Wing Edition of the XPeng P7 has unusual front doors
Two once-small electric vehicle brands hit the big time last year, their cars’ sales surging almost as strongly in China as their share prices did on NASDAQ. CHJ Automotive, the parent of Li Auto’s Leading Ideal or Li brand and its rival Xiaopeng Automotive Technology (XPeng) have very different approaches when it comes to electrified vehicles though.
After a big 2020, January was yet another great month for Li Auto, deliveries being up 366% on January 2020, to 5,379 vehicles, although down on December’s 6,126. A year ago, this was seemingly just another hopeful start-up yet by the end of last month, the company had delivered 38,976 vehicles since the start of series production towards the end of 2019.
According to CPCA, for 2020, the top selling so-called ‘NEV’ (New Energy Vehicle) in China was Tesla’s locally manufactured Model 3, with 137,459 sales. That was of course followed by the massively popular Wuling Hongguang Mini EV (112,758), then came another new vehicle, GWM’s Ora R1 (46,774), GAC’s Aion S (45,626) and in fifth place, the BYD Qin (41,219). Sixth was the Chery eQ (38,249) and in seventh was a model from Li Xiang (32,634). Rounding out the top ten were the BYD Han EV (28,772), the Nio ES6 (27,945) and the plug-in hybrid BMW 530 Le (23,443).
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this brand is that it has achieved such first-year success with just a single model. Not only that, but the Li One isn’t even an EV in the conventional sense. Rather, it’s an electric crossover that also comes with a back-up petrol engine, a formula that seems to work for only a few other OEMs, such as Nissan, with its Note e-Power, which has become big in Japan.
The One, which some think resembles the Volvo XC90, was first seen at an event in Beijing during October 2018. The series production version was a world debut six months later at the Shanghai motor show and the company also began accepting orders in April 2019. The first series production vehicles came off the line at a plant in Changzhou on 20 November 2019.
The range-extending powertrain of this 5,020 mm long vehicle comprises a dual-motor system consisting of a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine which charges a large battery. Combined outputs are claimed to be 243 kW (326 hp) and 530 Nm (390 lb-ft) and the maximum range is said to be 700 km (434 miles). CHJ Auto originally called the powertrain a REEV (Range-Extended Electric Vehicle) though it is also now known as a PHEV.
Li Auto hasn’t made any official announcements of expanding sales outside China, its next priority being mainly to reinvest the US$1bn+ it has raised via NASDAQ in the business; specifically into more models. Other that there being a promise that at least one of these will be an EV, we don’t yet know what the specifics of those will be.
A note on the brand name: this can be Lixiang (or Li Xiang), Zhizao in Chinese – as per the founder’s name – and Leading Ideal or just Li in English.
Unlike Li Auto, rival brand XPeng sells only EVs, the line-up consisting of two models with a third coming later in 2021. January deliveries soared by 470% to 6,015 units, this being made up of 3,710 examples of the P7 and 2,305 units of the G3, a crossover.
Not much had been heard of Xiaopeng Automotive Technology until October 2017, which was when the FAW-owned HaiMa Motor announced a deal to build 50,000 units of an electric crossover for the start-up over four years. That model turned out to be the XPeng G3. Series production commenced in November 2018.
Xiaopeng also builds its own vehicles at a plant in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province. Officially opened in September last year, this has an annual capacity of 200,000 units.
Originally, the range had been 351-365 km but this was improved and an additional variant added in September 2019, these cars premiering at the Chengdu motor show. Now, the base car is called XPeng G3 400 and has an NEDC range of up to 401 km, while up to 520 km is claimed for the G3 520.
Compared to some China-based rivals, Xiaopeng is leaping ahead when it comes to exports, the first customer deliveries for the Norwegian market having started in December. The model’s local name is G3i and and expansion in other parts of Europe is promised. As for the G3’s replacement, that should be on sale in 2023 or 2024.
The number one model is not yet a year old, build of the P7 only having begun in April 2020. The 4.9 m long four-door coupe was the first vehicle for Xiaopeng’s Zhaoqing factory, while there was a ground breaking ceremony for a second plant, this time in Guangzhou, in September 2020. The first vehicles for that facility are due to be built in 2022.
The P7 has an NEDC range of up to 706 km, outputs of 196 kW and 390 Nm (288 lb ft) plus an 80.1 kWh battery pack. These statistics, which apply to RWD versions of the car, were announced by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in March 2020. The other, less expensive variants, have ranges of up to 550 and 650 km.
The Wing Limited Edition, a modified P7, was revealed at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2020. The main change was scissor doors for the driver and front passenger.
A facelift for the P7 is due in the second half of 2023 and a successor in 2027.
What might be called the P5 is due to be revealed later in 2021. The sedan, which is expected to be between 4.5 and 4.8 m long, could premiere at Auto Shanghai in April. Then in 2022 we’ll see a fourth model. That’s according to XPeng president and vice chairman Brian Gu who stated that in a January interview. The large electric SUV will be manufactured by the company itself at the firm’s second plant in Guangzhou.
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