On June 13, 2022, I was invited to attend a group interview with Zhang Liang, CEO of the MG brand, and Zhu Jun, the father of “SAIC New Energy” and General Manager of JNTEV Company.
What is the positioning of the Mulan model, and why was it named “Mulan”?
Firstly, our positioning for Mulan is that we hope it will be similar to Germany’s Golf in the global market. We also hope it will have the same amount of influence as China’s Mulan on a global scale. This influence is reflected not only in the product features, as I mentioned before, all of our global products have strong technical reserves and characteristics, but also in global sales and results, which I believe everyone can understand.
Therefore, our positioning of Mulan is not simply a product that is purely based on technology. As we all know, the pure electric vehicle market today is quite mature compared to the exploratory market of several years ago. So, we must do some eye-catching work.
Mulan is designed to achieve global influence through the complete user value of its product strength. This is our expectation for Mulan. Behind this expectation, the reason we chose this name is not greatly related to women, and gender is not the most critical element. A major reason is because the Mulan spirit embodies the three characteristics I mentioned earlier, regardless of her outstanding ability, breakthrough innovation, or her dedication to the country.
I think these three characteristics are exactly what the Chinese automotive industry needs today, and it is also what SAIC should undertake. It is precisely the characteristics of Mulan that give it a strong affinity with the Mulan spirit. Therefore, we do not want to overly emphasize the female hero element of Mulan’s cross-dressing, but rather, emphasize the three characteristics mentioned above. Therefore, we did not use Chinese characters in the name, but used the pinyin of Mulan. This pinyin is intended to refine the Mulan spirit, rather than to highlight the surface representation of the female warrior who disguised herself as a man. It is hoped that after refining the Mulan spirit, this pinyin can facilitate the spread and understanding of the Mulan spirit within the global market.I hope that Mulan’s spirit can become a symbol of Chinese culture and have a global impact. It is fortunate that these Chinese hero images can be propagated by Disney and gain recognition worldwide. Besides Kung Fu Panda and Monkey King, Mulan also possesses unique traits and potential. Therefore, Mulan spirit does not favor either gender. This holds great significance for MG as it marks their re-entry into the new energy vehicle market, and carries tremendous expectations. I believe that this product is highly competitive in the domestic market while exhibiting similar success globally. For years, at every car show and media interview since 2020, I have been asked about how we are positioning and planning for new energy. I replied that we should wait until 2022 to release a more powerful product, namely Mulan. As of now, the best-selling MG product overseas is the new EZS with a range of 500 km, and a new appearance. However, we have yet to introduce this model in the domestic market as we wish to usher in Mulan’s birth. Such a high-tier positioning is fitting for MG’s technological and product strengths, as it is a new interpretation and beginning. Mulan’s coming is a long-time culmination and the result of legitimate efforts, bringing about the desired outcome.
I have repeatedly emphasized the significance of the Gold Key Empowered Platform and Architecture. This is why I have invested so much time in explaining technical details about architecture and batteries. It is not only essential for MG but also for SAIC because we have been working on it for years, wanting to introduce the most capable and powerful car as a result of our matured technologies.
The “Crossover Vehicle” is the second question that we have been contemplating for years, which emerged three years ago in 2020 when we proposed the development of a youthful brand. I have frequently discussed the notion of MG’s youthfulness with various media outlets, emphasizing that our goal is more than just to appeal to young people.It is not enough to say that selling to our consumer group who are born after 1990 or 1995 means that we have succeeded in making our brand more youthful. This is only a superficial first step. We believe that our brand’s youthfulness is represented by the strongest abilities, tastes, and lifestyles of today’s young people, who are the strongest advocates and responders to intelligent, interconnected technologies – the natives of this era. We call this the “four representatives” of MG’s youthfulness.
As for our electric vehicles, we believe that intelligence is inherent in all EVs, though we have yet to discuss this in detail. Our goal is to design an EV that not only embraces its sporty style and trendsetting design, but is also well-suited for different consumer groups and their usage scenarios. So, we designed a crossover SUV that encompasses MG’s four representative features.
Regarding LBS planar batteries, our original intention was to create a flexible platform battery that could meet the needs of all models with a small and thin design. However, the traditional methods cannot accommodate the necessary amount of energy for larger vehicles, such as those requiring 80 or even over 100 degree lithium-ion batteries. Therefore, we needed to work with partners to develop a more flexible solution, resulting in the development of the CTB (crossover to bus) flat battery technology.The second background is that the pain point we designed for the users at that time was the need for an absolutely safe battery, and many users would not compromise on safety. This safety has many aspects, among which you can achieve very good passive safety and functional safety, but the battery cells cannot be completely immune to failure due to defects in manufacturing or materials, abuse during use, aging, accumulation of environmental temperature variations, etc., which are beyond the scope of our design. Therefore, we hope that even if the battery cell loses control, the battery pack will remain under control.
To explore these backgrounds, we studied various solutions and finally discovered the benefits brought by the laying battery cell, which can take care of all these aspects. One of the more important ones is that I don’t need to make the battery cell smaller, which is very important to me. In addition, we have conducted extensive experiments with CATL to verify the internal structure of the battery cell since it was originally designed to be vertical, ensuring proper electrolyte saturation and other related factors. After confirming that certification can be achieved without major changes to its manufacturing or technical system, we began to implement the design.
On the battery pack level, the biggest issue is heat, so how to cool it down? Therefore, our innovative approach is to use a vertical cooling structure, which is like an ordinary battery pack, except that we have installed a cooling water plate that covers 100% of the floor and now we have made it into a cooling water strip and placed it vertically. The battery remains cooled like an interior and now it is laid flat, so it is cooled from the side.
The third innovation is how the battery can adapt to its different nuclear and healthy states. We have designed a structure that allows for interaction between the top and bottom, applying a compressive force, which has unexpectedly impeded the electromagnetic mobility in various nuclear states and has greatly extended the lifespan of the battery under the same operating conditions. This unexpected benefit is due to the appropriate restriction force applied to the battery during its overall life cycle. So I guess this covers your question about the laying battery, as I used a great example for you in the beginning, like a deck of cards. For example, for a mobile phone, the concept is the same, but instead of a battery cell standing vertically in the past, it is now laid horizontally.In terms of heat dissipation, when standing, the heat dissipation area next to it is so large, but when lying down, the heat dissipation area becomes very small. Therefore, its insulation is improved by the blanket style emphasized by Mr. Zhu just now, which improves efficiency of space utilization.
What I’m concerned about is the SAIC Nebula pure electric exclusive systemic platform created by SAIC Group. At an investor meeting not long ago, we introduced the seven technology bases developed by SAIC Group, including this one. Mr. Zhu has mentioned its three technological advantages and three experiential advantages, including ultra-performance, ultra-bandwidth, and comprehensive security experiential advantages, as well as intelligence, quality empowerment, and ecology empowerment. I would like to ask General Consultant to give a more detailed introduction to these three main advantages.
I’m sorry, Mr. Wang, maybe I’m not the most suitable person to introduce this. There are three platforms, one is the pure electric platform, one is the “Nebula”, one is the “Zhufeng” platform for both oil and electricity, and there is also a hydrogen energy exclusive platform (Xinghe). Actually, the whole vehicle platform mainly focuses on the chassis structure size, and then makes it able to accommodate the system of the platform-designed driving system, entertainment system and self-driving system.
Therefore, this whole Nebula electric vehicle decoration platform consists of several parts, including the electric driving system, square battery system, intelligent cabin, and intelligent driving system.
This kind of architecture is different from the original pure electric one, which was necessarily developed around the engine and transmission. All the problems with traditional cars were caused by the NVH problem, shaking problem, performance problem, etc. brought by the engine and transmission. So the first step in this pure electric architecture is based on the electric driving system and battery system.
Therefore, the first characteristic is rear-wheel drive, so this basic pure electric architecture will hardly do front-wheel drive. Because its performance value may also be greatly discounted.
The second is the square battery, as Mr. Zhu just mentioned. It requires the Nebula architecture to work with the square battery to release its strong value. We have just spent a long time discussing the battery swap project. I believe that the media may not have fully understood it, and there may be some related questions later. This Nebula architecture also maximizes the improvement of space utilization efficiency through a 110mm battery, allowing the possibility of battery swapping to become stronger.
The third one is what we mentioned in this report: even distribution of flatness, ultra-thinness, and quality core to achieve a strong sense of driving experience. Therefore, the distribution of the front and rear axles to 50, the lowest center of gravity, and the pure feeling of driving and steering are all derived from here.The fourth aspect that I think we briefly touched on today is the business aspect. As a pure electric architecture, it inherently needs to support a bandwidth range from class A to class D vehicles. Therefore, the steering and automatic systems used have high specifications. For example, our steering system is dual-channel-based on the steering gear, rather than the column VPS commonly used in many models.
For instance, EPS and the braking system, such as the one-box iBoost, revolve purely around the performance and reliability of the pure electric band, allowing the car to showcase its new, ultimate and perfect features.
On this platform, we can achieve a variety of different combinations, wherein the batteries range from 40 to over 100 kWh, and are interchangeable. Specific to a particular model, and intended for a specific user in a specific scenario, you can use any battery without requiring any additional development, for the most part.
The second aspect pertains to the power system, which comprises three electric axes that are interchangeable, with power distributions of 150 kW/250 N·m, 180 kW/350 N·m, and 250 kW/450 N·m. Any of these electric axes can be the primary or secondary drive (four-wheel drive) for a vehicle.
For instance, the Mulan’s 3.8-second acceleration uses a 150 kW in the front and an 180 kW in the back. For instance, for the MG’s other luxury vehicle, which may require a higher power system, a more robust driving system may need to be installed.
In terms of technology, which is better between Mulan’s CTP battery and other CTB batteries?
That’s tough; sometimes it’s hard to say which one is better. To put it simply, it is difficult to provide an answer because distinguishing which is better and which is not may not always be straightforward. Of course, I want to say that our solution is excellent, while others may also be good. However, in promoting their own products, other companies may be neglecting the downsides of their products. This is my perspective.CTP simply skips the module level and directly turns the cell into a pack. As we know, in the past, battery packs were made by SAIC-Iveco Hongyan doing the battery cells and modules, and SAIC-Europe doing the packs. Now, the module level is gone, and the cells from SAIC-Iveco Hongyan directly go to the pack factory of SAIC-Europe, skipping a module process. However, many components and functions related to the module still need to be reflected at the tag level.
CTB stands for cell to body, which means putting the battery cells directly into the car. The pack is not eliminated. For example, some car manufacturers integrate the lower plate with the upper cover of the battery, which has its own advantages, such as saving a little bit of material and corresponding weight for the lower plate. But the problem is that once the upper cover associated with the lower plate is deformed due to the side collision of the vehicle, the battery seal no longer exists. This is a big problem, because repairing a small local deformation caused by collision used to cost a small amount of money, but now the entire battery pack is affected and it becomes very expensive to deal with.
With the battery directly installed in the car, CTB can help improve the stiffness of the car body. But if the whole separate battery pack is screwed onto the car and tightened, it will also improve the stiffness. The amount of stiffness improvement depends on how thick the battery is.
But is there really a need for such high stiffness? Normal cars have a stiffness of about 20,000 newton meters is already good enough. What is the value of having 50,000 or 60,000 or even more? I challenge this idea.
In addition, everyone thinks that electric cars will definitely replace gasoline cars in the future. But imagine that if all cars on the road are electric, and when many cars need to get a quick energy recharge, can CTB be replaced? Then the only option is to charge! Now the most ambitious planned charging power is 350 kW. The cable is thick and requires cooling. The charging cable needs to be cooled before it can be connected to the car. Ordinary women may not even be able to handle it, and it takes 15 to 20 minutes to charge to 80\%.
We know that when I go to a gas station and see a long queue, with one fuel nozzle serving ten cars, I am still confident that I can refill my car in 20 to 30 minutes. But if there are ten or twenty cars in line waiting for one charging post, this is not feasible. CTB does not support this scenario, but fast swapping may be the solution.If we have fast-swapping facilities like gas stations now, where each station has such a fast-swapping device, then this problem is solved. How much does he need to invest? Everyone thinks that investing in a fast-swapping device costs more than investing in a gas station. So from this perspective, we need to see the benefits and problems that technology brings. In the end, we still need to look at the problem from the perspective of the entire industry and the entire industry chain.
Therefore, I do not think CTB is perfect, nor do I think CTP is perfect. They both have their own advantages and disadvantages. In this market competition, everyone competes to achieve the maximum acceptance of users to the greatest extent possible. I think from this perspective, it is difficult to say who is better at a certain point in time.
How to solve residual value? For example, BYD’s blade battery is a unique skill, and everyone hopes to have a unique skill. Recently, the L9 from IDEA allows users to play games in the car, which is a design based on new user needs.
First of all, as for Mulan or any product, I hope that it can become a car model with great influence worldwide. What is more important is its reputation, which is the comprehensive reputation of several aspects under the product. Of course, this kind of reputation is based on its characteristics, based on its label, and based on its unique skills. From this perspective, I think there are two angles to the answer.
The first angle is that Mulan needs to achieve a globally influential position. It is not about selling to a small niche market that conforms to certain characteristics, which may become popular for just one or two years. We believe that it can have a global impact with its comprehensive product strength. Therefore, its first characteristic needs to be that its comprehensive ability is very strong, and it has a long-term reputation in every dimension, including battery safety, vehicle safety, environmental protection, driving experience, styling, etc., as well as its cost-effectiveness, configuration, and production line. I think this is the first aspect of our product management of this product.
The second aspect is its uniqueness and unique skills. We think that its uniqueness is more of the features of the product itself, which are aimed at targeting the target audience of this crossover vehicle. As for its unique skills, I think we have talked about them a lot. To some extent, each of them can be regarded as its unique skill.
The first one is the five-star recharge pattern, which can be easily understood by everyone. It can be completed in two minutes for recharging and swapping.The second change in this lifestyle refers to the option to rent a battery with a lower capacity, say 400 km, for a cheaper rental fee, and switch to a battery with a higher capacity, say 600 km, when going on a longer trip. Such a switch could be completed within two minutes at any of our battery swapping stations, bringing about a comprehensive transformation in the way people use and live with their vehicles.
As for the third change, it involves a radical reform in the system used to evaluate our cars’ residual values. In the past, people tended to associate electric cars with poor residual values, as old battery technologies could easily become obsolete when newer and more advanced ones emerged. However, we can now continuously upgrade our batteries, not just for a single car, but for all the products within the SAIC system, offering consumers greater flexibility and choice. By taking good care of our batteries, we can ensure they maintain their lifespan, while the overall value of our cars remains high in the market. These three features bring about a complete change in the consumers’ perception of the value, use, and recharging methods of electric cars.
The transformation brought about by these changes may not be as straightforward as it seems superficially, but as experienced media professionals, I believe you will understand the complicated logic behind them. Regarding the battery swapping system, it is not a matter of randomly swapping different batteries for each car. As Chairman Zhou mentioned, the swapping system is like a Rubik’s cube, it can display various colors and shapes, but the overall structure remains the same. It is an impressive feature besides the hard power of the products themselves.
Zhu also mentioned his special talent, making the battery cells into long plates, which greatly increases their energetic density while keeping them safe from diffusion and explosion.He also claimed that its battery cells were originally very safe and would not malfunction, but recently some cars have still had various problems, so I don’t think I have reached the level of expertise in this regard.
Next, we want to build a Rubik’s Cube battery that can be shared by all car models, creating a super ecosystem. This is not only a competitive strategy around cars and models, but also a practice that attracts competitive appeal in terms of our manufacturing system, ownership service system, material reuse, etc. This will lead to many industries thinking about whether to join this super ecosystem and reap the benefits since it makes our costs highly competitive.
This car considered internationalization right from the start. We considered the climate in Norway, where the weather is very cold, and our charging port and doors are beautiful but could get frozen. Germans have driving preferences, and they want their cars to be able to reach a maximum of 200km etc.
Who are our competitors? Our competitors are the A-class cars currently sold in the mainstream European market, such as Golf.
Our costs must be comparable to or slightly higher than theirs, but our performance must fully surpass them. Therefore, if we only pursue small inventions and functions, such as recently a car that claimed to provide 220 V AC, I think these things are not enough to answer the challenge of becoming a globally competitive electric vehicle without the need for state subsidies or consumer sacrifices to achieve it. So our development philosophy still hopes to be able to fully replace fuel cars with electric cars, without the need for state subsidies, and without requiring consumers to make sacrifices to achieve this technological product.
We have two competitive expectations for him.
The first competitive expectation is that we hope, when we set this goal, in Europe and China, we can replace the most mainstream fuel cars, represented by Golf. Of course, our car will definitely be more expensive, and this is within a reasonable range of increasing the corresponding price. Originally, this has been realized in China because the entire pure electric ecosystem has already been realized. We think this car has the ability to compete with fuel cars in Europe.
The other competitive expectation is in the pure electric car category, and our original goal was Tesla’s Model 2. Of course, from the perspective of architecture and the overall vehicle, it is relatively close in size to us. I think we are still quite confident in the comprehensive performance, including acceleration, handling, and other aspects.
At present, there are already products like ID.3 in the global market with similar size and positioning, which are relatively close overall. But I think Musk may be quite anxious recently because the car has not yet been released, and we followed this matter a few years ago as well.Q6: Reasons for Layout Battery Swapping.
The super ecosystem of the Magic Cube battery is a very big game-changer that will bring about changes in many user consumption concepts. However, if you provide this service well, it will be very good. Therefore, we are working very hard to establish this ecosystem. It is not only a matter of money, but also other aspects. We are very serious about this.
Because there are two cases for separating car and battery now. One is that Beijing’s taxis only swap one battery for one taxi. The second is NIO. They have launched a battery of a certain size that can be swapped between 75 kWh and 100 kWh, and the proportion of battery swapping is quite high and very popular.
Therefore, NIO is building battery swapping stations, which are very open and available to others but can only be used with batteries of this specification. This type of battery cannot be used for cars like the Mulan. However, the vast majority of users in China still have relatively small cars, mainly low-roofed cars. In this case, it is difficult to establish an ecosystem.
Our thinking is that one battery swapping station can serve all cars. This concept has been well accepted by the current oil companies. Gas pumps can pump 92/95 gasoline, and our battery swapping stations can also be different in thickness, but can be used on the same swapping facilities. Therefore, we will soon have announcements about facilities, battery swapping technology, battery swapping network, and the leasing and financing patterns after the separation of car and battery. Heavyweight players will join together to participate in this matter. This is all I can say.
The Nebula platform and the Mount Everest platform will not only land on MG, but also on other brands. I think I talked to you guys about our M-level entering the precipitated market a year or two ago. We were still cautious. We hoped that every car would be carefully positioned. The entry of the product had a complete plan, careful preparation, and clear positioning. Therefore, today’s Mulan is global, with breadth and comprehensive product strength. I believe in its comprehensive product competitiveness.
Mulan is broad-based, and there will be follow-up depth-based products that can better reflect MG’s characteristics and demonstrate MG’s higher-end product performance. If the epidemic does not affect this, it may have already been launched. If it is affected by the epidemic, we may postpone it to next month. Around MG, it is not only about pure electric products. In the future, some new ideas on the high-end layout of this sub-series and on this new series will also be presented.
The pure electric convertible sports car Cyberster and the high-end fuel model codenamed IP42 will also be unveiled this year. We will present the complete planning of other products to you in the subsequent MG Brand Day.
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.