Not bragging about new energy vehicles is the greatest self-protection

Source: Shenrancaijing (ID: shenrancaijing)

Author: Zhou Jifeng

Editor: Kim Yeon

(Original title: Spontaneous combustion, broken axles, out of control, can new energy vehicles still be bought?)

When the number of spontaneous combustion and broken axles reached a certain number, the new cars finally began to admit their mistakes.

Weimar Motors has reported at least four spontaneous combustion incidents in a row in the past month, but they have not been able to wait for an official reply or explanation. Until recently, there was a spontaneous combustion incident. On the evening of October 27, a Weimar EX5 in the Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Haidian District, Beijing exploded and the vehicle was completely destroyed. For a while, videos and photos were flying all over the sky on Weibo and other social platforms, and there were rumors that surrounding units were not allowed to enter underground garages with electric vehicles—things got a big deal.


Twenty-four hours later, Weimar quickly came forward to explain: the accident was caused by the impurity mixed in the production process of the battery cell supplier, resulting in abnormal lithium evolution in the power battery… and it will be recalled to users from June 8, 2020 to September 2020. Part of the 2020 Weimar car products produced on May 23, a total of 1282 vehicles.

There are ideals who admit mistakes. On November 1, Ideal announced a free "upgrade" for Leading Ideal ONE models produced on or before June 1 to avoid the problem of broken axles. It is tantamount to publicly acknowledging that the risk of "broken axle" of an ideal car is related to design defects.

According to the official statistics of Ideal Motors, as of October 31, 2020, a total of 97 front suspension collision accidents occurred in Leading Ideal ONE, and 10 of them were caused by the front suspension lower swing arm ball head falling out of the ball pin. This is the so-called "broken shaft" problem. Ideal has always attributed this to collision accidents, not quality reasons.

Finally, Ideal apologized on November 6, and announced the recall of Leading Ideal ONE electric vehicles with a production date between November 14, 2019 and June 1, 2020, totaling 10,469 vehicles.

There are not many new cars in mass production. From January to October this year, NIO, Ideal, and Xiaopeng sold less than 70,000 vehicles together, but they have frequent safety problems, not only spontaneous combustion, broken axles, and black screens. , Brake failure, water leakage, inability to accelerate at high speed, emission control system failure triggering alarm, power battery failure alarm and so on.

What's the problem? Is the new car technology inadequate, or is the new force neglecting safety for the sake of speed and mass production?

What's the problem: battery, hardware failure, autopilot system out of control

Through the company's official website, official WeChat account, and news reports, Shenzhen Burns has sorted out 24 safety accidents from new front-end car-building forces since 2019, and found that more than half were related to spontaneous combustion, and the rest were software and hardware failures.

Source / company official website, official WeChat account, media report drawing / Shenran

"Many safety problems also exist in traditional fuel vehicles, but new forces are selling less and there are safety accidents, which are considered to be very high." Many analysts expressed similar views on Shen Ran. But an industry insider said that spontaneous combustion is indeed a unique problem of new energy vehicles.

While achieving mass production, the new car-making forces in the head failed to escape the "curse" of spontaneous combustion.

For example, in December last year, the ideal car began to be officially delivered. On May 8 this year, an Leading Ideal ONE engine compartment suddenly spontaneously ignited on the streets of Changsha, Hunan. At that time, some netizens joked: "Congratulations to Leading Ideal ONE for officially entering the new energy family."

Tesla was also the first to bear the brunt. The longest fermentation time was Tesla's "421 fire". On April 21, 2019, a Tesla Model S suddenly ignited spontaneously in the underground garage of Taide Huayuan Community, Yude Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai. In just 5 seconds, the fire went from smoking to fire burning. It even affected other vehicles around. The whole spontaneous combustion process was recorded by the monitor, and for a while, car owners talked about Tesla's discoloration.

In addition to spontaneous combustion, new car-building forces have also made various safety accidents due to software and hardware problems on the hot search.

At the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, Li Xiang, founder, chairman and CEO of Ideal Motors, said that Leading Ideal ONE puts safety and quality first, and is a more complete and "safer than Tesla" vehicle than a fuel car. Smart electric car. As a result, accidents occurred frequently as soon as it was delivered.

In the first month of the delivery of the ideal car, some car owners reported that the Leading Ideal ONE, which was just mentioned, had a fault code of "emission control system failure". In the same month, another car owner picked up the car and drove out of the Hangzhou Delivery Center and got on the high speed. After the adaptive cruise was cancelled, he could not accelerate when he stepped on the switch.

The most concerned incident in Ideal is also the "broken axis door". In January of this year, Ideal was exposed to a collision with a BMW 3 Series causing axle breakage; In May, an Leading Ideal ONE collided with the road shoulder on the right front wheel during driving, resulting in damage to the right front suspension and a broken axle.

During this period, voices questioning the safety of the ideal car continued to appear. In response, the official issued a statement in response to this: So far, all suspension damages of the Leading Ideal ONE are caused by collision accidents, and not one is caused by quality reasons. Then, from September to October, Leading Ideal ONE repeated the "broken shaft door" many times.

At the media communication meeting on November 1st, Ideal began to break the news. As of October 31, 2020, Leading Ideal ONE had a total of 97 front suspension collision accidents, of which 10 had broken axles. Six out of ten cases were reported by the media, and the other four cases were ideally actively counted. At that time, the ideal solution was to upgrade the Leading Ideal ONE models produced on or before June 1 for free to avoid the problem of broken axles.

"The upgrade must be due to defects at the time, which is normal." Li Xiang's remarks at the communication meeting are equivalent to publicly acknowledging that the risk of "broken axles" of an ideal car is related to design defects.

Subsequently, the ideal under the pressure of public opinion announced the recall of 10,469 cars and free replacement of the lower arm of the front suspension with higher ball pins.

In addition to spontaneous combustion, Tesla's number of safety accidents is not inferior to domestically produced new cars.

In January of this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received a joint petition against Tesla. In this petition, there were a total of 127 complaints related to the "sudden acceleration" of Tesla vehicles, which involved 110 crashes and 52 people were injured.

Focus on Tesla's domestic performance. In June this year, a Model 3 owner in Nanchang, Jiangxi, claimed that the vehicle suddenly increased its speed to 127km/h at high speed. After repeatedly stepping on the brakes to no avail, it hit a roadside mound and overturned and caught fire; August 12, Wenzhou, Zhejiang A Model 3 was also involved in a car accident. According to the owner's statement, the vehicle's brakes failed and the toll gate rushed into the parking lot at high speed, causing damage to many vehicles.

Autopilot, the auto-assisted driving system, is currently Tesla's most important application software, and there are also many hidden dangers. In 2019, 50 fatal car accidents occurred in Tesla vehicles. According to the US Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 14 of them were related to Tesla's Autopilot autonomous driving system.

In this regard, “domestic new-built cars are inferior to Tesla in terms of product completion, but better than traditional OEMs.” An industry insider said, “Especially NIO and Xiaopeng. We have passed the test for their automatic identification technology. I found them all good.” Recently, NIO and Xiaopeng Motors have successively released NOP (Navigate on Pilot) and NGP (Navigate Guided Pilot) functions.

Some media reported that although the assisted navigation driving function still belongs to the category of L2 automatic driving functions, it is one step closer to higher-level automatic driving functions. In the automotive industry, only Tesla, NIO Automobile, and Xiaopeng Automobile have implemented this function.

But there are also safety incidents. According to media reports, on September 22, an Leading Ideal ONE had a rear-end collision on an expressway in Qingdao. During the accident, the Leading Ideal ONE system did not warn the vehicle in front of changing lanes and did not slow down. The trust of the system did not take over immediately, and as a result, the vehicle directly hit the big truck.

Is the new car safe?

Spontaneous combustion, hardware failures, software failures, and safety accidents of new car-building forces mainly fall into these three categories, returning to the question that consumers are most concerned about: whether the new car is safe or not.

“The reason behind spontaneous combustion is either thermal failure caused by charging, or being hit or hit. It is extremely rare to catch fire when it is completely static.” Wang Pengbo, a senior expert in the field of new energy vehicles, told Shenran.

According to official explanations, except for NIO and Weimar’s investigations and acknowledgement of battery problems after multiple spontaneous combustion incidents, the company involved may attribute the responsibility to accidental incidents for the remaining spontaneous combustion incidents. The Leading Ideal ONE for spontaneous combustion on the streets of Changsha. The reason is that a car paint protective pad was left in the front cabin during the pre-delivery maintenance of the vehicle; or it was attributed to external reasons, such as Tesla in a spontaneous combustion incident in August last year. There was "severe water immersion" before the battery pack and pointed out that the sheet spraying plant did not "handle properly" the battery pack.

At present, the most popular battery for electric vehicle companies is the ternary lithium battery, which has high battery life, high energy density, and high activity, but it is also prone to thermal failure. Wang Pengbo explained, "Once overcharged, the battery will be too full, which will easily produce crystals, pierce the battery diaphragm, short-circuit, or generate a lot of waste heat for combustion."

However, Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Travel Association, once revealed that the core reason for the recent series of spontaneous combustion incidents is unreasonable design, not just the battery itself.

Wang Pengbo’s view can also support this view: the cell activity of the ternary lithium battery is indeed large, but how safe is it and whether there is a material to isolate the thermal failure diffusion between the cell and the cell, battery BMS management strategy, cable circuit design , Heat dissipation system design, battery housing structure design and vehicle structure protection.

First, in order to improve the cruising range, most of the current pure electric vehicles have the power battery arranged under the floor. The battery area is large and almost covers the entire floor. The distance between the periphery and the edge of the body is usually not very large, so it is It is easy to be squeezed at the bottom.

Second, in recent years, the energy density of battery cells has increased too fast, accompanied by a decrease in battery cell stability, and the risk of thermal runaway under mechanical load has increased. Because the subsidy policy requires the energy density of the power battery system, in order to increase the energy density of the entire package, domestic pure electric vehicles tend to make the battery pack shell structure as light as possible, resulting in insufficient protection of internal modules and high-voltage devices.

Judging from the currently disclosed head new car accidents, 14 of the 24 cases since the beginning of 2019 were related to spontaneous combustion.

But Zhang Xiang, an automotive analyst, believes that spontaneous combustion incidents in newly built cars are not as high as everyone thinks, and not as serious. "Many times the media's attention is focused on the newly built car body." He said.

In September this year, Sun Fengchun, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, stated at the Global Smart Mobility Conference that the probability of a fire in China's new energy vehicles in 2019 is 0.49 in 10,000, and it is 0.26 in 2020. At the same time, he took out another piece of data: According to the data released by the traffic management department of the Ministry of Public Security, the annual fire accident rate of traditional cars is between 1 in 10,000 and 2 in 10,000.

Comparing the two, the fire probability of new energy vehicles is significantly lower than that of traditional fuel vehicles, and less than one-third of fuel vehicles.

It's not just the spontaneous combustion problem. Zhang Xiang said that the black screen of the instrument screen and the water leakage of the newly built car are also more common on the traditional fuel body. "It's just that the new forces sell fewer cars. After the accident, the industry is considered to have a high proportion of accidents." He explained the problem from another angle. "Relatively speaking, the system structure of new energy vehicles is simpler than that of fuel vehicles. In other words, the probability of failure is less than that of a gasoline car."

However, it must be admitted that the development time of new cars is relatively short. If Tesla has less than two decades, many technologies are indeed immature and there is room for improvement. Industry insider Ye Min said that new car-building forces pay more attention to software, interaction, and smart cockpits, thus ignoring the importance of hardware. They are not very good at verification. For example, the ideal broken axle door exposes the design process of new cars. Insufficient capacity.

"If a company is labelled as "not good" because of a product defect, it is a bit too big. The company's timely and efficient recall is a manifestation of its responsibility." Zhang Xiang told Shenran, "But the recall is a mature auto industry. An international general quality supervision method. Every month, many car recalls occur around the world." Mercedes-Benz, the originator of the auto industry, once again initiated a recall due to engine oil leakage on June 27, 2020. Ten thousand problematic cars.

But advocacy is the greatest self-protection

What do these various security incidents mean to these companies?

"For the new domestic automakers, there are only two problems before them, one is delivery and the other is financing." Ye Min said that these two problems are not controllable by enterprises, but they will wait for the funding problem to be resolved. After that, other problems can be solved.

To put it bluntly, money comes first, and only those with financial strength can speak well.

Take Ideal as an example. Before submitting the IPO application, the accumulated financing amount exceeded 2 billion U.S. dollars, and the cash and short-term investment in hand were 480 million U.S. dollars, but he still wanted to go public. While the ideal IPO was raised, it also received a cornerstone investment of US$380 million.

After getting through the difficulties with money in his pocket, ideals began to solve problems one by one, such as the problem of broken shafts.

Li Xiang himself said frankly at the media communication meeting on November 1, "Because of such a fractured scene, I think it will still bring new hidden dangers to car owners, so we must replace this thing. In terms of gross profit, quality, When conflicts with safety arise, it must be to ensure quality and safety and give up gross profit. It's that simple." Although the problem broke out as early as June, Li Xiang and his company decided to abandon part of the gross profit to guarantee quality in November.

Weimar, which is preparing to recall vehicles, has previously completed a D round of financing jointly led by the Shanghai State-owned Investment Platform and SAIC Motor, with a total of 10 billion yuan, and is preparing to go public in 2021.

Teslas have subverted the tradition and developed cars with the thinking of developing software, and especially the automatic driving system has gradually landed, and safety hazards have gradually emerged. In fact, at this point, not advocating is the greatest self-protection.

The Evergrande Research Institute pointed out in Tesla's research report that Tesla and Musk have been over-promising and exaggerating in the promotion of Autopilot driving system. Without in-depth understanding, most consumers may be deceived by words such as "automatic steering, automatic parking", etc., leading to loose control of the vehicle during driving, which in turn caused several safety accidents.

In addition, because the camera-led vision solution has very high requirements for the volume of object detection data, Autopilot cannot 100% transmit every physical object that exists in real life into the database, which in turn leads to traffic incidents caused by system misjudgments.

Li Liang, an investor who has been studying autonomous driving tracks for a long time, analyzes Shenran that Tesla and the new domestic carmakers are taking the automated driving mass production path of "mass production-data acquisition-algorithm iteration", that is, mass production First, get data and iterate the algorithm later.

"These companies will not sell fully self-driving cars in the short term, but self-driving technology allows them to tell a good story to investors and get the next round of financing." Another industry insider who studies autonomous driving said.

There are limitations to admit, this ideal has been learned well. At the media communication meeting on November 1st, in addition to admitting that there are problems with its own quality, Ideal also repeatedly stated that L2 assisted driving is not equal to automatic driving, let alone unmanned driving, and car owners should still use it with caution. Li Xiang himself has also constantly emphasized that the current L2 judgment and prediction capabilities are still limited.

And if it is not for frequent accidents, the new forces are still running for mass production, temporarily putting aside the explanation and solutions of safety and quality problems. For example, Tesla's delivery target for this year is 500,000 vehicles, which means that Tesla has to complete the KPI of 181,500 vehicles in the remaining three months. How much is this task? Since 2018, Tesla has not sold more than 180,000 vehicles in a single quarter. The best performance in history is now 139,300 vehicles delivered in the Q3 quarter of this year.

In general, according to Liu Shengyu, a partner of Gaohe Capital, the automotive industry is a very rigorous and complex system manufacturing industry. This is true for vehicle manufacturers and various component manufacturers in the industry chain. With the extremely high spirit and goal of lean manufacturing, no matter whether it is a new force in car-making, continuous improvement of each system part can avoid quality problems.

"The safety requirements of automotive products are much higher than those of consumer electronics, but many new car-making forces look at product quality and safety issues based on the thinking of smart phones, pads and other consumer electronic terminals." In his view, new car-making Forces still have to learn the demanding requirements of traditional lean manufacturing.

*The title picture comes from Unsplash. At the request of the interviewee, Ye Min and Li Liang are aliases in the text.