With the expanding market of new energy automobile, have the domestic automobiles entered the first tier of the industry?

With the transformation of science and technology, new energy automobiles have become the backbone of the transformation and upgrading of the automobile industry. The new automobile manufacturing companies such as NIO, XPeng Motors, ONE, Leapmotor and Weltmeister are all experiencing rapid development, and have successively obtained a large amount of funds.

What unprecedented development opportunities will the domestic new energy automobile industry usher in? As a pilot area of new energy automobiles, what position is Zhejiang province in? Which segments will meet a new round of development?

JIN Jun, Associate Professor of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, School of Management at Zhejiang University, has deeply studied the innovation ability and development path of new energy and automobile industry for many years, and recently has conducted an in-depth analysis in an interview with Zheshang Magazine.



According to the statistics, China topped the sales list of new energy automobiles with an annual sale of 330,000 automobiles in 2015, becoming the worlds largest new energy automobile market. In your opinion, can China become a big country of new energy automobiles?

JIN Jun: The term "big country" would draw attention to the size of the market. Therefore, I personally believe that the term "big country" cannot correctly describe the future development of the new energy automobile industry of China. The development of new energy automobile industry is closely linked with many industries, and it is an industry integrating a variety of new technology applications, which needs to be promoted by the coordinated development of relevant industrial chains.

It is no doubt that the new energy automobile market of China is huge and has broad prospects. In terms of market size, China will lead the world in the production, inventory and sales of new energy automobiles in the world. In view of Chinas huge population base and the Chinese governments quota system for fuel vehicle sales, traditional multinational automobile enterprises are very willing to carry out market-oriented development and promotion of new energy automobiles in China.

With the release of the New Energy Automobile Industry Development Plan (2021-2035) and the introduction of the Opinions on Carbon Emission, it is believed that Chinas new energy automobile industry will have faster and stronger development.


What do you think of the development status of domestic new energy automobile industry?

JIN Jun: In terms of the level of new energy automobiles, on the A00 level / A0 level and the small-sized electro mobiles (such as ZD, Wuling MINI EV), Chinese automobile enterprises will occupy a dominant position in the market based on the highly subversive energy creation and localized business model for the market at this level.

In the A level new energy automobile market, local auto enterprises are slightly ahead of foreign auto enterprises by their advantage in entering the market early and their understanding of Chinese consumers. However, Chinese auto companies are comparatively weak in auto industry design and platform architecture, which will affect the long-term development of local brands in this level of market.

If our auto enterprises can grow larger and stronger through mergers, we will have an advantage in the A level new energy automobile market. In the B level new energy automobile market, affected by the stickiness of foreign brands and the weak industrial design and platform architecture ability of Chinese auto enterprises, local brands are still at a relative disadvantage. And in C level (SUV) new energy automobile market, only a few of them are domestic enterprises, and most of them are joint venture brands.

Therefore, once Chinese auto enterprises improve their R&D and industrial design capabilities, Chinese brands will have broader development space and potential in B and C level new energy automobile markets.

From the perspective of manufacturers of key spare parts, Chinese enterprises are in a leading position in the world in terms of electric batteries. On the one hand, China has strong technical capacity, represented by BYD and CATL. On the other hand, China has a first mover advantage in the development and production of electric batteries. Moreover, Chinas huge new energy automobile market has triggered a large demand for electric batteries, which has promoted the development of battery technology by Chinese enterprises. And lastly, the development trend of new energy distributed generation will also expand the application market of electric batteries and promote the embedding of electric batteries in the new energy power network.

In hydrogen energy batteries and other batteries, it is difficult to predict their development due to immature technology and high marketization cost. However, with the introduction of the latest plan for the development of hydrogen energy automobiles in China and the pilot of hydrogen energy public transport for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, it will promote the breakthrough and market-oriented application of hydrogen energy battery technology in China. I believe that China will take the lead in this aspect in the future. In particular, China has better systems to build and improve the infrastructure system required for the development of hydrogen energy automobiles.

In the field of automobile chips, although our domestic automobile enterprises are at a disadvantage, we have the ability to surpass and catch up. In September last year, national departments of our country took the lead in establishing the China Automobile Chip Industry Innovation Strategic Alliance, aiming to accelerate China to become a global automotive chip innovation and industrial highland. If our local auto enterprises can realize a breakthrough in chip technology, it will bring great benefits to the global automotive industry.


In your opinion, which position is Zhejiang province in China‘s new energy automobile industry? Are Geely, Leapmotor, Weltmeister, SKIO and other automobile enterprises from Zhejiang expected to enter the first echelon of domestic new energy automobile enterprises?

JIN Jun: The new energy automobile industry of Zhejiang has a relatively complete industrial chain, with enterprise layout in battery, mold, control system, passenger vehicles and buses, and other related fields. Also, there are many special automobile service companies such as AutoNavi. However, Zhejiangs new energy auto enterprises are not in the first tier as a whole at the moment.

But this does not mean that it is not the first tier in the future. For example, Geely Group has arranged multiple brands in the new energy automobile industry to compete with other auto enterprises in the high, medium and low-end markets. In addition, Geely Group has a number of self-developed new energy automobile architecture platforms, innovation centers and its own design companies. Through strategic cooperation with Volvo, Geely Group continues to improve its design ability and effective utilization of internal and external technologies. From the perspective of the overall strength of the Group, Geely has entered the top ten of new energy automobiles and has the potential to become a leading enterprise in the first tier in the future. Its brands Polestar and Volvo will also occupy one place in the top ten of B level and C level new energy automobile markets.

In addition to Geely, NETA of Hozon New Energy Automobile is also expected to be among the first tier. In the ranking of new energy passenger vehicles in September this year, two types of NETA vehicles ranked 21st and 35th respectively, with a total sales volume of 42,427 in the first nine months, and the company ranked 12th among the auto enterprises. If the enterprise can make good use of the technical advantages of Hozon, it is very likely to enter the first tier.

Leapmotor and SKIO, which entered the field of new energy automobiles earlier, need to continue to grow stronger to enter the first tier. Leapmotor is a derivative of Dahua company and has technical advantages. However, in regards the experience of the companys founder, its understanding of the automotive industry needs to be further improved. In the sales ranking of new energy passenger vehicles in September this year, two types among 165 Leapmotor models ranked 27th and 149th respectively in the list. From the current ranking and market reshuffle, there is still a large gap between the enterprise and the first tier auto enterprises such as Tesla, BYD and NIO.

SKIO, which entered the new energy automobile market earlier in Zhejiang, has become the party subject to enforcement due to share dispute. For an enterprise with financial disputes, its sustainable development is risky.


Compared with other regions, what are the first mover advantages of developing new energy automobile industry in Zhejiang? What development bottlenecks are currently facing?

JIN Jun: As a pilot area of new energy automobile industry, Zhejiang has advantages in new energy automobile innovation system, industrial network, charging and switching infrastructure promotion, and has the experience in both charging and switching modes.

In the development process of new energy automobile industry, local auto enterprises still have some problems in technology of stranglehold, industrial design and production, and there are cross effects between different problems. For example, the current market competitiveness of new energy automobile products is insufficient, because enterprises lack industrial design ability and independent new energy automobile enterprise architecture platform, and the lack of ability in these two fields leads to the lack of novelty in appearance design, interior decoration and space design of domestic new energy automobiles.

It needs to be emphasized that both the R&D of architecture platform and the improvement of industrial design ability need years of training and investment. Excellent professional talents can only be cultivated after years of edification and technical accumulation in aesthetics and industry. In addition, how to recycle the batteries of new energy automobiles and how to ensure network and information security in the process of intellectualization, networking and electrification of new energy automobiles are also important key issues to be solved in the sustainable development of the industry.


What will be the next major opportunity for new energy automobile industry?

JIN Jun: The new energy truck market will be the next important starting point for the next new energy automobile industry. According to the national policy, fuel automobiles will gradually withdraw from the market in the future, which will bring great market opportunities for new energy automobile industry. In addition, with the increase of the proportion of new energy in the power system, more and more ways of energy storage and power consumption are needed, and new energy automobiles can play the role of energy storage and power output. Therefore, new energy automobiles will not only be one of the green transportation tools, but also one of the tools for energy storage and power consumption in the future, which will be an important secondary energy source and play an important role in the future power system.

The construction of infrastructure such as charging and switching stations, hydrogenation stations and charging piles will usher in an explosive demand for the new energy automobile. Fuel cells and nuclear energy cells such as hydrogen energy and biofuels may be used as new power cells for new energy automobiles in the future. Although there are high technical risks and high uncertainties, and it is impossible to realize a large-scale commercialization in a short time, they will still have great market potential.

For example, although hydrogen energy technology is still in the early stage of commercialization, hydrogen energy is a priority field funded by local governments. Several provinces and cities have put forward hydrogen energy development plans to encourage the R&D and marketization of hydrogen energy automobiles, hydrogen energy automobile related technologies and infrastructure.

The above is the translation of the interview publishing in the 369th issue of Zheshang Magazine in November 2021.

Picture source: Qianku