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The Status Quo of China's Electric Auto Industry


Wang Xiaoming & Hou Fushen

I. Considerable Technical Progress Made, but Still Lagging behind World Advanced Level

1. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are developing unevenly and the product technologies are backward in all aspects

In China, the HEV technologies have been constantly improved and the technical schemes have been enriched on the whole. China's commercial HEV technologies have developed rapidly, yet the passenger auto technologies are lagging far behind the advanced world levels. In terms of the technical scheme, the parallel and engine idling start-stop control system has been adopted mostly for China's passenger HEVs, yet China has to make efforts to fill in the gaps in the fields of power-split hybrid electric vehicle (PSHEV) technology,particularly power-split system control and dynamic coupling. In terms of the product technology, China's passenger HEVs can save fuel by 15%~20%. China has mainly concentrated its research and development of commercial HEVs on urban passenger HEVs. At present, China has announced more than 140 models of commercial HEVs. In terms of the technical scheme, the first period will be focused on series and parallel connection, and currently the technical scheme has been focused more on parallel connection than on PSHEV.

2. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) are undergoing research and development on the whole

Such auto varieties are few and far between and the research and development is mainly centered on passenger vehicles. At present, the manufacturers of passenger PHEVs on the bulletin board are BYD, FAW and Geely, with other enterprises still in research and development of such vehicles. In terms of technical scheme, the unveiled schemes for passenger PHEVs are similar to those of other countries. The BYD F3DM, which are divided into pure EVs and HEVs, are a PHEV model that has been firstly sold in China and are akin to those of Honda Accord. In terms of product performance, China's passenger PHEVs are not as good. The BYD F3DM has a battery pack with bigger capacity and its distance per charge can reach 80 kilometers. However, the weight of F3DM has increased and its battery system energy is not that strong as Plug-in Prius. The BYD F3DM has a 1.0L engine, while Plug-in Prius has a 1.8L engine. Compared to Plug-in Prius, although F3DM consumes similar amount of fuel as Plug-in Prius does, its power performance is poorer.

3. Electric vehicle (EV) has become a priority model for the Chinese finished auto enterprises in their HEV research and development

China has, in the main, mastered such key technologies as vehicle control, matching of power system and integrated designing, and has stepped on the whole from sample vehicle development into the period of mass production development. At present, China has put forth 49 types of pure passenger electric vehicles and 113 types of commercial announcement models. In terms of pure electric cars, the major finished auto enterprises have all brought electric vehicles into their product plans and have constantly increased their investments. Such major auto enterprises as BYD, Dongfeng, Changan, Chery, Geely and Great Wall have all developed through research pure electric cars, yet electric vehicles of high performance are still lagging behind advanced foreign products in terms of reliability and engineering ability. For example, in terms of finished product, brand-new models are seen abroad, but remolded models are mainly found in China. In terms of power cell, lithium iron phosphate batteries are mainly used in China, while highly secure manganese acid lithium batteries are adopted abroad. In addition, there are still huge gaps between China-made vehicles and those made abroad in terms of reliability (failure rate), engineering ability and traditional generic technology.

4. Progress has been made in fuel cell auto technologies which are still experiencing research, development and test

The research and development of the technical platform for fuel cell vehicle dynamical system was started almost synchronously with foreign countries. At present, progress has been made in fuel cell auto technologies which are still undergoing research, development and assessment. Core technologies are progressing slowly. Gaps have widened between China's fuel cell auto technologies and advanced world levels in terms of such key indicators as cold start temperature, lifespan, cost and hydrogen-tank pressure.

5. Some progress has been made in power cell technologies, yet breakthroughs have not been completely made in key technologies

China has independently developed MH and Lithium-Ion auto power cells of 6 ampere hours to 100 ampere hours, with such key indicators as power density and energy density being improved considerably. The monomer performance of the power cells is close to advanced world levels, yet the engineering ability, group technology, lifespan, reliability, charge-discharge ability, energy management and heat management of the products, especially of the group product system (battery pack) lag far behind the advanced world levels. In addition, breakthroughs have not been thoroughly made in the membrane technology and the PE-AL-PP technology for power cells, thus resulting in small production scale and poor stability and consistency of product batches, affecting the overall performance of the power cells. Remarkable progress has been made in critical materials technologies such as positive and negative electrodes and electrolyte, and such materials have been well applied in power cells and exported in large numbers.

II. Industrialization Has Made Initial Progress, But Mass Production Has Not Yet Started

1. Remarkable progress has been made in industrialization of commercial HEVs and the development of passenger HEVs lags behind

As of the end of 2011, the output of China's HEVs had achieved an accumulative total of 16,622. Of this total, enormous progress has been made in the industrialization of commercial HEVs, which is reflected by the enriched number of vehicle models, steadily growing output, escalation of commercialization by a wide margin and products with Chinese trademarks holding a dominant market position. As of the end of 2011, the number of passenger HEVs made by China had made an accumulative total of 6700.

Passenger HEVs have not entered the stage of mass production and the production of heavy-duty passenger HEVs with Chinese trademarks still remains blank. By the end of 2011, China had manufactured an accumulative total of 9,722 passenger HEVs. Of this total, the number of Prius made by FAW Toyota and Camry made by Guangzhou Toyota Motor Co. Ltd. made up 60%, the number of passenger HEVs made by GM accounted for 19%, the number of vehicles made by Huachen Auto Group and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Ltd. got close to 900 respectively, and mass production of the passenger HEVs was started by SAIC Motor Corp, Dongfeng Motor Group and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and such vehicles have been marketed one after another. Compared with the ripe passenger HEVs abroad, China's passenger HEVs are faced with both technology and cost challenges. With the expedited industrialization of passenger HEVs manufactured by such transnational corporations as Toyota, GM and Volkswagen, there is a pressing need to industrialize China's independently-made passenger HEVs and China will bear still greater pressure as well.

2. Industrialization of pure and plug-in HEVs just starts with slow advancement

The industrialization of pure HEVs has just started and the output of pure passenger HEVs has reached a maximum accumulative total, and such HEVs' development potential is the biggest. As of the end of 2011, China had produced an accumulative total of 4,159 pure passenger HEVs. Of this total, Anhui Chery, JAC, Jiangnan Automobile and BYD had manufactured an accumulative total of 2370, 592, 495 and 355 respectively. And Anhui Ankai, BYD and Ningbo Shenma had produced an accumulative total of 347, 219 and 202 commercial HEVs respectively. At present, enterprises announced for the production of plug-in passenger HEVs are only BYD, FAW and Geely, while SAIC, BAIC and Chery are developing or have finished the development of plug-in HEVs. Announcement has also been made of plug-in passenger HEVs for most passenger auto manufacturers such as Wuzhoulong Motors, Zhong Tong Bus, Ankai, Dongfeng Automobile and FOTON.

In terms of the industrialization of plug-in passenger HEVs, as of the end of 2011, a total of 20,000 enterprises had manufactured 675. Compared with such models as GM Volt and NISSAN Leaf, there has been fewer star and main models among pure HEVs and plug-in HEVs in China, thus swiftly widening the gap in industrialization. With the input by China's key auto enterprises to be increased in pure and plug-in HEVs in the future, it is predicted that industrialization process will become accelerated.

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