehicle (SUV) New M7 earlier in September.
The New M7 is equipped with as many as 27 sensors, including a LiDAR, three millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic radars and 11 high-precision cameras, which can provide a 360-degree view of road conditions.
The traffic information collected by sensors will be processed by automotive-grade chips onboard the vehicle to realize smart functions such as active safety, intelligent parking and autonomous driving assistance, reducing fatigue among drivers during long-distance driving.
He Rongliang, a researcher at the China Center for Information Industry Development, said that China's NEV makers are leading a shift from traditional mechanical hardware to electronic devices and software, and making progress in technologies such as LiDAR, high-performance onboard chips, high-precision mapping, algorithms, computing platforms and assistance systems.
Another example is the SUV G9, which was recently released in the market by NEV startup Xpeng. The vehicle model is outfitted with Xpeng's Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP) system, enabling automatic driving on urban roads, including lane following, navigated lane changes and overtaking.
The NGP system is also capable of recognizing traffic signals at crossroads, safely navigating through them, and avoiding pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles.
According to Ouyang, the evolution of vehicles in smart technology requires big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and other technologies. As a result, they will replace mobile phones as the largest intelligent terminals.