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IF Insights: Zeekr, ‘Gigapress’ method and China’s electric vehicle revolution

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It's predicted that Zeekr would employ giga-casting technology on additional models in the future

The Chinese electric vehicle (EV) industry has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, thus putting the country firmly on the map as a global leader in the electric vehicle space. A large part of this transformation can be attributed to the efforts of companies like Geely, which owns a majority stake in prominent automobile ventures like Volvo, Polestar, and Lotus, and has recently made a splash with its premium EV brand, Zeekr.

Geely’s Zeekr is now valued at USD 13 billion. One such innovation that has put Zeekr at the forefront of the electric vehicle race is its adoption of “Gigapress” die-casting technology. This revolutionary technology allows the production of larger, stronger, and more complex vehicle parts in a single process, drastically reducing manufacturing costs and increasing efficiency.

Jiang Kehong, the head of manufacturing technologies at Zeekr, revealed that the Chinese automaker had begun employing enormous aluminium die casts to manufacture a sizable rear underbody piece of its Zeekr 009 six-seat multipurpose van (MPV).

The official has also claimed that the method had assisted Zeekr in removing around 800 welding sites, reducing flaws, making the vehicle lighter, and increasing its structural stiffness, all of which impacted the ride quality of the MPV that went on sale in China in 2023.

Jiang predicted that Zeekr would employ giga-casting technology on additional models in the future.

This technological development is significant because it could impact the electric vehicle landscape in China and worldwide. The technology, which has been used by industry leaders such as Tesla and Volkswagen, has already been embraced by many Chinese automakers, including NIO, WM Motor, and XPeng. With the addition of Zeekr to this list, experts predict that the mass adoption of Gigapress technology would accelerate further, thereby helping to make EVs more affordable to consumers worldwide.

Elon Musk-led Tesla is facing tough competition from competitors like BYD, GAC, Chery, and SGMW, companies which are driving China’s USD 124 billion EV market. Even rising automakers like NIO, Li Auto, and Xpeng have made their presence felt in the global EV space.

Chinese brands like NIO and Ora have entered the market as serious contenders. As Chinese EV sales continue to grow and evolve, it will be interesting to see how these competitors stack up against each other and Tesla.

GigaPress technology, as the name suggests, is a series of high-pressure aluminium die-casting machines revolutionizing how the automotive industry manufactures car parts. Manufactured by Idra Group in Italy, the GigaPress program is changing the game for companies such as Tesla, Volvo, and Toyota.

With a clamping force of 55,000, Tesla’s first Giga Press installed in 2020 gave it the ultimate advantage in the industry. Now, Geely adopting this production method means other automakers too will have to follow the trend, in order to challenge Tesla’s monopoly.

The injection system used in the new GigaPress has resulted from amazing R&D efforts and two years of hot tests in collaboration with Italy’s Idra Group. The machines can handle molten aluminium weighing over 100 kg, which is then injected into high-precision cold moulds, resulting in stronger, stiffer, and significantly lighter parts than those made using traditional manufacturing methods.

IDRA’s newest and biggest GigaPress, the 9,000, which is the size of a small house, can produce even larger parts making automotive manufacturing more efficient and cost-effective.

With GigaPress technology, Tesla and other automakers can manufacture high-quality car parts faster, more sustainably, and at a lower cost, paving the way for a more efficient and eco-friendly automotive industry.

The widespread use of Gigapress technology can shift the industry’s focus from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to EVs, creating a more sustainable, longer-lasting, and cleaner future. Experts predict that by 2035, almost one-third of all cars sold worldwide will be electric, with China playing a significant role in this growth.

China’s share of the EV market is already substantial; in 2021, China accounted for more than half of all new EV sales globally.

Furthermore, with its foray into the European market planned for the later half of 2023, Zeekr is well-positioned to capture a significant share of the growing European EV market.

According to a recent report, Europe’s EV market is predicted to grow by 50% in 2023, with over 2 million EVs sold, making it the most dynamic global market for this type of car. Therefore, this represents a significant opportunity for Zeekr to expand its brand and solidify its position as a worldwide leader in the EV space.

Conclusion

Through its adoption of Gigapress technology and its bold expansion plans, Zeekr is poised to become a significant player in the global EV market, thus disrupting the traditional automotive industry.

The growth and transformation of the Chinese EV market are not just limited to its domestic stakeholders but will have a lasting impact on global industry dynamics.

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