DENZA: The first EV brand tailored for China
How far should a brand new all-electric vehicle travel for safety test before it is approved for sale to the Chinese public? The answer according the Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Co Ltd is 1 million kilometers, or almost 25 laps around the world at the equator.
The comprehensive testing of the new model shows a strong commitment to safety from BDNT, the first and only joint venture in China that is focused solely on new energy vehicles.
The new all-electric vehicle branded DENZA developed by BDNT, established back in 2010 by Daimler and its Chinese partner BYD with a 600-million-yuan ($96.8 million) initial investment, is making serious progress towards its target delivery date in mid-2014.
"This was the first all-electric vehicle joint venture to be created in China and the first time a joint venture in China has moved forward with an electric vehicle under a completely new brand," said Arno Roehringer, COO of BDNT. "After three years' efforts with our local partner BYD, we're closing in on the finish line."
At the moment, DENZA's pre-production vehicles are being put through extensive tests at test centers and laboratories within China. Additionally, a special fleet of DENZA vehicles is undergoing rigorous and thorough road tests which will total 1 million km across all regions of the country in different climate zones and on different road conditions, to ensure that the production vehicles that reach consumers meet the high quality standards set by DENZA engineers.
The result for DENZA's testing program, which lasts for a total of eighteen months, will be a reliable, safe and comfortable electric vehicle ready and able to satisfy the demands of the Chinese car owner.
The company has also developed new safety features specific to the model to ensure that the occupant or passenger of DENZA vehicles will be safe in the event of a collision. The safety features include a DENZA battery frame and HV management system.
The DENZA battery frame encases the battery module and protects it from external impact while the second safety feature, the DENZA HV management, is a system that monitors and regulates the energy flow between the battery and the vehicle's powertrain components.
Reliability and vehicle safety are obviously priorities for DENZA's engineers and designers.
With any new product introduction, especially one derived from a brand new technology with no peer or equivalent on the market, engineers understand that it is crucial to make all efforts to demonstrate and ensure safety for consumers. Daimler's innovative technology and renown for developing industry benchmark safety mechanisms is one of the company's core design and business philosophy pillars and together with BYD, the JV BDNT has worked to create a vehicle with safety as a top trait.
But exterior design will also be important for the DENZA's success. Following safety concerns, aesthetics also comes into play for the design of the vehicle. Form sometimes matters just as much as function and as such, the DENZA designers have built the car full knowing that it will be marketed to a domestic audience: "DENZA design elements have also been tailored for the Chinese market, making DENZA truly a car created in China, for the Chinese market," said Roehringer.
The Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Center in Beijing, in collaboration with designers at JV partner BYD - designed the DENZA concept car as well as the DENZA model showcased at Auto Beijing last year.
"The DENZA design philosophy addresses Chinese taste, where advanced high-tech features are combined in a delicate manner with traditional elements and craftsmanship," said Roehringer.
Daimler and BYD both made an additional investment of 430 million yuan each into BDNT on March 12th. The DENZA will see its world premiere at the Guangzhou Auto Show later this year. Mass production of the car will start within the year, and the first production vehicle is expected to be delivered to customers in mid-2014.
While Daimler plans to integrate the DENZA electric vehicle into its world's line-up, the vehicle is also an important addition to Daimler's fleet in China in terms of reducing overall average levels of fuel consumption and local emissions.
Daimler's strong focus on alternative energy vehicles like the DENZA falls into line well with the Chinese government's supportive policies towards all-electric vehicles.
China, the biggest auto market in the world in terms of both production and sales since 2009, is showing an increasing interest in the development of a new energy vehicle market. In July 2012, the China State Council announced a blueprint for further development of new energy vehicle production, sales and usage in China.
According to the State Council's blueprint, China has set a target of producing and selling 500,000 energy-efficient or alternative-energy vehicles a year by 2015, and 5 million vehicles a year by 2020.
In the past three years, the Chinese government has adopted strong preferential policies towards further encouraging development of new energy vehicles with the aim of alleviating the country's heavy dependence on imported oil, cutting emissions, and speeding up the restructuring of its automobile sector into a more environmentally sustainable model.
Beijing for example, has drafted plans to install 50,000 electric charging stations by 2015 to help combat pollution in the city from the use of traditional combustion engines. This policy is similar to other electric vehicle infrastructure development projects in cities like Shanghai and Tianjin which have encouraged infrastructure growth by instituting pilot problems that have introduced electric taxi fleets and buses to city streets in addition to also building charging stations and poles.
With its expanding middle class, increasing urbanization, open-minded consumers, and a supportive government, China is expecting the market for new energy vehicles to grow substantially in the near future.
In 2012, a total of 12,791 units of new energy vehicles were sold in China, among which 11,375 units were pure electric vehicles, representing an annual growth of 103.9 percent for the pure electric vehicles.
Compared to the total sales of nearly 20 million units for traditional vehicles, the market for new energy vehicle has not yet fully been tapped.