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XPeng unveils new EV platform designed to cut production costs

Chinese electric vehicle maker XPeng unveiled Sunday its new platform architecture for making vehicles that will set the foundation for future production models and reduce the cost of development and manufacturing.

The Smart Electric Platform Architecture (SEPA) 2.0 is expected to shorten the R&D cycle for future models by 20%, as well as cut costs on adaptations for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and smart infotainment systems by 70% and 85%, respectively.

The modular, interchangeable vehicle platform will support a range of vehicle types, like XPeng’s upcoming G6 coupe SUV, which debuts Tuesday at Auto Shanghai 2023, Brian Gu, Xpeng’s president, told reporters Sunday.

The G6 will be the first vehicle built on the SEPA 2.0 platform. Gu said about 80% of architectural components in each upcoming model will be compatible with future models, which will help XPeng add to its lineup without incurring too many costs.

The cost-focused event comes as XPeng’s rivals have sparked price wars in China. Tesla triggered a price war in October when the automaker cut prices on models produced at its gigafactory in Shanghai. In January, Tesla threw more fuel on the fire with another discount that left its locally made cars around 14% cheaper than in 2022.

Rivals, including XPeng, Nio, Volkswagen AG, Mercedes-Benz Group and Ford Motor all followed suit, which has wreaked havoc on the already struggling auto market in China.

Last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers called for an end to the price war, saying it wasn’t a long-term solution to low demand and too much inventory.

“The focus on the capability of offering attractive products at affordable prices becomes even more important,” said Gu on Sunday.

The G9 SUV, which hit the Chinese market last September, starts at 309,900 RMB (~$45,000 USD). XPeng’s P5 sedan starts at around 160,000 RMB (~$25,000 USD).

XPeng hasn’t shared pricing yet for the G6, so it’s not clear what sort of prices the automaker is targeting with SEPA 2.0. XPeng’s CEO He Xiaopeng said Sunday that an automaker needs to reach 3 million units annually and globally if it wants to survive beyond a decade.

XPeng delivered 18,230 EVs in the first quarter of the year, almost a 50% drop year-over-year. The company hopes its new P7i sports sedan, the new G6 and a yet-to-be-unveiled 7-seat multi-purpose vehicle will help boost sales this year.

SEPA 2.0

XPeng’s SEPA 2.0 architecture includes front and rear integrated aluminum die casting technologies, a practice that Tesla has been using since 2020 to make single pieces of vehicle underbodies.

XPeng said the platform will be compatible with multiple vehicle platforms for wheelbases between 1,800 mm and 3,200 mm, and can support a range fo vehicle types, from hatchbacks and sedans to MPVs and pickup trucks.

The architecture also incorporates “Cell Integrated Body” technology, which integrates the battery pack into the car body to provide more cabin space, increase battery safety and improve the driving performance with an improved center of gravity.

The smart manufacturing system will be built out by 2025, the company said, adding that all manufacturing facilities will integrate SEPA 2.0 through technology upgrades.

“We envision that this evolutionary intelligent architecture will lead smart EV technology development for the next three years,” said Xiaopeng. “It will make rapid advancements in technology available for our customers as standard, with faster software upgrades, stunning cost savings and elevated product experience.”

XPeng also said the new architectural platform can help make its infotainment service, Xmart OS, available to every owner. Xmart OS is XPeng’s multi-sensor software and hardware intelligent cockpit, and a key feature is the voice assistant. The automaker said Sunday that SEPA 2.0 shortens the voice software R&D cycle by 50% and reduces the cost of the voice assistant service by 50%. 

“Ultimately, SEPA2.0 will architecturally empower us in our ongoing quest to redefine mobility experience with compelling value, superb comfort and rich infotainment,” said Xiaopeng.

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