Aiways has hit the road in a big way.
Carscoops reports the Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer has been awarded a Guinness World Record for the longest journey completed by an electric vehicle prototype.
Aiways sent two all-electric U5 crossovers on a 15,022km journey across 12 countries. On July 17, the SUVs started in the Chinese city of Xi’an – start of the Silk Road – and reached Frankfurt on September 7. The most challenging stretches of the journey were the Gobi Desert, the Kazakh Steppe, and the Southern Ural Mountains.
Charging infrastructure in such regions is subpar, but Aiways engineers have developed the U5 to be compatible with different charging standards and voltages throughout the world.
Alexander Klose, the executive VP of overseas operations, said the company has "has developed a fully-electric SUV that’s capable of traveling hundreds of kilometres between charging in some of the most challenging terrain and remote areas".
"The fact that we’ve been able to achieve a world record in these conditions demonstrates the U5’s qualities, capabilities and, most importantly, it's suitability for European consumers."
Measuring 4680mm long, 1880mm wide, and with a 2800mm wheelbase, the U5 is roughly the same size as a Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.
It uses a 140kW electric motor which delivers up to 315Nm of torque to the front wheels only. Weighing 1730kg, the U5 is about as heavy as a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
The U5 uses a 65kWh battery pack and has a claimed range of 460km under NEDC testing. Buyers seeking greater range will have the opportunity to buy an additional battery pack, boosting range to 560km.
There’s some clever technology, too, including facial recognition designed to identify when the driver is getting drowsy and prompt them to take a break.
The U5 is just the first of a series of models based on Aiways's MAS modular architecture, the second of which – the U7 ion – was previewed in concept form at this year’s Shanghai motor show.
As for the company’s name, no, it’s not a typo, as much as our phones and Google seem to insist. Aiways stands for “AI on the way” and it’s one of China’s newest automakers, founded in 2017 by Fu Qiang and Gu Feng. With starting capital of roughly $A2.4 billion, this is no back-alley start-up.
It’s also a company with global aspirations. Though it hasn’t officially started producing any vehicles, it’s already preparing to launch in Western Europe next year.
Aiways has sourced some European talent, too, hiring Roland Gumpert to be the chief product officer of its German subsidiary. His name has already been used on an innovative sports car concept, the Gumpert Aiways RG Nathalie, which uses four electric motors but a methanol fuel cell stack in place of a conventional battery.
Chinese automakers haven’t been able to get much traction in Western Europe, a region brimming with domestic brands to which buyers are extremely loyal.
It didn’t help one of the first Chinese exports to the continent, the Jiangling Landwind X6, famously folded like an accordion in a German TÜV crash test.
Brilliance and Qoros have attempted to gain a foothold in Europe but failed, while Great Wall has even gone so far as to open a factory in Bulgaria to limited success.
Only SAIC-owned MG is having any measure of success, its sales growing every year since its launch.
Aiways may be the first electric Chinese brand to reach Europe but the MG eZS will first. Byton and NIO are also planning to introduce EVs to Europe in 2021. With EV demand dipping slightly in China of late but European sales continuing to rise, it’s an auspicious market for Chinese automakers.