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radical zero: The game is decided

Problem solutions

The all-electric Porsche Macan should have been on the market long ago, actually since 2022, but it isn’t. It will certainly be spring 2024, or summer. And we will have to wait even longer for the Audi Q6 e-tron, which, like the Porsche, is based on the Volkswagen Group’s brand new PPE flagship platform. There is talk of an 800 V architecture, probably a 100 kWh battery, a range of 500 kilometres and a maximum charging speed of 270 kW.

Meanwhile, in China, Zeekr, one of the many Geely subsidiaries, has just rolled out its 1515 plan. The idea behind it is that customers can find a fast charger within a 15-minute radius anywhere in the country. And can “fill up” their electric cars there in 15 minutes. Wait a minute: 15 minutes would roughly halve the fastest charging times to date; Porsche specifies 27 minutes for the future Macan for 20 to 80 per cent. There’s a proverbial “bomb” in Zeekr’s plan. And this is indeed the case: in September, the Chinese inaugurated the V2 charging stations, where the electricity flows at 600 kW. And shortly before Christmas, they added V3, which allows 800 kW.

Pah, says the connoisseur, the Chinese, they can’t do that anyway, their cars don’t charge quickly. Wrong: with the 007, Zeekr is also launching a vehicle that can fully utilise this new charging infrastructure. The smaller 75-kWh battery (known as the “Golden Battery”, developed in-house, LFP) takes a maximum of 500 kW, which means that it can charge up to 500 kilometres in 15 minutes. The larger 100 kWh battery, the famous Qilin from CATL (NMC), can do even better, over 600 kW, 610 kilometres range in a quarter of an hour. This would also make another problem a thing of the past: the much longer refuelling stops compared to the combustion engine.

Dreams of the future? No. The Zeekr 007 has been in production since the beginning of the year and over 50,000 orders have been placed. The basic version of the 4.86 metre long saloon has 421 hp and costs less than 30,000 dollars. The top-of-the-range all-wheel drive model comes with 637 hp, races to 100 in 2.84 seconds and costs the equivalent of 42,000 dollars. The Macan will cost at least 90,000 euros. When it arrives, at best, if the Volkswagen Group can get its software problems under control. Oh yes, the Zeekr 007 is the first Chinese vehicle with satellite-based software; Geely has its own celestial bodies. The Chinese seem to have a better handle on such brutally complicated things as traffic sign recognition than the self-proclaimed European technology leader Volkswagen.

And Zeekr/Geely is not alone; smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi quotes similar figures for its first car, the SU7 (pictures above). Which is hardly surprising, as this extremely aerodynamic saloon also features the apparently absolutely outstanding CATL-Qilin battery. And not only does it claim to be able to charge a decent 510 kilometres in 15 minutes, it also boasts a new 875 V architecture. Yuanhang, another new brand, is even announcing a purely electric range of more than 1000 kilometres for its Y6 (pictures below), but then with a 150 kWh battery. This costs significantly less than the equivalent of 50,000 dollars.

Of course, not all that glitters is gold in China either, and all these figures should of course be treated with the appropriate caution – as is the case with European manufacturers (VW ID.7, sorry, just in German…). But what is currently happening in the Middle Kingdom in terms of trend-setting technologies is happening at a pace that Audi is not even developing a new indicator rhythm. By the time the Audi Q6 e-tron is finally launched on the market, it will be so technically outdated that exporting it to China will no longer be worthwhile. However, the Audi will still have its seven-year model cycle ahead of it.

Oh yes: BYD, now the largest EV manufacturer in the world, will be launching its first solid-state battery in 2024. Then the rules of the game will be completely different again. But what will remain the same: European manufacturers will only be lagging behind. And the gap is widening almost daily. The only luck for VW, Stellantis, MB & Co. is that the Chinese are not so interested in ploughing the European markets – business on the domestic market is going so well that there is no need for export endeavours.

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