Monopoly-Toyota turns to Chinese technology to reach its electric holy grail by Reuters

© Reuters. File Photo: Visitors will check out the Toyota C-HR Electric Vehicle (EV) during the Media Day of the Shanghai Motor Show on April 19, 2021 in Shanghai, China. REUTERS / Aly Song

Norihiko Shirasuzu

Beijing (Reuters)-Toyota will launch a small all-electric sedan in China later next year, seeking key technology from its local partner BYD and ultimately creating a spacious detour at an affordable price. , Four sources told Reuters.

Two out of four people who know this problem have been struggling for years to devise a small EV that is cost-competitive in China and does not compromise comfort. I explained that.

According to sources, the breakthrough lies primarily in BYD’s bulky lithium iron phosphate (LFP) blade battery and its low-cost engineering know-how-the popular F3 saloon is a table of Chinese companies inspired by Toyota Corolla. Conversion dates back to 2005.

BYD, or “Build Your Dreams,” which was not well known outside China at the time, became a hot topic in 2008 when Warren Buffett bought a 10% stake, and has since been the world’s largest manufacturer of so-called new energy vehicles. It became one. ..

Toyota’s new EV will be slightly larger than the world’s best-selling compact car, the Compact Corolla. Think of it as a “Corolla with a large backseat section,” according to one source.

Announced as a concept car at the Beijing Motor Show in April and currently sold only in China, it is likely to be launched as the second model of Toyota’s new bZ series of all-electric vehicles.

“The car was made possible by BYD battery technology,” one source told Reuters. “It has helped more or less to solve the challenges we faced in coming up with affordable small electric sedans with spacious interiors.”

It’s below premium EVs such as the Tesla Model Y and Nio ES6, but for just $ 4,500, it surpasses the super-cheap Hong Guang Mini EV, which is currently the best-selling electric car in China.

Two of the four sources weren’t named because they weren’t allowed to talk to the media, but said the new Toyota would be a competitive price.

Tesla is likely to sell for less than 200,000 yuan ($ 30,000), targeting a segment of the Chinese market that is expected to target small cars within the next two years.

“I will not comment on future products,” a Toyota spokeswoman said. “Toyota sees battery-powered electric vehicles as one way to reach carbon neutrality and is working on the development of all kinds of electric vehicle solutions.”

A BYD spokesman declined to comment.


The fact that Toyota had to rely on BYD to solve the low-cost EV conundrum shows how competitive the global automotive industry has become unbalanced over the last decade.

When the quality of Chinese cars is considered substandard, the world’s automakers aren’t too worried about not being able to compete on price, leaving Chinese companies to dominate the domestic market for cheap, unadorned cars. rice field.

But times have changed.

Toyota executives began to worry in 2015 when BYD launched the Tang plug-in hybrid with significantly improved styling, quality and performance. The most worrisome was the fact that it was still about 30% cheaper than a comparable Toyota model.

In 2017, a significant event happened when Toyota’s top engineering leaders, including then Vice President Shigeki Terashi, drove a BYD car such as the Tang dynasty at a test site in Toyota City near its headquarters in Japan.

After that, BYD visited BYD’s headquarters in Shenzhen and drove a prototype of Han Electric Vehicle.

“Their long-term quality is still a question mark, but the design and quality of these cars showed a level of maturity, yet they were much cheaper than comparable Toyota models,” participated in the test drive. One of the four sources said.

“We all sat a little on the floor with it.”

According to BYD’s evaluation, two sources said that Toyota established a research and development (R & D) joint venture with BYD last year. Toyota currently has 20 engineers in Shenzhen and works alongside about 100 BYD engineers.

Blade winner

Toyota’s new EV has been attacked by environmental groups claiming that it does not promise zero emissions. They say Toyota is more interested in extending the commercial utility of its successful hybrid technology.

Toyota executives say they are not against battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs), but as a silver bullet to reduce carbon emissions until renewable energy becomes more widely available. I insist that it will not be.

Nonetheless, Toyota has set up a division in Japan dedicated to zero-emission vehicles called the ZEV Factory, developing safer and lower-cost battery technologies, including solid-state lithium-ion batteries that significantly expand the range of EVs. increase.

Toyota has long advocated a detour that does not compromise comfort as the best way to popularize BEVs, but has struggled to build such a car.

One problem is that bulky and heavy batteries need to be stacked under the floor. This is because it consumes the inside unless the roof is also raised. This is why many small EVs are SUVs.

In 2018, Toyota briefly reviewed the idea of ​​a battery venture with BYD. Due to that and subsequent interactions, Toyota engineers came across BYD’s LFP blade battery. They described it as a game changer because it was cheaper and freed up space.

“This is the” eye-scaled “kind of technology that we first rejected because of its very simple design,” said one of the four sources.

BYD officially launched the Blade battery in 2020.

LFP batteries have a lower energy density than most other lithium-ion batteries, but they are cheaper, have a longer shelf life, are less likely to overheat, and do not use cobalt or nickel. Tesla is already using LFP batteries in China’s Model 3 and Model Y.

When the module is laid flat on the floor, sources say that a typical blade pack is about 10 cm (3.9 inches) thick, about 5 cm to 10 cm thinner than other lithium-ion packs.

A BYD spokeswoman said that could be possible, depending on how the car manufacturer packages the blade pack into the car.

Cut the corner?

Toyota hasn’t completely solved BYD’s cost-cutting mystery, but two sources say one factor could be a shortened, flexible design and quality assurance process.

Toyota’s planning process is much more rigorous and thorough, sources said. After deciding on the technology, components, and systems at the beginning of the three- to four-year development process of an automobile, we rarely make design changes.

In the process, Toyota typically creates three design prototypes and three manufacturing prototypes. Some travel approximately 150,000 km (93,000 miles) to achieve bulletproof quality and reliability when testing emissions and durability on rough roads.

At BYD, engineers have much less prototyping (usually only two) and the design can be changed two years after the process. This is definitely no no at Toyota. A BYD spokesman declined to comment.

However, as a result of these last-minute changes, BYD car technology is much more up-to-date and often cheaper than Toyota when it hits the market.

Four sources say that the fact that BYD manufactures a wide range of its own components with further advances in simulation and virtual engineering know-how has the potential for quality and reliability that can occur at such a last minute. I think it helped to fill the gap. Design changes.

“Our challenge at Toyota is whether to dismiss BYD’s engineering methods as loose and too dangerous, or whether we can learn from them,” said one source.

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Monopoly-Toyota turns to Chinese technology to reach its electric holy grail by Reuters

Source link Monopoly-Toyota turns to Chinese technology to reach its electric holy grail by Reuters

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