Historically, it has always been about out-right power when it comes to launching a car. Typically, automakers will flood to the Nürburgring to fly around the track in hope of obtaining the time-trial crown and boast to its industry peers.
But, with the emergence of electric and connected vehicles, this is starting to change.
Take AIWAYS’ new U5: a new all-electric SUV not concerned about these performance figures; well, other than range and user experience.
To promote its new EV, AIWAYS launched U5 Engineering Drive, an exploration from China to Germany in just 53 days. The journey, which involved two prototypes, started in Xi’an on the 17th of July and ended up in Frankfurt ahead of the motor show on the 7th of September.
The SUVs passed through 12 countries, including China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Germany.
Now, if this doesn’t remove range anxiety, I don’t know what will.
“This shows how an EV like ours can hold out over 15,000 miles on unknown roads and achieve a record-breaking feat,” says Alex Klose, Executive Vice President Overseas Operations and Product Strategy at AIWAYS.
Yes, no one will be driving these distances across unknown terrain, but it proves that there are EVs that can perform and, in most cases, out-perform petrol and diesel variants. It also helps AIWAYS stamp its authority on the global market, especially as the U5 is set for a European launch in 2020.
“Everyone in the automotive industry always aims for the highest top speed. Now, I think we’re coming to an era where this is becoming no longer relevant,” says Klose. “We could have tuned the car to achieve these performance figures, but that’s not what an EV is to us.”
Showing Some Rural Love
We talk a lot about how cities around the world are becoming future mobility ecosystems, with new services and innovative technology that will transform urban transport. However, it seems as if rural areas outside of the city have been forgotten.
Most companies, from automakers and service providers to technology specialists and startups, focus on urban environments which, they think, have the appropriate infrastructure to handle this shift.
Klose is aware of this and says that AIWAYS is, in fact, more suited to these environments, especially when compared to tighter and busier European streets. This is down to the technology within the U5, which allows drivers to achieve a long-enough range to cope with an entire day of driving.
“In Europe, you still have a large proportion of the population living outside of dense cities which rely on vehicles to travel, as public transport will never be as good as the inner-city,” adds Klose. “We think that our car is most suited for these people in these areas.”
Klose believes that we don’t even need any additional infrastructure for now – which may surprise you. He thinks that, in these rural areas, a home charging point is all you need. In his mind, the ideal situation for EVs is almost the same as for a mobile phone – where you plug in at night, whatever the charge is. In short, unless you have very specific uses for your car and have to travel very long distances every day, you will be able to do whatever you want to do with a U5.
“We may still require additional infrastructure for extreme distances and instances in inner-city areas where people are living in homes without any charging capabilities, but there are a lot of cases in Europe where you can change over to an EV without any more infrastructure than what you have around you today.”
Affordability is Key for EV Adoption
When it comes to EVs, affordability is everything. Despite being a cool, zero-emission vehicle, the U5’s party trick – if you will – is its price. At launch, the electric SUV will be yours for a monthly lease cost of less than €400. This is over half the cost of the premium EVs on sale today.
Klose agrees that affordability will be key to the U5’s success, which even rivals petrol and diesel alternatives.
“The initial plan didn’t involve Europe,” says Klose. “However, we couldn’t ignore the huge opportunity in the region as it was crying out for an affordable electric SUV. It breaks free from the constraints of the European manufacturers.”
AIWAYS doesn’t have any previous customers, which gives them the freedom that is good enough for a new demographic. Established automakers have millions of customers which they don’t want to lose through any risk to their existing product line up or ‘brand experience.’
New players like AIWAYS are entering the European market with new innovations that can cater to new generations as older automakers struggle to shift their business and vehicle structure.
“There will be a change in the structure of the industry. We have a general downturn in the demand for vehicles, an uptake in demand for affordable EVs and new demand for mobility that might or might not be based solely on vehicles coming up.”
“In the future, the whole car industry will completely resettle itself in a different way that could well be based on a sharing platform between brands to compete with new players like us. But we will have to wait and see.”
It looks like the European automakers have something to watch out for.