General Motors finds fertile grounds in China for EV

Discussion in 'Chevrolet' started by britjames, Jun 5, 2018.

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  1. britjames

    britjames New Member

    Taking a cue from the growing penchant for alternative energy vehicles in China, General Motors is ramping up its electric vehicle program there. The Chinese arm of the company has doubled the target for new models to be rolled out over a period of five years. The current target is 20 new models – comprising 10 fully electrified models to be launched through 2023 and 10 models the company had announced earlier for a four-year program starting 2016.
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  3. altfuelcarguy

    altfuelcarguy Member

    I recently traveled in China and I observed their superb network of fast charge stations along their freeways. However, I never once saw one being used. I later learned that because so many people in China live in high-rise apartment buildings, they don't have the possibility of charging at home. So battery cars haven't taken off (although battery-powered Vespa-like scooters are everywhere). I'm thinking that for zero-emissions EVs H2 cars might work better there. They can be refueled quickly at centralized fueling stations, no need for home-based overnight charging equipment.
  4. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    Sadly, this is quite true. Most Chinese live in apartments, without any adjacent parking lot. They would have to walk to get to wherever they could park for the night. Therefore, they don't have an assigned parking place. Even worse, it's a red-tape nightmare to get the local electric utility to approve installing an EV charging point, even if they can arrange with a parking lot owner to get a reserved parking spot.

    EV scooters have removable batteries, so the scooter "driver" can take the battery home with them to recharge in their apartment.

    The Chinese central government is pushing people to buy plug-in EVs pretty hard, but they are mostly being bought for government fleets, and it's not clear that those are being driven much. Maybe they're mostly just getting parked in fleet parking lots and ignored.

    The exception would be Chinese who are rich enough to afford their own private home, with off-street parking, where they can install an EV charger on their own property. That is where the Chinese market is for Tesla cars.

    China has a thoroughly ingrained culture of corruption, with petty officials expecting to be bribed in order to approve anything, and also needing to have their arse kissed repeatedly before they will approve something that ought to be simple and routine. The authority of the central Chinese government goes only so far; the political influence-peddling by the Prefecture governments and the local civil authorities -- which now includes the electric utilities -- is something that has persisted for centuries. Many parts of the Chinese culture have proven very resistant to change, and it's going to be very difficult for China to modernize those parts of its culture. Corruption is also rampant in Chinese manufacturing, such as counterfeiting of parts, especially electronics parts.

    Until there is a fundamental cultural change, it's going to be very difficult for China to adopt plug-in EV automobiles on a widespread basis, and it's also going to be very difficult for China compete in the international market for such things as automobiles and consumer electronics.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
  5. Domenick

    Domenick Administrator Staff Member

    NIO is taking the battery-swapping approach (along with fast charging) to get around the refueling problem. Though many would be quick to say that it won't work (because, mainly, of the massive failure of Better Place) I think it might be feasible, depending on exactly how it's done.

    Battery swapping seems to be working out for Gogoro in Taiwan. sure, those are for scooters, but if the battery is sold or financed separately fromm the car, it 's not important to get "your" battery back at some point. This was a fail point in Tesla's swapping plan. No one wanted to swap because it also involved eventually going back and claiming your original battery again. The logistics get pretty messy.

    What's really needed is batteries that can take on a week's worth of commuting (say, 60 kWh worth to 80% to keep the charging speed high) in about 10 minutes. It's coming. It's just not coming fast enough.
  6. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    (Project) Better Place's business plan really shocked me. I've never run a business, and I don't consider myself a "financial guy", but even I could see it was doomed to failure. The problem with a battery swapping subscription service, at least the way Better Place tried to do it, is that the upfront cost -- for building out a network of battery swapping stations to service whatever area your subscribers will want to drive in -- is much too high to be amortized by any reasonable monthly subscription fee. BP (Better Place) wound up with a monthly subscription fee so high it basically wiped out the advantage from using (relatively) cheap electricity instead of (relatively) expensive gasoline to power your car.

    As it turned out, the only thing I was surprised at, with BP going bankrupt, is that it happened even sooner than I had predicted.

    Now, that's not to say that it's impossible for a battery swapping scheme to work. I've read that some small companies in China do (or did a few years ago) offer battery swapping for BEVs powered by lead-acid batteries. What I've read is that those batteries come in modules, so the customer can carry one or more modules into the shop and carry out freshly charged ones. That would suggest that swapping the batteries is something that one could do easily and quickly, possibly without tools.

    Presumably those BEVs are for very local use only; perhaps what we would consider a low-speed NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) here in the U.S. If the battery modules can be carried by hand, they can't weigh that much and therefore wouldn't give the car much range.

    Oh, and once upon a time -- 1910s-1920s, maybe? -- there was an EV battery swapping service in Chicago. Presumably that was also only for very local usage, using the low-speed electric cars of that era.

    There are, as you say, a few companies which do sell BEVs without the battery pack, and only rent or lease the packs. It's an interesting approach to financing, but I have noticed that several companies which oritinaly announced plans for selling BEVs but renting/leasing battery packs, wound up not doing that. That seems to indicate that most entrepreneurs/ businessmen can't see how to make a profit doing that.

    But that's not to say there can't be a niche market where battery swapping might be successful.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2018
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  8. Domenick

    Domenick Administrator Staff Member

    I believe Renault, among others, has done the financing battery separately thing. I'm not generally in favor of this tactic, but it makes sense if you're constantly swapping different packs.

    If you always have the same pack, I really don't get the point.
  9. gooki

    gooki Active Member

    My concern with battery swapping station rollout is you are locking your vehicle designs down to a very specific format. With the pace of change in th EV world this seems unwise.
  10. gooki

    gooki Active Member

    This is my understanding of Chinese culture. There appears to be some cultural shift going on in the educated populace, but it’s not penetrating local government. I have some great stories to tell about the issues one major vehicle manufacturer faces on a daily basis selling in China, but NDAs mean I’ll have to keep them to myself.
  11. Domenick

    Domenick Administrator Staff Member

    If you can share but not mention the specific manufacturers name it may be ok to discuss. Unless, of course, if the events of the story might make the manufacturer obvious.
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  13. altfuelcarguy

    altfuelcarguy Member

    Actually, all you are locking in is the chassis. It's like going back to the day when there were chassis builders and coach builders. The latest thinking is that the platform for evs will be fungible; the variables will be body and interior design, and suspension details.

    Sent from my SM-N910V using Inside EVs mobile app
  14. gooki

    gooki Active Member

    And what if a manufacturer wants to change from pouch cell to cyclindrical? Do you really want your new chassis design to be limited by the battery swap stations you've already built?
  15. gooki

    gooki Active Member

    Manufacturer is unable to offer vehicle finance until squeaky cog is greased. Squeaky cog needs regular greasing, think every couple of weeks.
    Domenick likes this.
  16. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    I don't think that's going to be the limitation. Battery swap stations are already capable of shifting the position of the swapping mechanism in two axes. Adding the capability of removing/installing bolts located at different places, according to specs stored in the computer, shouldn't make it much more complex or much more expensive. The station would merely need one or (for faster speed) two robotic arms with pneumatically operated impact wrenches (aka air guns), and I would guess a laser scanner to accurately find the center of the bolt.

    The station already needs to be able to identify individual cars, presumably by wireless communication with the car, so there shouldn't be any additional hardware needed for the station to correctly identify the type of car.

    The real problem with having more than one type of battery pack is that the swap station must have packs of all the different types stored there, to be able to service all types. It's already a high cost, and a challenge the economic model, to stock each and every swap station with enough extra packs to ensure that none of them will ever run out. Having different types of battery packs, and cars able to use only one type, compounds the problem, and makes the economic situation even worse.

  17. gooki

    gooki Active Member

    This is what I was getting at. For battery swap stations to be economically, I expect you need to limit the number of battery pack sizes you support, which in turn limits the technical design of the vehicles.

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