Author: Xu Jinkai
“Extended-range technology can only be a temporary transitional technology. With the development of the new energy industry, extended-range technology will gradually be replaced by pure electric vehicles.”
This has always been the industry’s attitude towards extended-range technology, but no one can say for sure when this “outdated technology” will be completely replaced.
Before that, Feng Sihan, CEO of Volkswagen Group (China), and Li Ruifeng, CEO of Great Wall WEY, both publicly stated that “extended-range technology is an outdated technology.” However, this did not hinder the market support for this technology.
According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers’ “Development Report on China’s Extended-range Electric Vehicle Industry” previously released, it is expected that by 2025, the sales of extended-range electric vehicles are expected to exceed 500,000 units.
In addition to Ideanomics, LanTu, Geely, Shenlan, and Wenjie laying out extended-range models, recently, Leapmotor and Neta have also launched new vehicles with extended-range technology.
With more and more players joining, the market share of extended-range technology will also rapidly expand.
Since it is an “outdated transitional technology,” why are so many brands vying to lay out in this market?
Cost reduction forces Leapmotor and Neta to choose “outdated extended-range technology”
For those familiar with the development of the automotive industry, extended-range technology is not unfamiliar.
As early as 2010, GM launched the Chevrolet Volt extended-range version in North America, which was the world’s first mass-produced extended-range electric vehicle.
A few years later, Buick also launched the VELITE 5 extended-range version and started selling it in the Chinese market. BMW also introduced the BMW i3 extended-range version into the Chinese market in 2013.
However, these models all failed to avoid the fate of being discontinued.
In my opinion, GM and BMW hit the wall with extended-range electric vehicles because the market’s recognition of “electric vehicles” was not enough at that time, and the selling price of the extended-range version was too high.
Among them, the official guide price of VELITE 5 extended-range version is RMB 265,800-295,800, while the selling price of BMW i3 extended-range version is as high as RMB 520,000, which is a full RMB 70,000 more than the pure electric version of i3 at that time.“`
According to the conventional understanding, the extended-range models have both traditional internal combustion engines and a set of electric drive systems, and it is normal for the price to be higher than the ordinary models, but this logic does not apply to a group of new energy vehicle brands.
“Power battery costs account for 40%, 50%, 60% of new energy vehicles, and are constantly rising. Battery costs account for 60% of a vehicle. Aren’t I working for CATL now?”
At the 2022 World Power Battery Conference, Guangzhou Automobile Group Chairman Zeng Qinghong’s complaint presented the state of the new energy industry to the world.
As of now, almost all new energy vehicle companies except for Tesla and BYD are losing money.
Car companies who do not want to “work for battery factories” choose extended-range technology to reduce the production cost of vehicles.
Take the upcoming ORA C11 extended-range version as an example. The car is equipped with a 43.74 kWh battery pack, which can achieve a pure electric range of 285 km under the CLTC test cycle.
In contrast, the ORA C11 pure electric version is equipped with a 78 kWh battery pack (510 km range) and an 89 kWh battery pack (610 km range), which is almost twice that of the extended-range version.
If calculated according to the proportion of battery costs accounting for 60% of the entire vehicle cost, the cost of the halved battery pack has already decreased by 30%. Calculated based on the price of the ORA C11 executive version of 198,800 yuan, more than 50,000 yuan can be saved, and this part can be replaced with sufficient extended-range technology.
Replacing expensive battery packs with lower-cost extended-range technology to reduce prices is the original intention of new brands such as ORA and NIO to develop extended-range models.
With the decrease in the price of extended-range models, ORA and NIO will not only have stronger market competitiveness but also can quickly turn around the continuous loss situation of the enterprise.
The development potential of extended-range technology is not great and will eventually be replaced
From the perspective of the development of the entire industry, the ideal form of the development of the automobile industry should be a combination of “solar energy + pure electric” and “hydrogen fuel cell vehicles”.
Electric hybrid power and range-extended technologies are both transitional technologies that will eventually be phased out by the industry. However, in terms of development potential, plug-in hybrid power has greater potential. In other words, plug-in hybrid power will exist for much longer than range-extended power. Technically speaking, the range-extended power uses a series-connected engine and generator, and the energy efficiency of the engine and generator determines the overall efficiency of the system. The plug-in hybrid power has multiple combinations such as series and parallel, which can achieve different combinations in different scenarios and minimize the energy consumption of vehicles. !(https://42how-com.oss-cn-beijing.aliyuncs.com/article/image_20230218225940.png) In addition, the plug-in hybrid power can adjust the proportion of direct drive of the engine, electric motor, and common drive according to different performance requirements of vehicles. The two types of hybrid systems under the BYD brand, DM-P oriented towards performance and DM-i oriented towards economy, achieve completely different effects through corresponding adjustments. It is obvious that plug-in hybrid power has more combination methods and can achieve more functional scenarios. Perhaps this is the main reason why Volkswagen and other brands have abandoned range-extended power and turned to developing plug-in hybrid models. Having a relatively single scenario does not mean that range-extended power has no potential for development. Efforts can be made to improve the efficiency of the whole range-extended power system from the following aspects: - The first is to improve the thermal efficiency of the internal combustion engine; - The second is to improve the energy conversion of the electric motor; - The third is to develop new batteries with flash charging and discharging to improve battery life; - The fourth is to optimize the kinetic energy recovery system to increase the conversion of electrical energy. For new car brands such as Ideal, ZERO, and NIO, purchasing engines with higher thermal efficiency and better stability is a crucial step, as far as the cost is concerned. For brands such as Lynk & Co and Nissan, which use e-POWER, their internal combustion engine technology support gives them a greater initiative. In addition to requirements for internal combustion engines, the energy conversion of electric motors and the battery's charging and discharging capacity also constrain the development of the entire system. ```Compared with pure electric vehicles, range-extender vehicles have significantly increased charging times, which puts new requirements on the battery of range-extender vehicles. In addition, vehicle movement during driving is a dynamic process. On the one hand, it is necessary to control the smoothness of the vehicle, and on the other hand, it is important to improve the efficiency of converting kinetic energy into electrical energy during braking. This is an important way for both pure electric and range-extender vehicles to improve their range. Improving the thermal efficiency of engines and the energy efficiency of kinetic energy conversion are both relatively limited. Recently, Dongfeng Motors released their new Mah 1.5T hybrid engine, which has a thermal efficiency of **45.18\%**, making it the most efficient gasoline engine in the automotive industry. If this engine were installed in the Lantu brand, the efficiency of Lantu's range-extender system would be improved. However, such improvements are limited. In a series-connected range-extender system, the energy provided by the engine will also be lost due to generator consumption. From the perspective of the entire system, the improvement in energy efficiency is still limited. Aside from the difficulty in improving energy efficiency, both range-extender and plug-in hybrid vehicles face challenges in maintenance and repair in the later stages. Previously, domestic media conducted long-term testing on Ideal ONE, which showed oil leakage from the engine after driving **100,000** km and severe carbon accumulation problems. It is clear that the development dilemma of the range-extender vehicle is that, in addition to improving the overall efficiency of the range-extender system, maintenance of the range-extender system and the three-electric system is equally troublesome. ## Technical thinking does not equal market thinking, but range-extender vehicles can gain market recognition As experts such as Feng Sihan and Li Ruifeng have said, from a technical development perspective, range-extender vehicles are indeed a kind of overly outdated technology, which is more widely used in low-speed electric vehicles. Unlike the use of more advanced lithium-ion battery technology in the current passenger car market, low-speed electric vehicles with lower prices generally use lower-cost lead-acid batteries. Compared with lithium-ion batteries, the characteristics of larger size, smaller capacity, and more rapid decay of lead-acid batteries will have a certain impact on vehicle range.``` To address this situation, many manufacturers of low-speed electric vehicles have reserved space in the engine compartment for installing range extenders in the future. According to findings from the iResearch website, the price of a range extender specifically designed for low-speed electric vehicles is generally in the range of seven or eight hundred yuan, which is an affordable solution to solving the issue of short battery life in low-speed electric vehicles. The same logic applies to pure electric passenger cars that have range anxiety. Although charging stations have been widely popularized, concerns about long-distance travel anxiety, damaged charging stations, and the allocation of charging stations to gasoline vehicles still exist, leading some cautious consumers to prefer hybrid models. Range extenders are one of their choices. "Many car owners don't care about the technology route or whether it's 'burning oil' or 'burning electricity' as long as the requirements for solving license plate numbers, affordable prices, and reduced mileage anxiety are met," said an owner of Ideal ONE. In addition to solving many car owners' concerns, range extenders that are used for short trips via electricity and long trips via gasoline can also greatly reduce consumers' vehicle usage costs. "From the analysis of range data, more than 68% of users drive less than 50 kilometers per day, and 70% of users complete charging in their own parking spaces. Leading Ideal ONE thinks to address every technology to the users' requirements. Our strategy for range extenders is to make the electrical part the best it can be, while gasoline serves as a backup and supplement," said Zhu Jiangming, chairman of Leading Ideal. For most owners of range extended vehicles: During the work week, the vehicle is purely electric, since the pure electric range of the range extender can meet the needs of most consumers going to and from work. However, during holidays, the range extended model can avoid waiting in line to charge at service stations. This is the main reason why range extenders are gaining consumer recognition. From the perspective of technical development, the potential of range extenders is limited, but this does not prevent them from meeting the needs of a large number of consumers and their lower costs can also greatly improve the poor profitability of various new energy companies. This is the fundamental reason why range extenders can gain market recognition.
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