Virtually every automaker in China—domestic or joint venture—showed at least one alternative fuel or powertrain concept at Auto China this year, and some showed up to five or more. The government, through its high technology Plan 863, announced as part of the country’s 10th Five-year plan in 2001, has urged automakers to familiarize themselves with all types of alternative powertrain and alternative fuel technology.
The thinking behind the plan is to get Chinese automakers in a position to export cars made with Chinese expertise as quickly as possible, rather than simply assembling foreign-brand cars at low cost. There were a handful of fuel-cell cars on display, too, but none of them were as convincing as the other alternative fuel vehicles on show.
The results have been quite remarkable, with local know-how emerging in light through full hybrids, hydrogen fuel, fuel cells, CNG, and so on. The automakers, after winning sponsorship from the government, have been forming development partnerships with some of the best universities and research institutes in the country.
It appears that the automakers have reached a point where their technologies are starting to approach readiness. The models on display are still not production models; they are merely proof of ability and proof of concept.
The real trials will start during the Olympics, when various manufacturers donate their hybrid vehicles to ferry Olympic officials around Beijing. When these mini-trials are over, the government will then consider applications to launch trial limited-production runs. Only if these are successful will the automakers be able to apply for a permit to enter series production and sales. All of the manufacturers have shown their concepts at Auto China 2008, and all of them want to bid for production licenses; we will have to wait until late this year to find out who was successful.
BYD will enter limited production with two advanced 330-V plug-in hybrid versions of its existing sedans: the F3 DM (dual mode) and the F6 DM. Both cars use the same three-cylinder engine as the F1 supermini, but couple it to a 50-kW electric motor to offer two driving modes. The F6 DM is said to have a pure electric driving range of up to 100 km (62 mi) or a hybrid range up to 330 km (205 mi); the F3 DM can go either 110 or 380 km (68 or 236 mi), respectively.
Charging of the iron-chemistry battery is via a 220-V household power outlet. The hybrid system allows the engine to supplement the electric motor when rapid acceleration is needed, but for most of the time it is used to drive a generator to power the electric motor.
The company also showed its e6 plug-in pure-electric vehicle, a five-seat people carrier with electric four-wheel drive. The vehicle uses BYD’s patented 200-A·h iron-chemistry battery that the company says is easier and cheaper to produce than lithium batteries but less harmful to the environment. It can also go through up to 2000 charge/discharge cycles, making it reliable enough to last the life of the car. Production of the e6 is expected to begin in limited numbers in 2010.
Chery presented a full complement of alternative powertrains at the show, including diesel, alternative fuel, mixed fuel, fuel cell, and hybrid models. Chery will donate 50 hybrid vehicles to serve for the transport of Olympic officials, consisting of 40 belt-starter-generator (BSG) mild hybrids and 10 integrated-starter-generator (ISG) medium hybrids. Both will be based on Chery’s medium-sized sedan, the A5. The A3 sedan and hatchback were presented in mild- and medium-hybrid forms with a 1.3-L diesel ISG version, with fuel consumption of 3.01 L/100 km, as well as 1.8 and 2.0 BSG versions.
Recent FAW acquisition, Haima, presented its F Star hatchback (gasoline) and F Star e (electric) concept vehicle as well as the F Star mini-bus, for initial production in the second half of 2008. These new Haima models will be produced and were designed by the company’s new Zhengzhou facility.
FAW’s new Besturn B70 HEV hybrid will serve at the Olympics. It is a full hybrid capable of travelling in pure electric, gasoline, or mixed power modes, depending on the circumstances. The power is transmitted via a six-speed automated manual gearbox that is integrated into the hybrid drive unit. Economy is quoted at 6 L/100 km, which, says FAW, is up to 43% more fuel efficient than a conventionally powered vehicle of the same size with a standard automatic transmission.
Geely presented an electric plug-in version of its smallest car, the Peri, using a lithium-ion battery and 50-kW electric motor.
Shanghai GM unveiled the LaCrosse Eco-Hybrid, which uses a 2.4-L engine and gives around a 15% improvement in fuel economy. It can thus travel 100 km on 8.3 L of fuel rather than 9.8 L.Guangzhou Automotive, Honda’s joint-venture partner, hasn’t even produced a single modern car yet, but among its range of upmarket vehicles scheduled for 2010 production was the A-HEV multipurpose crossover vehicle. Equipped with a gasoline engine, an ISG, and a CVT, it was developed in conjunction with South China University of Technology. The concept also features a long-range lithium-ion battery pack.