15 Minutes with Thunder Power Management TeamApr 30, 2019
Earlier in April, Thunder Power held a media workshop at an art gallery in Guangzhou, and joining the city's auto journalists were Wellen Sham, founder and CEO; Albert Chen, Director of Sales and Marketing and AVP; and Dr Xudong Tang, executive vice president. The group also unveiled their SUV prototype for the first time in China at the event. Below is an excerpt of the Q&A session where the top management of the company answered burning questions of car enthusiasts.
Thunder Power have opted for more costly and premium materials for their first luxury sedan model, such as an all-aluminium body. With the segment of high-end sedans being relatively small, what is the reason behind such brand positioning?
Our initial positioning of a high-end model is to first establish a positive corporate image for the establishment of a new brand. A lot of efforts and resources have been invested in the technical research and development of our products, which lead to the first product being positioned as a high-end four-door sedan, with an estimated price of around RMB 500,000. In comparison to the performance of our products - 650 km in continuous mileage, acceleration from 0 to 100 km in 3.2 seconds – this pricing presents a very high price-performance ratio.
When will Thunder Power’s first car model be released to the market?
The first product is currently in trial production with an aim to implement small batch production by the end of 2019.
Thunder Power have their core technologies, especially in the areas of battery management, thermal management and module management system. What are your competitive edge compared to other technologies in the market?
The Thunder Power team have a better understanding of our distinguishing product features, as we independently developed the battery system and the entire thermal management system. A system purchased from any supplier would mean that the company cannot own the core technologies nor the first prerequisite of car manufacturing, hence any advantage would be lost.
The second stage is the battery management system. Just like most car manufacturers, our batteries are bought from suppliers but our positioning is far superior. We made the bold choice of high-quality batteries right from the beginning, disregarding the issue of subsidy funding. In such circumstances, batteries of high-quality and consistency are more convenient and efficient for product management.
Ultimately there is the thermal control system of the battery, for which we have developed our own patented technology through independent research and development. In the process of large-batch testing, the battery pack was repeatedly charged and discharged for 6,000 times. In rapid charging and discharging, the battery maintained consistency from beginning to end. The difference in operating temperature of the entire battery was controlled within 2 degrees. Eventually after the completion of stress and life-cycle tests, the capacity attenuation rate of the battery was contained at a very low level. Of course, the battery management system is a very small branch of the three key systems of electric car, but it shows our rigorous attention to details during the R&D and manufacturing processes of carmaking, and it ensures that the end product will stick closely to expectations.
New energy vehicles showed a powerful rally at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show, even traditional luxury car brands are launching their own new energy car models. What is Thunder Power’s view of the industry in such a competitive environment, and particularly with the withdrawal of government subsidies in 2019?
Government subsidies were not taken into consideration when we started our product development. If a car company relies on subsidies to survive it will never see a way out in the long run.
The technology of Thunder Power has attracted the investment of GanNan State Industrial Fund via the referral of City Government of Ganzhou. There may be many new energy vehicle companies in the market, but most are without the support of core technology. Frankly speaking, failure is inevitable for any company that is not serious in carmaking. Thunder Power’s product has been 12 years in the making to meet market expectations and achieve great quality.
Our SUV was recognised by the German Design Award in the “Excellent Product Design Conceptional Transportation” category in 2019, making Thunder Power the first company in China to achieve this title. We believe there will always be a demand for a good product despite vigorous competition. This extends to every trade, not just the automotive industry. As it turns out, we have already received quite a lot of orders.
Please tell us about the sales strategy of Thunder Power. Thunder Power will initially adopt a self-operated sales model, setting up our own flagship retail stores in cities, and maintenance and customer service centres in the suburbs. At present we have already set up our domestic sales headquarters in Hangzhou, therefore our pilot flagship store location will be a city in central China. This model will be replicated and coordinated with online sales to promote our products in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. We expect coverage to radiate from these cities to to cover the whole country. Thunder Power is committed to bringing a consistent experience to customers in our establishment as a new brand.
Thunder Power incorporated unique craftsmanship and technology in car body weight optimisation and laser welding. Could you elaborate on them?
When our design team in Europe started on concept development and positioning from 2014 to 2015, the innovative concept of a steel-aluminium hybrid structure car body was proposed. We made the bold decision to utilise this structure for the car body to ensure the safety of its structure with high strength hot rolled steel. Both high-pressure and low-pressure vacuum cast aluminium parts were used for other components. Besides laser technology, other steel riveting and hybrid welding techniques were applied to eventually achieve a perfect combination. During the manufacturing process, Thunder Power’s product guarantees the safety of its overall structure, while designing a production-ready car body with optimised weight and price-performance ratio.
Although laser welding is widely talked about in the market, there are in fact very broad definitions of this welding technology. It can be categorised into the laser soldering of the car roof, the deep penetration laser welding of the inner door frame, the flexible framing of the whole vehicle, and so on. The result achieved while ensuring the high performance and price-performance ratio of the car is not only a craft, but the complex engineering of an integrated system, and an outstanding contribution to building a high quality product.
Thunder Power put great emphasis on developing the core of electric car technologies - battery, motor and control system - in-house. How does that set you apart from your competitors?
Industry star performers inevitably become examples to be imitated; this is a problem faced by every company, not just Thunder Power. Although we had a relatively late start, we had the opportunity to reflect and learn from mistakes made by other companies in the carmaking process. We accept our imperfections and remain objective and humble so we can keep our eyes open for possible issues and find the solutions for them. These are what we value. By focusing heavily on independent research and development, we are moving towards the goal of becoming a leader in technological innovation and gradually widening the technology gap between ourselves and our competitors. We now have over 200 patents granted and more than 700 pending, which give us considerable advantages against other companies in the field.