Domestic manufacturers unveil advanced innovations at Auto Shanghai

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/3 23:58:09

Tech reshapes car industry

A model poses for photos beside a Denza new-energy car at Auto Shanghai 2017 on April 23. Photo: CFP

After being dominated by mass-produced, gasoline-powered automobiles for years, new technologies are setting off a revolution in the auto industry.

According to a report from the People's Daily on April 24, there are seven directions for the future development of the domestic auto industry, including smart cars, electric cars and lightweight technologies.

Many domestic car brands are already seizing the opportunity to swim with the tide by launching new cars using those advanced technologies. Many of those cars were unveiled to the public at the 17th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition (Auto Shanghai 2017) held in Shanghai from April 19 to 28.

Getting smart

Smart technologies, such as intelligent connected tech, have been applied to many cars displayed by domestic car companies at the Auto Shanghai 2017 exhibition.

For example, Roewe, a car brand under Shanghai-based SAIC Motor, exhibited its i6 at the auto show. The car allows its owner to operate certain functions by remote control, such as unlocking the car, turning on the air conditioning and heating the seats in advance. The car is also fitted with voice recognition technology, which means its owner can verbally "order" the car to do things such as play music and close the windows.

SAIC has formed a research group named Zebra with domestic Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding to develop intelligent cars, according to domestic media reports.

Another domestic car brand, NIO, also launched a new concept car called Eve at the Shanghai exhibition. Equipped with V2V technology, Eve can detect the driving status, such as speed and location, of similar cars on the road and adjust its own driving mode based on those statistics.

Chinese carmaker Singulato Motors also unveiled a concept car called the iS6 at Auto Shanghai 2017, which is equipped with advanced technologies such as automatic parking and blind spot detection, the Global Times saw at the exhibition.

Roy Lu, an analyst at LMC Automotive, said that the car is an application platform for new technologies.

"The current technologies applied in the auto industry, such as intelligent connection, are more or less still in their early stages, and there will be a long way to go before smart cars can be mass-produced, or reach a very high technical standard in China," he told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"But the fact that many domestic car companies are launching 'high-tech' cars signals that China's car brands are endeavoring to catch up the trend," he said.

But he also cautioned that government regulations must be rolled out to control the risks of smart cars, such as technical failure and leak of personal information. 

Government regulations on the testing of intelligent connected vehicles on public roads will be released soon, the Xinhua News Agency reported in December 2016.

Feng Shiming, a car analyst with Menutor Consulting, said that it's right for domestic car companies to explore smart car technologies. "I am optimistic about the general trend," he told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The size of China's intelligent connected vehicles market is predicted to reach 100 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) by the end of 2020, the Xinhua report noted.

Feng nevertheless cautioned that too many players are being far too hasty in crowding into the smart car industry.

"Intelligent connected vehicles need a lot of experimentation to guarantee the maturity of their technologies. It's my worry that Chinese auto companies are being too eager to achieve quick success in this area," he said.

New energy

Another trend that domestic car brands are actively embracing is new-energy cars. At the Auto Shanghai 2017, many domestic car brands, such as Wey and Hybrid Kinetic, launched their new-energy cars.

Domestic carmaker Denza also brought several of its electric cars to the auto show.

Lu noted that new-energy cars are developing rapidly in China, and there are some new development highlights in this area, such as increasing safety, reducing the cost of batteries as well as enhancing power. 

"New-energy cars used to have a maximum range of 100 kilometers. Now, the level has gone up significantly, which is extremely attractive to consumers," he said.

The H600 concept car by Hong Kong-based Hybrid Kinetic, which was showcased at the Auto Shanghai exhibition, is powered with a graphene cell that allows the vehicle to have a maximum range of more than 1,000 kilometers.

But Feng cautioned that the maturity period of new-energy cars has not yet arrived in China, as many carmakers are manufacturing new-energy cars with policy bonuses in mind, while the market demand for those cars is still limited.

"The bottleneck in the new-energy car industry will manifest soon," he said.

Lu nevertheless said that he is optimistic about the demand for new-energy cars in China's first-tier cities, because the local government policy to abolish traffic limits will appeal greatly to many drivers in first-tier cities, which are burdened by heavy traffic congestion.  

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