Author: Su Qin
Introduction: To fundamentally solve various issues such as battery draining and safety in electric vehicles, solving range anxiety is the key. This not only involves battery density, single vehicle battery capacity, and range, but also emphasizes the importance of improving charging quality.
In 2021, China’s new energy vehicle industry has been relatively safe. The frustrating summer has passed, and no continuous, multiple, and typical spontaneous combustion incidents like BYD e5 and GAC Aion S have occurred. In addition to BYD Han EV occasionally causing everyone’s attention due to spontaneous combustion, the other case that has attracted attention is the “battery locking industry crisis” caused by a spontaneous combustion incident of Guangfeng iA5.
Battery locking is a material characteristic of ternary lithium batteries, which is common knowledge in the lithium energy equipment industry. Why did it cause an industry trust crisis?
There are rumors about hidden battery capacity for mobile phones, and there is naturally also the concept of battery locking for electric cars. It can be seen that for devices that rely on lithium batteries as energy supply, electricity is divided into two parts: usable and unusable. However, how much is available and unusable is difficult to answer. The proportion of how much is available and unusable not only tests the professionalism and awe of enterprises, but also tests the sin and evil behind human nature.
The seed of sin planted for leaps and bounds development
In the ten years of Tesla’s growth and expansion, long range driving was an important label. In the early years, the reason why Tesla left a long-range impression on everyone was well-known because they used ternary lithium batteries with higher energy density. What is less known is that they adopted a more aggressive energy use strategy, regardless of the inherent characteristics of the lithium battery, to extend the SOC window of the battery and increase the proportion of available electricity, which also concealed the risk of spontaneous combustion.
Although Tesla used high-range “surface indicators” to please consumers and lay the foundation for winning the market, forcibly deviating from the “normal” working range of lithium batteries and putting it in a spontaneous combustion crisis is also worth noting. In the past decade, Tesla has had dozens or even hundreds of spontaneous combustion accidents, which is the fundamental reason. Especially for older cars before 2015, the risk of spontaneous combustion is even higher, which is why Tesla frequently reports on arbitrary spontaneous combustion of older cars.
At the same time, extending the SOC window of the battery means faster decay. In later stages, in order to make up for the decay of the battery and simultaneously suppress the probability of spontaneous combustion, Tesla had to perform “OTA proactive decay” and adjust the BMS control strategy, including reducing charging power and battery available capacity.
Under normal use, battery decay is a linearly decreasing process, but under Tesla’s aggressive energy uses strategy, the battery decay curve is twisted and will show an avalanche-like decrease after reaching a specific mileage and OTA. Taking the old Model S 85D as an example, Tesla set two decay points during the battery’s lifecycle: 90,000 and 130,000 miles. After these two points, the range drops significantly.## The Fundamental Issue Lies in Range Anxiety
To establish a brand label with a high range of endurance in the early stage in order to open up the market, Tesla pioneers a new lithium battery playing method by passively increasing Over-The-Air updates to recover the already messy deteriorating battery life curve. So, how do we evaluate this playstyle?
For successful Tesla, Musk may not see any problem with this whatsoever. If a new brand wants to excel, it must take risks. However, to traditional automobile professionals, facing Tesla’s numerous early-stage spontaneous combustions, such high-risk practices are definitely not an option and even a scourge. This is why most conventional electric vehicle brands have insufficient ranges, but few spontaneous combustions.
From a battery perspective, the former challenges the battery recklessly and the latter respects it deeply. The new energy revolution is thriving, and the host factory has a knowledge gap when it comes to batteries, which is reasonable. Thus, respecting it instead of challenging it is more in tune with actual development.
Of course, traditional brands also have their die-hard fans. Guangqi’s AION, the predecessor of Guangqi’s new energy, can be said to be Tesla’s mirror image. AION also made the same mistake as Tesla, not respecting the battery’s operating characteristics and taking an aggressive charging strategy. Let’s look at a fun data table:
We can see that in 2019, positioning itself similarly, AION and Geometry A’s average mileage per KWh differs by merely 0.6km. With a 60-degree electricity calculation, there is a gap of 36 kilometers between the two. However, in 2021, the difference in average per KWh battery mileage is only 0.04km. With a 70-degree electricity calculation, there is a gap of 2.8 kilometers between the two. Generally speaking, the average difference in mileage per KWh for vehicles in the same class should not be too significant. Therefore, the above 2021 version is a relatively normal data.
So why is the 2019 data comparison not normal?
Why is there such a significant difference in the tuning of the AION S from 2019 to 2021?
What happened to Guangqi’s AION S in 2020?
Combined with the AION S’s numerous spontaneous combustions in the summer of 2020, the answer is obvious. AION S’s self-ignition incidents have forced Guangqi’s tuning to revert to “normal levels”.
In recent years, traditional independent brands have been actively tapping into the new energy market, including Geely’s Geometry, Great Wall’s Ora, and Guangqi’s AION. Judging from their current performance, Guangqi’s AION is undoubtedly leading the charge for independent brand transformation into new energy. However, behind the crown, grievances are inevitably rife. How to evaluate such success is unknown?
Obviously, Tesla’s radical power consumption strategy in earlier years enabled it to successfully penetrate the electric vehicle market, and its high endurance reputation has been deeply rooted in people’s hearts. However, the result of radical measures is often a mess.
In May of this year, a Norwegian court ordered Tesla to compensate thousands of car owners at $16,000 per person, because Tesla used software updates OTA (software versions 2019.16.1 and.2) to restrict the capacity usage of the battery system and limit charging speed, claiming that it was for safety reasons.
Some may ask why it is only a few thousand car owners, not all car owners. In fact, this has to do with the different usage mileage of each person. Tesla’s lockdown strategy determines that only when the mileage of the vehicle reaches a certain level (mostly 90,000 and 130,000 miles, and other mileage may occur due to different vehicle models’ decline), Tesla will activate OTA to force battery degradation, reduce available mileage, and lower charging power.
From Tesla’s perspective, this is indeed a consideration for the safety of car owners. After all, the lockdown rate was too low in the early stage, and it can only be actively downgraded later. If it is not downgraded, there will be a real risk of spontaneous combustion. However, for car owners, a sudden drop in the cruising range after OTA is unacceptable. David Rasmussen, a Norwegian user, is one of the victims. He stated that his 2014 Model S85 has an estimated range of 247 miles, but it dropped to 217 miles after software updates.
This strategy of Tesla is definitely problematic. Whether consumers can be compensated also depends on the different countries and regions. In countries and regions such as the United States and Europe with sound legal systems, the chance of compensation is greater, while in China, where the legal system is still not sound, it is difficult to obtain corresponding compensation.
In August of this year, hundreds of GAIC Toyota iA5 owners reported to the National Market Supervision and Administration Bureau of Quality Development Bureau for their rights protection. The car owners wrote in the report that the company secretly upgraded the battery management system (BMS) of many GAIC Toyota iA5 produced in June of the previous year through OTA during July 18 to 23, 2021, without notifying customers in advance or obtaining customers’ consent, which reduced the available capacity of the car’s power battery and restricted the car’s output power.
At the end of September, an owner of Hangzhou Ora IQ reported to the media that “after the recall event in July, the manufacturer did not give us an approved solution for the owners. Instead, they forcibly upgraded the BMS (battery management system) during the on-site visit, but the upgraded endurance mileage was reduced, and the charging time became longer, which did not completely solve the battery safety problem of Ora IQ.”No matter it is the Guangqi Toyota iA5 or the Euler IQ, such incidents are ultimately resolved privately between manufacturers and users, or simply left unresolved without any follow-up.
This year, Chinese consumers have shown increased concern for electric car battery lock issues, reaching its pinnacle with the Guangqi Toyota iA5’s battery lock incident. So, how should we correctly view battery lock?
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, battery lock is just a working characteristic of lithium batteries, including mobile phones, that have battery lock functions. The reason why battery lock has been criticized is mainly because brands like Tesla have played new tricks in order to gain an advantage in the market (such as offering higher endurance at the same price), by using battery lock as a post-sale means, when it is just a normal pre-sale design.
For brands like Tesla and Guangqi AEV, who unilaterally believe that they have advanced technology, do not respect the working characteristics of batteries, and do not respect safety, consumers have the right to request corresponding compensation. As for other “conservative” manufacturers who do not have high “official mileage” ranges and do not have a competitive advantage when compared, they are precisely electric cars that we can trust and choose, especially those models with a lot of battery capacity but with seemingly lower endurance.
Whether it is Tesla’s battery lock trick or the importance that consumers attach to battery lock, essentially it is a problem caused by the insufficient endurance of electric cars. It is because of this insufficient endurance that Tesla has to take some risks and play some tricks, while consumers pay extra attention to the endurance that is locked. Mobile phones also have battery lock functions, so why haven’t we collectively complained about the poor battery life of mobile phones? It’s because compared to electric cars, charging mobile phones is a piece of cake, and on top of that, we have power banks, so charging convenience is crucial.
During China’s National Day this year, many electric car drivers chose to embark on long journeys, and the result is well-known: the insufficient endurance of electric cars became a focus, and electric cars once again became an object of ridicule. To fundamentally solve various issues related to battery lock, safety, and endurance anxiety that electric cars face, solving endurance anxiety is the key. This not only involves battery density, battery capacity, range, but also the improvement of charging quality. After all, electric cars already have a range of up to 700 kilometers, and even up to 1000 kilometers next year, but if the issue of charging station density and convenience is not resolved, it is still futile and anxiety will still exist.
This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.