Why does it take five years for the development of Buick Electra E5?
I am curious about this because in the new energy vehicle industry, the development period is usually compressed to 3-4 years. The development of Buick Electra E5 still takes 5 years, even with the advantage of the Altium platform that saves a lot of time and cost for product development.
To understand this issue, we need to know what a car goes through before it is mass-produced and sold to consumers.
The Birth of a Mass-Produced Car
By searching through basic search engines, I have learned about this long and complicated process:
1. Concept Design
This includes determining the basic requirements of the vehicle such as appearance, function, and performance, as well as market positioning and pricing. Of course, market research needs to be conducted before the concept design. This process is roughly divided into three major stages: overall layout, styling design, and production of clay models.
2. Engineering Design
During the engineering design phase, the vehicle’s appearance, structure, and function are designed based on the requirements of the concept design, and computer simulation is performed to ensure the feasibility of the vehicle design.
3. Vehicle Testing
In the vehicle trial production phase, a relatively complete prototype of the vehicle is manufactured and tested according to the requirements of the vehicle design to ensure its reliability and performance.
The trial production car will undergo wind tunnel tests and durability tests, including testing in a test field and on the road. The ultimate goal of vehicle testing is to meet the reliability requirements of national standards and the manufacturer’s own requirements, and to expose defects for repair before mass production.
4. Mass Production
During the mass production phase, a large number of vehicles are manufactured according to the requirements of the vehicle design, and quality inspections are performed to ensure that the vehicles meet the relevant national laws and regulations.
Finally, a model that meets the national regulatory requirements and has passed all tests can be delivered to consumers.
The Many Challenges of Testing
# Buick Electra E5 Battery Safety and Parts Durability Testing
As a traditional giant in the automotive industry, Buick strictly follows the development process for their products, including the Buick Electra E5. However, in the era of pure electric vehicles, the safety of the vehicle and battery is closely related, and the testing standards for the Buick Electra E5 battery are quite strict and time-consuming:
- The interior of the Buick Electra E5 battery uses a “well” shaped reinforcement structure, and A, B, C columns are simulated for collision in any position.
Battery Thermal Diffusion Test:
- National standards require ＞ 0 ℃, while low temperature affects the battery’s activity, causing insufficient energy release.
- The initial temperature required for battery thermal diffusion testing at SAIC General Motors is 45 ℃ or higher.
Battery Extrusion Test (simulating the damage of the battery pack when the vehicle is hit from the front or side):
- National standards require 100 kN of compression force.
- The Altenergy platform requires no abnormality in the battery when it is under 300 kN (equivalent to 30.6 tons) of compression force and is fully charged.
Battery Drop Test:
- National standards require a height of 1 meter.
- The Altenergy platform requires no abnormality in the battery pack after it has been dropped from a height of 2 meters.
Battery Puncture Test:
- National standards require no fire or explosion within 5 minutes.
- Simulating the extreme case of a short circuit inside the battery cell, the Altenergy battery pack was tested and showed no open flames, no explosion, and no thermal diffusion after being punctured.
Battery Salt Spray Corrosion Test:
- National standards require 7 days.
- For Buick Electra E5, it is 75 days.
Battery Fire Test:
- National standards require 60s of flame burning without any exceptions.
- Buick Electra E5 requires 130s.
In addition to the safety testing of the battery pack, Buick also conducted durability testing on the components:
The door handle underwent 100,000 cycle tests using upward and downward abuse force of 1,000 N, which is equivalent to an adult weighing 102 kg sitting on the door handle. Finally, the breaking force of the Buick Electra E5 door handle can be up to 110N.
The seat has a simulated human entry and exit cycle lifespan of 35,000 times, which is equivalent to 20 years of use fatigue when calculated as 5 times per day entering and exiting the vehicle.
Of course, Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center also conducted complex testing and adjustments for the comfort performance of the Buick Electra E5 for General Motors.- Chassis tuning
Before launching, 120-160 schemes are generated by various combinations of suspension system shock absorber valve system, spring, bushing and other parts, and then through strict inspection process and bench validation, find a vibration reduction scheme that can deal with various road conditions and take into account the handling. The whole process takes 6 months.
- Seat tuning
Seat vibration and noise test: The vibration frequency and amplitude parameters of different types of harsh road conditions are collected in the vibration noise test room. By simulating the vehicle driving state with high-frequency vibration of the vibration table, the comfort of the seat is evaluated.
Pressure distribution test: Test the pressure distribution of the human body in different areas on the cushion and backrest. The robot compares the pressure distribution detection of the seat with the set target curve, so as to clarify the direction of improvement of the seat comfort.
- Acoustic tuning
In the design and development process, a series of tests and evaluations of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) performance of vehicles are required to be conducted in the vibration noise test room to improve the performance.
Electric vehicle howling test: Evaluate the motor and gear howling unique to electric vehicles at the vehicle level. It is said that Buick Electra E5 has an additional sound-absorbing device on the outside of the motor.
- Olfactory tuning
Whole vehicle emission test in sun exposure environment: Simulate sun exposure environment to ensure that the air temperature inside the vehicle reaches 45℃-55℃, the temperature of the central control panel reaches more than 65℃, and keep it for nearly 4 hours to test the air quality inside the development stage and mass-produced vehicles.
Emission test of parts/materials: Verify whether it meets the general standards by detecting volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds and hazardous substances of parts with various professional instruments.
Subjective odor evaluation: The “Golden Nose Team” members subjectively evaluate the odor of materials, parts, and vehicles to minimize the possibility of odor production and bring higher satisfaction to users.
The last challenge, durability testing
Buick Electra E5 is the first product under Buick’s Altenergy pure electric platform. Buick has conducted more than equivalent to 4 million kilometers of vehicle durability testing.“`
At the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC) Research and Development Test Center (Guangde), which we call “Pan Asia Guangde Test Center,” we conducted endurance testing equivalent to 3.6 million kilometers.
We experienced acceleration, braking, and various obstacle tests on Belgian roads, corroded roads, and unpaved roads, as well as simulations of large bumps and railway tracks.
Overall, my experience riding in the Buick Electra E5 from the passenger seat was “atypical American.”
First of all, the overall sporty seats provided good support, with slightly firmer cushions. Unlike the previous American-style sofas, they feel more like European cars.
The tire size is 20-inch with 20% aspect ratio, with tire pressure around 2.8 Bar. The suspension tuning of the entire car is different from the traditional “American” comfortable and soft direction, and it remains relatively firm overall. There is relatively good support and less body roll. There are more fine vibrations, but on Belgian cobblestone roads, the suspension can hold the car and resolve larger impacts.
For a SUV in the 200,000 RMB range, the NVH is relatively good. It’s not a strength for a car in the 300,000 RMB range.
Actually, when I first arrived at the Pan Asia Guangde Test Center, I was in awe of its scale. It covers 5.67 square kilometers and was the largest testing ground in Asia for a long time.
In addition, there are many disguised vehicles inside the test center that are not Buick or SAIC models, clearly from new players. This scene is not interesting for employees, as most new players do not have such a large-scale test center and come here to borrow the site for data accumulation.Today, while talking to a person from Buick in a car, we discussed the development cycle of the whole vehicle. According to the Global Vehicle Development Process (GVDP), Buick Electra E5 has a period of 5 years.
Originally, this period was quite normal, but for emerging players in the market, this number has been compressed to 3-4 years.
Where did these new companies compress time? I hope it is not the testing and verification part.
After reading this article, I believe you will find that the development and verification of the whole vehicle is a long-term battlefield for dozens of sections to coordinate testing, and it is a game of quantity. There are no shortcuts available.
Buick Electra E5’s 5-year period was developed according to strict standards under the General Motors system, which is Buick’s confidence.
Of course, we need to see the market’s long-term verification and feedback to prove the farsightedness of this standard, but I think most impatient consumers may not pay too much attention to it.
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.