Taking the fast lane
Electric car manufacturers in China need suppliers with strong Research & Development capabilities and great operational efficiency. GF Casting Solutions has both. Through its successful partnership with emerging carmaker Aiways, the Division demonstrated that a global company can be a great partner for a startup in the Chinese market.
China’s auto sector has been cooling down, but it is still one of the fastest growing markets for electric cars. In the first half of 2019, about 490’000 electric cars were sold in China, a 56.6% increase from last year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Aiways is one of the emerging carmakers trying to tap into the growing pie. The startup recently launched its first electric SUV called U5, with a reach of up to 503 kilometers. The SUV is equipped with six lightweight structural parts (two front shock towers and four torque boxes) produced by GF Casting Solutions. The aluminum components were developed and produced in less than 12 months.
- The GF parts are crucial for Aiways because – due to their light weight – they make the car more energy efficient. (Photos: Bakas Algridas)
- The impressive entrance area at the Aiways headquarters in Shanghai (China). (Photos: Bakas Algridas)
“Global player with extensive experience”
The GF parts are crucial for Aiways due to their light weight and consequently because they make the electric car more energy efficient. That’s why the carmaker looked precisely into potential suppliers, one of them GF Casting Solutions. Aiways evaluated possible partners during a six-month evaluation period and decided to collaborate with GF because of its wholesome capabilities to help design innovative products. That was the start of a profitable partnership with Aiways.
The even more important reason for choosing GF Casting Solutions was that the team demonstrated great efficiency in working with startups. An example: Both sides had started exploring manufacturing methods together, even before the designs were frozen. Together they were able to complete the trial production of five dies within five months, which was a strong support to the debugging process of Aiways’ production lines. “GF is a global player with extensive experience working with carmakers around the world. It meets our requirements entirely and has done quite a few prospective researches, which has proved to be very helpful to us,” says Wang Dongchen, Chief Technology Officer of Aiways.
Daniel Hu, Sales Director China of GF Casting Solutions, agrees: “The partnership is successful because both sides put great value on commitment and efficiency. The GF team was passionated to meet Aiways’ tight schedule. A close and professional collaboration between the Aiways and GF team was a prerequisite to succeed.”
Many growth opportunities
In past years, government subsidies played an important role in promoting the growth of China’s electric mobility market. Today, as politicians start to tighten monetary support, the industry is entering a phase of consolidation.
Despite taking a more cautious stance, China will continue to encourage the development of new electric cars because of environmental challenges predominantly in large cities. According to a guidance policy issued by China’s top politicians in 2017, by 2025, new electric cars will account for 20% of new car sales in the country, which translates to at least 4 million cars every year – more than twice the number in 2018. Whereas the share of electric vehicles in Europe is expected to be at 9%, according to a recent projection by JP Morgan.
Compared with established automotive brands, electric car manufacturers need much more development support from suppliers, says Steffen Dekoj, Head of R&D Asia of GF Casting Solutions. “If you have enough resources and R&D capabilities, you definitely have a bigger advantage over low-cost, pure casting suppliers.” For example, Dekoj says, GF Casting Solutions is using a unique design approach called bionic design during the R&D process, which, compared to traditional sheet metal design, contributes to a weight reduction of up to 45% of car body components, successfully meeting clients’ goals to reduce emissions and create more sustainable cars.
“GF is a global player with extensive experience working with carmakers around the world.”
Wang Dongchen, Aiways’ Chief Technology Officer
“There are currently 18 employees working in GF Casting Solutions’ Asia R&D center, which collaborates closely with the colleagues at the R&D headquarters in Schaffhausen,” says Dekoj. “We do most of the work locally in China, and we can always consult with headquarters and receive great support. So we have both the speed and the knowledge, which are very beneficial for us,” he adds.
“GF Casting Solutions is well positioned to capture the opportunities in this market, thanks to our comprehensive capabilities across R&D, manufacturing and product validations,” says Daniel Hu. “Our unique advantage is that we are able to provide customers with not only reliable products but also wholesome solutions to new problems and challenges.”
“GF accumulated enough experience to meet our requirements”
How does GF Casting Solutions support you in meeting the requirements for producing innovative, competitive cars in China for the world market?
Firstly, GF is a global player with extensive experience working with carmakers around the world. It has accumulated enough experience to meet our requirements and it has done quite a few prospective researches, which has proved to be very helpful to us. Secondly, we chose GF because of its high efficiency in sales support and honesty when proposing solutions.
Why do you appreciate the collaboration with GF Casting Solutions?
Although there are many technological challenges, our collaboration with GF has gone rather smoothly. Compared with traditional carmakers, electric car manufacturers have a much shorter development cycle. I’m glad that GF and Aiways were able to work together to complete tasks in a very timely manner.
What do you expect regarding future collaboration with GF Casting Solutions?
Aiways will continue to invest in R&D and technological innovation. I hope that GF could further support us in developing new materials and manufacturing techniques, while further lowering the cost and shortening development time. I also hope that GF’s China team will continue to enhance its capabilities in prospective research, giving greater support to Aiways’ innovation in future.