What Makes iMES Win “Chinese Heart” for TANK?

Introduction: Regardless of the solution chosen, users will experience better usage and lower costs compared to traditional gasoline-powered cars. This is the result of technological advancements and market competition that upgrade the consumer experience. As for whether the technology is obsolete or not, that’s for engineers and the media to discuss.

What Makes iMES Win “Chinese Heart” for TANK?

On November 8, 2021, the list of the 2021 Top Ten New Energy Vehicle Power Systems with “Chinese Heart” was announced. Among the two winning hybrid systems, it goes without saying that the popular BYD DM-i hybrid system is a sure bet, but the surprising winning system is the range extender iMES system installed in TANK’s compact SUV, ME5, which was released on July 13 this year.


The reason it’s so surprising is firstly, because while “Wei Xiaoli” is gradually stabilizing itself as the top new power, TANK’s sales and attention are both on the edge. Secondly, the fact that TANK’s first model, ME7, which was listed on September 19, 2020, uses a pure electric drive scheme. From the “downgrading of technology” of the pure electric SUV launched by ME7 to the range extender scheme used by ME5, it’s easy for people to make a connection, especially since ME7’s sales are still off the charts.

Recalling that time, TANK’s chairman and CEO Zhang Hailiang said, “ME5’s sales will definitely break through.” And now, the range extender system installed in ME5 has won the Top Ten New Energy Power System Awards in “Chinese Heart.” We can’t help but wonder, what gave Zhang Hailiang the confidence, and what exactly does iMES have to offer?

Since it’s a range extender system, and ME5 is focused on super-long endurance (eliminating mileage anxiety), let’s compare iMES with similar competing products and see what TANK’s iMES is capable of. Being the first new carmaker to take the unconventional approach of eating range-extending crabs, and yet relying on only one range extender model, Ideal ONE, to achieve impressive sales, it is undoubtedly a reference for all other new carmakers. So, we have extracted the official technical parameters of these two models and investigated.

iMES vs OthersLet’s first talk about the endurance performance. Ultra-long endurance is one of the major selling points of the Skywell ME5 and the Ideal ONE. Naturally, they are not careless in terms of endurance performance. The NEDC comprehensive working condition endurance mileage of both models exceeds 1000km, which is almost better than almost all pure electric vehicle models on sale. At the same time, the characteristics of the range-extended model-the driving experience that is close to that of the pure electric model while eliminating range anxiety-are also vividly reflected in these two models. The NEDC pure electric endurance range of both models exceeds 150km, which is enough to meet the needs of one to two days of urban commuting. At first glance, as an “old” player who has been on the market for two years, the leader of the range extender, Ideal ONE, is slightly better than the new player ME5 in both comprehensive working conditions and pure electric working conditions.

However, when we focus on the battery capacity and fuel tank capacity of the two models, some clues seem to emerge. The Ideal ONE’s 40.5kWh battery pack provides 188km of pure electric endurance, with an energy consumption of 21.54kWh per hundred kilometers. The Skywell ME5’s 30.6kWh battery pack provides 155km of pure electric endurance, with an energy consumption of 19.74kWh per hundred kilometers. The difference between the two is 9%. Considering that this power consumption comparison does not take into account the differences in vehicle weight, motor quantity, and minimum power control strategy, it cannot prove that the ME5’s electric drive system is more power-efficient. However, from the perspective of overall vehicle use, the ME5’s unit battery capacity can provide a higher pure electric endurance, which is an indisputable fact.

Next, let’s look at the fuel consumption of the range extender. The Ideal ONE’s 55L fuel tank provides 892km of NEDC fuel endurance mileage, while the Skywell ME5’s 42L fuel tank provides 857km of fuel endurance mileage. At first glance, the Ideal ONE performs better, but the range extender’s fuel consumption per hundred kilometers reaches 6.17L. ME5 can achieve a fuel consumption of 4.9L per hundred kilometers. This difference is 26%! From the perspective of vehicle operating costs, for every tank of gasoline consumed, the ME5 can save about 80 yuan in fuel costs.

While the entire market and consumers are constrained by the range anxiety of pure electric vehicles and focusing on the ultra-long endurance of range extender models (without sacrificing the driving experience of pure electric models), marveling at the Ideal ONE’s innovative bet and the “pragmatic fence-sitting” attitude of some car companies towards range extender technology, Skywell is calling out to the market with the ME5, “Have any of you paid attention to the fuel consumption of range extenders? Are you worthy of the name of “new energy” and “energy saving and emission reduction”?”.

If the Ideal ONE was only able to solve the problem of range extender development with limited resources due to its earlier launch time, can the newly launched range-extended models compete with the ME5 in terms of fuel consumption performance? We have taken the technical parameters of the production models, the Seres SF5 and the Lifan Free, range-extended versions from their official websites. The data comparison shows that the Seres SF5’s range extender consumption is calculated to be <6.83L/100km, while the Lifan Free’s consumption is as high as 7.78L/100km. Although these two models have larger body sizes and curb weights compared to the Ideal ONE, and both use AC asynchronous drive motors and dual motor options, in today’s emphasis on energy saving, emission reduction, carbon neutrality, their theoretical range extender consumption is significantly higher than the Ideal ONE, which is the “benchmark” in the range-extended market, indeed deviating from “new energy”. It may only be said that the manufacturer did not invest resources in the “range extender consumption” indicator and did not rely on fuel consumption as a selling point for the product.

Therefore, we can responsibly say that the ME5 is the fuel consumption champion among the production range-extended models.

So how does it achieve this? According to the official description of the award-winning iMES system, “the Skywell iMES intelligent range-extender system adopts a globally first mass-produced flywheel rotor integrated design, with direct driving of the engine to the motor without transmission loss, which is safe and reliable, and the control system adopts the power following strategy, that is, use the power immediately, without charging and discharging losses. The driving motor adopts low iron loss silicon steel sheets with high efficiency and wide efficient range, and the braking energy recovery efficiency is high. The unique intelligent range-extending system supports the ME5 to achieve a NEDC driving range of 1012km.” In summary, the goal is to reduce energy loss and improve the efficiency of the range extender in power generation and direct drive states. At the same time, we believe that the use of a 1.5L naturally aspirated engine has also played a role in reducing the fuel consumption of the range-extender system. Since the manufacturer has chosen to use naturally aspirated engines, it may already be able to meet the needs of a single motor of 150kW, and the cost is a 0-100km acceleration of 8.9 seconds, making it more of a “commuting” car compared to other range-extended models.

The compact body size, efficient and streamlined range-extender system, mediocre output power of the single motor, and the battery pack that is just enough, have resulted in a similarly more “commuting” price – below 150,000 yuan after comprehensive subsidies. This is an absolute unique existence among range-extended models.

Is the BYD DM-i a cross-border all-rounder?# 155 Kilometers of Pure Electric City Commuter Experience, Over 1000 Kilometers of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai Extended Range Self-driving Tour, Can be Yours for Only 150,000 Yuan. Surprised? From a market perspective, this is indeed an attractive selling point, but from a technical standpoint, the extended range is just one form of hybrid technology. However, the BYD DM-i super hybrid system, which has also won awards, piqued our curiosity. Why not have a “cross-border” PK between the iMES extended range system of the Skywell ME5 and the DM-i super hybrid of the BYD Song PLUS?

We compare the two models based on the same core indicators, namely pure electric range, fuel range, and fuel consumption with range extender, and find that besides pure electric range, the two key indicators of the ME5 perform better on the Song PLUS. Even the 51km pure electric range version offers stunning performance of 4.4L/100km and 1414km. Of course, part of the reason for this is due to the smaller battery pack of the Song PLUS, which results in a lighter overall weight and also benefits the acceleration per 100 kilometers. As a plug-in hybrid, the DM-i still achieves better fuel consumption performance due to the lower energy consumption brought by engine direct drive in high-speed driving conditions compared to the electric motor of the ME5’s pure extended range setting.

At this point, we cannot help but marvel at the comprehensiveness of BYD’s DM-i super hybrid technology. Whether it is the pure electric mode at low speeds in the city, the series (extended range) mode with battery depletion at mid-low speeds, or the engine direct drive mode during high-speed cruising, and the acceleration mode resulting from the combined force of the engine and electric motor. We will not delve into these aspects here, but we believe that readers interested in hybrid technology are well aware of them. From this perspective, although the Skywell ME5 can differentiate itself in the extended range circle based on excellent energy consumption performance and a lower price, in the face of the all-round and efficient BYD Song PLUS DM-i, the ME5 can only rely on its “pure electric range” card. Moreover, the price of the Song PLUS DM-i basically surrounds the ME5. If you do not care about the extra 45km of pure electric range, then the launch of the ME5 is somewhat awkward. We originally thought that the other party was just playing around with a few aspects, but we did not expect such a versatile opponent.However, we still have to say that the fuel economy achieved by the iMES range-extending system on the Skywell ME5 is very close to that of the DM-i super hybrid system with high-speed direct drive support from BYD, and it also draws a clear line between “real range-extenders” and “false energy-saving” counterparts. The reason why it can achieve such performance is actually similar to BYD’s approach — making every functional unit work efficiently from the engine to the generator/drive motor, from the choice of battery pack capacity to the optimization of control strategy. As an experienced car manufacturer, BYD has also accumulated years of self-developed results in engines, motors, batteries, etc. DM-i, a comprehensive and sophisticated black technology, is a natural development. Of course, there is no perfect technology. The reason why BYD’s DM-i can provide “perfect” energy efficiency solutions under various operating conditions may be due to the relatively more complex component integration and higher control strategy tuning difficulty among current passenger vehicle powertrain types. In contrast, the range-extending system of the Skywell ME5 uses a relatively simplified structural design (mainly removing the engine mechanical direct drive and parallel acceleration), providing fuel consumption performance that is very close to the DM-i system, allowing users to enjoy low fuel consumption without worrying too much about the increase in failure rate caused by complex hybrid systems.

Is range-extending the antidote to range anxiety?

As one of the hybrid technologies, range-extending is not a new technology. As early as 2010, the world’s first mass-produced range-extender electric vehicle, Chevrolet Volt, was launched in North America. Ten years later, at a media communication meeting, Stephan Wöllenstein, CEO of Volkswagen China, who has always been cautious about his words and deeds, said, “From the perspective of a single vehicle, a range-extended electric vehicle has certain value, but from the perspective of the whole country and the earth, it is simply nonsense and the worst option! The ultimate goal of developing electric vehicles is to reduce carbon emissions, but if fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity, there is no need to do so.” And Wolfgang Wiedemann, who is in charge of the entire Volkswagen Group’s China R&D department, further denied the range-extender technology roadmap — “Even from the perspective of a single vehicle, a range-extended electric vehicle is not significant. We studied the feasibility of range-extender electric vehicles several years ago, and now discussing this technology is completely outdated.”

However, regardless of whether range-extending technology is nonsense, the worst option, or a completely outdated technology, it is undeniable that before battery technology made rapid progress, range anxiety was like a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of pure electric car users and car manufacturers. On one hand, there are criticisms of outdated range-extender technology, and on the other hand, there is the ID series’ impressive range performance of up to 588 km, in front of the market, only emphasizing technology, either to attract attention, or to show technological arrogance.It’s not just about range anxiety. Is range anxiety really just about the range of the car? Not necessarily. In the era of gasoline vehicles, we didn’t deliberately focus on the full-tank range of a car, because we could refuel with the simplest and shortest possible time, i.e. refueling. When we can see the distance of the gas station every time we drive a certain distance on the highway, and we are used to inserting the fuel gun into the tank and waiting a few minutes to get a full tank, then no matter how long the full-tank range is, range anxiety is irrelevant to us. In the final analysis, even if a 400km-range battery pack can be achieved with supercharging technology, it is still a small matter.

Therefore, to completely eliminate range anxiety with pure electric technology, it is not enough to rely solely on increasing the energy density and capacity of the battery pack. It can only temporarily relieve us from charging problems within a limited range. This is not called eliminating range anxiety, it is called avoiding refueling anxiety. The true fast charging technology that can permanently solve range anxiety, it seems that the manufacturers have their own difficulties in both the technical and infrastructure aspects, to the extent that it has always been on the fringes in advertising and promotion.

Returning to the extended-range technology, no matter whether it is outdated or not, the convenience and accessibility of refueling is beyond the reach of current battery technology. As for energy-saving and emission reduction, there is no doubt that this is a correct direction, but in the practical market, there are not only correct directions, but also a process of gradual consensus and consideration of the cost of holding the “correct direction”.

On one side is the verbal battle over whether the technical solutions are advanced, on the other side is the influx of more extended-range models and PPTs on 1000km pure electric range. We find that compared with the lackluster and monotonous theoretical technical route, the ever-changing market and the evolution of products in response to market changes have truly brought us more surprises.

For example, on November 19, 2021, Nissan announced the official launch of the Xuan Yi e-POWER at the Guangzhou Auto Show, with a price range of 13.89-15.59 million yuan. Nissan’s e-POWER technology claims to be an electric drive technology that does not require charging, which helped the Nissan Note surpass the hybrid Aqua and Fit, winning the sales crown of Japan’s small passenger cars for three consecutive years from 2017 to 2019.

The most unique feature of e-POWER technology is that, compared to Toyota’s THS and Honda’s i-MMD, it belongs to the “full-time electric drive” technology, which uses gasoline to generate electricity for pure electric driving without the need for charging. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? Isn’t this an extended-range technology? And it also eliminates the battery pack and matching charging components that support pure electric range in the extended-range hybrid technology, becoming an appropriately simplified version of the series hybrid. The Volkswagen techies previously disdainfully rejected the extended-range technology with pure electric range, but now, Nissan has directly introduced an electric drive technology that only burns gasoline and does not require charging, and has been the best-selling car for three years. This is a resounding slap in the face, once again proving the fickleness of the market when choosing technologies.

However, the reason why e-POWER technology is able to gain market recognition is not just because it simplifies the extended-range technology. Through comparison, we can find that the Nissan Sylphy e-POWER has achieved extreme optimization in the following three areas. First, weight reduction, by equipping extreme small-capacity batteries (2 kWh), small-displacement 3-cylinder naturally aspirated engines, smaller power driving motors, and eliminating battery charging-related components, the curb weight has been reduced to an amazing 1477 kg. Second, improving energy conversion efficiency, the specially adapted e-POWER engine can achieve an astonishing thermal efficiency of 50%. Finally, the unique fast charging and fast discharging feature of low-capacity high-power batteries, combined with control strategies that can fully utilize the performance of the system’s various modules, enables the 2 kWh battery to serve as the central source of energy for the entire vehicle. To sum up in one sentence —— make every drop of fuel convert into electricity as much as possible, and make every degree of electricity drive the wheels forward as much as possible. With the ultimate optimization of energy management under this blessing, the Nissan Sylphy e-POWER further reduces the fuel economy of hybrid models to below 4L/100km. It is said that the Japanese top-selling model, NOTE, equipped with e-POWER, can achieve a fuel consumption of less than 3L per 100 kilometers.

In conclusion, when the extended-range technology (i.e., series hybrid) has evolved to this stage, an interesting situation has emerged. The birth of extended-range technology was originally to solve the range anxiety of pure electric technology solutions. However, with continuous exploration and optimization of the technological concept, it has evolved into e-POWER, which is a “politically incorrect” and “niche” technology that uses electric drive technology to enhance the efficiency and range of gasoline vehicles. Its core is still the consensus of the entire industry —— until battery technology achieves a breakthrough or an alternative to fuel is found, the energy density, energy recovery convenience, and accessibility of fuel will determine that it is the real cure for range anxiety.

What is suitable is the best.Here, we have listed the representative models and systems that help eliminate “range anxiety” in the market. BYD’s DM-i represents an all-round plug-in hybrid solution that can operate in parallel, series, pure electric or even direct drive. Skywell’s iMES represents a group of extended-range series hybrid solutions that prioritize fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, Nissan’s e-POWER is a pioneer of using electric drive technology to achieve extremely high fuel efficiency.

From these three technical solutions, plus pure electric energy storage solutions, we can summarize an interesting triangle of new energy technology characteristics: pure electric driving, energy conservation and emissions reduction, and cruising range (convenient energy supplementation). For example, in pure electric energy storage solutions, both pure electric driving and energy conservation and emissions reduction have excellent performance, but cruising range is not satisfactory. In the super plug-in and extended-range series hybrid solutions, cruising range performance is better, pure electric driving is barely adequate, and although energy conservation and emissions reduction have made substantial progress compared to gasoline cars, they still do not belong to zero-emission fundamentally. Nissan’s e-POWER scheme, a unique approach, maximizes cruising range and performs better than hybrid technology in energy conservation and emissions reduction, but falls a bit short in pure electric driving. Is there a possibility of finding a scheme that exhibits all three features perfectly? Unfortunately, not at present. Or, it can be said that hydrogen fuel cell technology may be able to simultaneously satisfy these three features, but it is still not widely used, and new technologies bring new problems and challenges.

Therefore, what we have summarized at present is the “impossible triangle” of new energy solutions.

Since there is no perfect solution, the most suitable one is the best. So, in conclusion:

If one particularly cares about the cost of vehicle use and has fixed charging stations, and limits the range of use to a relatively stable and controllable range, then pure electric is the most suitable solution. After all, the difference between electricity price and oil price is significant.

If the majority of the commute is in the city and occasional long-distance driving, and there are fixed charging stations, then either plug-in hybrid or extended-range can be selected. These cars can be recharged with electricity or refueled with gasoline, and the purchase cost is even lower. Why bother to care about occasionally paying for fuel?

If it is impossible to install fixed charging stations, there is no high demand for vehicle acceleration performance, and the goal is to reduce the cost of vehicle use, then Nissan’s e-POWER is the best solution. The only problem is that currently only the Sylphy model is available.

No matter which solution is adopted, users will experience better driving experiences and lower costs than traditional gasoline cars. This is the result of technological progress and market competition. As for whether the technology is outdated or not, let the engineers and the media decide.

This article is a translation by ChatGPT of a Chinese report from 42HOW. If you have any questions about it, please email bd@42how.com.