CWIEME Interview with Zhiqiang Cui, CEO of the First Electric Network

Monday 12th February 2018, Interviewed and edited by Rachel, Content Producer, CWIEME SHANGHAI

What are the key development areas for EV tech in 2018?

Battery technology -I think there is a big background of this in 2018: the market for new energy vehicles will be a million-order market. In this background, I think we need to focus on the core technology of power battery in 2018. If the technology of power battery can achieve a breakthrough, that would be a significant progress. To achieve this, on the one hand, we need figure out the progress of cooperation among these companies and on the other hand, if all battery companies can unite together to form a uniform standard, which would be of great help for this industry. In the past, different battery companies develop separately, and there is not a uniform standard, which resulting in the waste of resources. If we can develop a uniform standard for battery companies in respect to equipment production and resource recovery, the efficiency of the whole industry can be improved. Even if we couldn’t achieve technology breakthrough, this would be an important achievement.

Infrastructure for charging facilities- Second, I think it is still necessary to vigorously develop the infrastructure for charging facilities. One of the pain points that plague private users of new energy vehicles is the unpopularity and inconvenience of charging networks. There is an imbalanced layout in the public charging network. Taking Beijing as an example, Beijing actually has a lot of public charging stations. However, these stations are mainly in remote areas, which brings trouble for those new energy vehicles users. The lack of charging facilities, to some extent, restricts the development of the private-user automobile market for new energy vehicles. So I think just like the construction of the gas station network, with the development of the entire new energy vehicle market and the increase of its holding capacity, the infrastructure construction of the charging network must be kept up.

Hybrid electric vehicles- The development of hybrid electric vehicles is the future trend and would become the mainstream of the future market. In this respect, Japan is the global leader.

Since the core technology of hybrid vehicles is in the hands of Japan, many auto companies in China choose to skip the hybrid motor stage to pure electric. From a technical point of view, there is still a long way to go. If we do not pay more attention to this aspect in 2018, there may be an imbalance in the development of the next few years.

What kind of technology will have the biggest impact on the development of China's EV?

If expanding the field, not limited in China's auto market, I think in recent years hydrogen fuel cell may be a particularly impacting technology. The core technology of hydrogen fuel cells is still in the hands of Japan. Compared with lithium batteries, hydrogen fuel cells have better performance. In January of this year, Japan promulgated a new technical standard: before 2040, they will popularize hydrogen-powered new-energy vehicles. The use of hydrogen fuel cells, output power of car battery will be increased, which would be able to achieve the current lithium battery power 3 times. The body weight of the car will be reduced. Japan has produced hybrid vehicles for many years. Toyota's hybrid sales have achieved more than 700 million in Japan in 2002. Japan has made it clear that fuel cells will be the future direction of new energy vehicles development. Before Japan, General Motors also started hydrogen fuel research however gave up later since hydrogen fuel has many difficulties like difficulty of producing, saving and transporting. In Japan, developing hydrogen fuel is not only restricted in new energy vehicles industry but also other industries. If China skip this process of developing hydrogen fuel and Japan achieves the breakthrough in hydrogen fuel, in the future years would have great impact on the traditional battery power.

What are the limits and support for EV development in China’s transportation system?

In my view, I think support is more than the limit. Since last year, many cities, including Chengdu, have begun to restrict the traditional fuel logistics vehicles from entering the urban road network. New energy logistics vehicles are now increasingly accepted domestically. If we compare our urban road network to arterial grade, venous grade, and capillary grade, it has become a trend that in the city, on the capillarity level road network, new energy-powered logistics vehicles are replacing fuel logistics vehicles. In transporting commercial system, a minivan costs a lot less per year than a conventional fuel-laden vehicle. In terms of restrictions, due to the complexity of the topography in the climate zone, it is still likely to become a limitation in the relatively cold winter in north China. The impact of weather on the battery of vehicles can be a limitation. We need to look forward to a breakthrough in battery technology. From a national policy point of view, there is a certain supportive policy for the shift from small minivans to new energy vehicles, and about the medium and large trucks that depend on further national policies.

What western countries and China learn from each other in EV development?

China has a great advantage in developing EV that many western countries may not have: based on our system of government structures, we can do one thing with the power of the whole nation, including the policy of developing pure electricity and all the support at the funding level, which are hard to achieve in Europe and the United States. The market for new energy vehicles in the United States is dominated by the policy support, which is similar in China's current market for new energy vehicles. I think what we can learn from the United States are mainly the development course of the entire new energy vehicle, the reaction made by all parties in the market and the entire industrial chain, as well as some experiences and lessons learned. Judging from the difference of the times in the development of our country and the United States, our country's development rate is faster than that of the United States. Based on the lessons learned from the development of new energy vehicles in the United States, China has done a lot of articles on the battery-based safety performance. We have avoided the problems that western countries have encountered past. For China, the difference between China and the West is mainly the accumulation of time. Even today, the core technology of our traditional fuel engine is still lagging behind the West. However, China has been developing pure electricity in recent years. In this respect, China is not weaker than the European countries and America at the technical level. We may turn into technical output or product output in the future.

What do you want to get from CWIEME Shanghai?

I hope I can learn more about the technological development trend of the new energy automotive industry and communicate with more enterprises in the industry.

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