I thought it was just another “PPT” when I first heard about Aiways Motors, trying to enter the new energy vehicle market that is not yet spacious but fiercely competitive. But not until I delved deeper into Aiways Motors and understood the story behind its founder team, did I realize that it embodies a group of “old guns” from traditional automobile enterprises who are pondering about the future on the eve of the storm. Although they have already “been there, done that”, they still want to create history once again.
Recently, I test drove the Aiways U5 model and I’m going to share my insights on this car in three aspects: the story behind the founder team, the actual driving experience, and the assisted driving experience.
Internationalization Starts with People
Unlike many other new forces that are founded by entrepreneurs with internet backgrounds, the founder team of Aiways Motors all have working experience in traditional automobile enterprises.
The founder and chairman of Aiways Motors, Fu Qiang, was previously the President and CEO of Volvo China, and earlier, he was the “pathfinder” of Audi and Skoda brands in the Chinese market. In his later career, he not only integrated the marketing channel system of Mercedes-Benz in China, but also promoted the transformation and upgrade of Volvo’s marketing business in China.
Gu Feng, the Vice Chairman of Aiways Motors, used to be the CFO of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and led many merger and acquisition cases both inside and outside of SAIC. His years of financial experience give him a unique understanding of the concept of “money for goods”, which is particularly important for a start-up new energy vehicle manufacturer.
Their accumulated industry experience in their past careers makes them appear not immature when they step into the new energy vehicle track. This is also why Aiways Motors has completed the entire process from establishing the company to delivering cars in just three and a half years.
Among the many outstanding executives of Aiways Motors, I want to emphasize the Chief Product Officer, Roland Gumpert. As a former die-hard fan of Volkswagen Audi, his name alone is enough to arouse my interest in Aiways Motors.
Whether it is the “father of Quattro”, the “father of Apollo”, or the “king of Audi”, no single adjective can fully describe his achievements in his lifetime.
He led 4 Volkswagen Iltis in the 1980 Paris-Dakar Rally and won first, second, and fourth place, even the support vehicle also achieved ninth place.
In 1981, he brought an Audi Quattro to the WRC Group B competition, proving to the world the new concept that “four-wheel drive” is better than “two-wheel drive”.And then, he named the Gumpert Apollo Sport, after himself, and refreshed the Top Gear lap time with a time of 1:17.1 in 2008, which was maintained for 4 years. He also refreshed the fastest lap time at the Nurburgring track in a single lap with a time of 7:11.57 in 2009 and maintained it for 5 years. However, if these “achievements to brag about for a lifetime” are not enough to prove his understanding of the “family car” market.
Moreover, his experience as the technical director who helped the Audi 100 model succeed in localization production at the FAW-Audi Changchun factory in 1986 proves that he is not only good at “rally and racing”, but also good at “family and grocery shopping”.
After talking about the man, let’s talk about the car. Because it was born with a shining “star aura”, Aiways was destined to take an internationalization route. Since May 2020, Aiways U5 has been exported to European countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and signed cooperation agreements with Israel and the French overseas department of Reunion. This is one of the largest scale car companies that export overseas in the new car building camp. The role played by the founder team is indispensable.
Originality is important
After learning about the founder team, my expectations for Aiways models have also increased. But looking back, I still need to manage my expectations a bit, after all, the price range of Aiways U5 is between 166,900-229,900 yuan, and “family and grocery shopping” is what it should be aiming for.
First, let’s look at the exterior of Aiways U5. In today’s world, where new styles are constantly emerging in electric car design, although Aiways U5’s design style did not give people a strong visual impact, the originality of the design is very high, adding a unique flavor.
First of all, based on the design concept of “smart and simple technology”, Aiways U5 adopts a design language that is inclined to Nordic style. The body shape maintains the avant-garde styling of the concept car and the simple design style, and adopts a two-tone body and a suspended roof treatment, making the body lines more slender, reflecting Aiways’ aim of providing consumers with higher quality.
At the same time, electric cars do not require cooling for the engine compartment, so Aiways U5’s enclosed front face design, combined with the all-car streamlined design with no handles, brings the vehicle’s drag coefficient to 0.29 Cd.
The great aerodynamic performance, the lightweight body structure with “steel on the top and aluminum on the bottom”, and the coordinated work of the Aiways battery management system (BMS) are the reasons why the Aiways U5, equipped with a not-so-large 63 kWh battery, can achieve a NEDC fuel consumption of 503 kilometers.
In addition, the Aiways U5, built on the MAS pure electric platform, has an overall size of 4680/1865/1700 mm and a wheelbase of 2800 mm.
Practicality pushed to the maximum
Moving on to the interior, the overall interior design of the Aiways U5 remains original and simple, displaying a “decorative” style. The simplicity in design, coupled with the ambient lighting effect at night, creates a certain sense of high-end atmosphere in the same price range.
One of the more distinctive features of the interior is the flat-bottomed steering wheel, which broadens the driver’s vision. Other areas of the car that are frequently touched are covered in leather. In addition, there is a driver monitoring camera located at the A-pillar, which is quite sensitive in monitoring the driver during the few days of driving experience.
The instrument panel adopts a three-fold design, with the driving information divided into different sections, allowing for the presentation of more driving information. However, after driving for a few days, I found that, except for the novelty in the appearance, the purpose of the design is not significant.
The center console screen is a 12.3-inch LCD screen that displays clear content and has relatively rich functions. The voice interaction is also not absent, which is convenient and practical. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that there is a certain delay in the operation of the car’s infotainment system, which could have made the driving experience better.
The Aiways U5’s integrated seats can support the driver’s legs, waist, and shoulders well, and long-term driving will not cause fatigue.
It is worth mentioning that the Aiways U5’s front and rear suspensions are relatively short, and the A-pillars have been extended forward, which maximizes the interior space of the car. Such a design provides good performance for the rear space.
Driving Experience Comparable to Gasoline CarsDrive the Ai Chi U5, which has a front McPherson independent suspension and a rear multi-link independent suspension. Traveling on the crowded streets of Shanghai, the Ai Chi U5 is stable and flexible. Although the 7.6 second acceleration time to reach 100 km/h is not fierce for an electric car, it does not hinder me from buying the first fresh cabbage in the morning market.
Thanks to the hydraulic lining that connects the Ai Chi motor tightly to the body, the car’s quietness is better by reducing vibrations. At this time, I can use voice interaction to play “Don’t underestimate me, I’m just a sheep” and make the job of dropping off my child more comfortable.
Due to its German genes, the Ai Chi U5 actually uses many traditional automotive concepts in tuning.
For me, who has been driving electric cars for a long time, the good thing is that the accelerator pedal control is very pleasing. Ai Chi has made certain control over torque output in the initial stage of the accelerator pedal, which makes the whole car’s starting response more relaxed. No one likes the “jerky” feeling.
When I step on the middle to rear section of the accelerator pedal, the full horsepower output meets my expectations of a family car.
And what I like most is the resilient suspension. When changing lanes on urban roads, the body tilt is handled cleanly without any drag.
However, as a person who has been driving electric cars for a long time, there are also some things that I’m not used to. For example, regarding energy regeneration, even if it is adjusted to the strongest, the energy recovery is still minimal.
This doesn’t mean absolute “good or bad”. This is the company’s understanding of its own products. After all, in the current consumer market, most people are not used to the single pedal mode, and such a strategy is also logical.
But for users who are used to the single pedal mode and seldom use brakes, it is still a bit awkward to switch between the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal.
In terms of driving experience, I think the AI Chi U5 has done its duty well.
Unexpected Assistance Driving
First, let’s take a look at the AI Chi U5’s hardware solutions for assisted driving:
• Mobileye EyeQ4 chip, computing power 2.5 Tops
• 12 ultrasonic radars
• 1 front monocular camera
• 4 surround-view cameras
• 3 millimeter-wave radars
Among them, the arrangement of 3 millimeter-wave radars is one forward and two rear corner radars.Although Mobileye EyeQ4 is a chip released 5 years ago, it is still an advanced mass production solution today. Aiways’ hardware system, equipped with this chip, operates within the speed range of 0-130 kilometers per hour.
There are two points that are particularly surprising in daily driving.
First, Aiways U5 has particularly excellent control in acceleration and deceleration (ACC). After the current deceleration starts, the system can recognize it very early and starts decelerating in advance, gradually decelerating the car to a reasonable following distance.
Therefore, although there is not much interactive information in U5’s visualization display, early braking can also give the driver a strong sense of psychological security. Of course, it would be better to have better visualization for the assisted driving on this basis.
In addition, U5’s accuracy in recognizing the phenomenon of “overtaking on the road” can compare to the performance of the front three-camera system. In the scenario where the overtaking vehicle only crosses the line slightly, the vehicle can also make corresponding deceleration actions, which are handled very gently and do not cause too strong a sudden feeling.
Second, Aiways U5’s lateral control ability can cope with most of the bends on high-speed and ring roads, far exceeding many models that only have weak lane-keeping abilities. However, there is also one point that needs to be made clear, U5’s driver detection is very sensitive, and the reminder frequency is very high. Moreover, when passing through large-curve bends, if the system does not perceive your presence, the assisted driving may directly exit.
This also leads to the fact that when I first drove U5 and tried to see if the vehicle could pass through a large-curve bend by “letting go” of the wheel, without exception, all of them alarmed and exited.
But if you hold the square steering wheel all the way, the system also works very stable.
This feeling is like a child who has just learned to walk. He can walk, but he just wants you to hold his hand.
However, in terms of lane keeping, based on the strategy of tuning, the vehicle’s trajectory is relatively biased to the right within the lane, and occasional slight “snake” phenomenon may occur.
Overall, U5’s assisted driving system has excellent acceleration and deceleration control, and lateral control is more cautious. In closed loop road scenarios, it has a certain degree of reliability.
As a new force in the automotive industry founded by traditional car people, Aiways has its own understanding and persistence in cars. Although Aiways may be a bit late for this industry, the development of the new energy vehicle market is still in its early stage, and they have also shown their strength to the market.
After all, a period of three to five years is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to the automotive industry. Moreover, it is not necessarily a bad thing for consumers that the new energy market is developing towards diversification. In this era of transformation, each automaker is striving to serve their own user groups on what they believe to be the right track and to build brand reputation and word of mouth, which is the best reserve for the future.
However, talking about the present, there are not many choices for purchasing a pure electric mid-size SUV with a price around 200,000 yuan, and the pre-sale vehicle the Leapmotor C11, as well as the upcoming Volkswagen ID.4, will make this market segment even more exciting, and they are not competitors but rather teammates.
This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email email@example.com.