XPeng unveils new EV platform designed to reduce production costs

by Ana Lopez

Chinese electric vehicle maker XPeng unveiled on Sunday its new platform architecture for creating vehicles that will form the basis for future production models and reduce the cost of development and production.

The Smart Electric Platform Architecture (SEPA) 2.0 is expected to shorten the R&D cycle for future models by 20% and reduce customization costs 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, such as XPeng’s upcoming G6 coupe SUV, which debuts Tuesday at Auto Shanghai 2023, Brian Gu, Xpeng’s president, told reporters on Sunday.

The G6 will be the first vehicle built on the SEPA 2.0 platform. Gu said about 80% of the architectural components in each upcoming model will be compatible with future models, which will help XPeng expand its range without breaking the bank.

The cost-focused event comes as XPeng’s rivals have fueled price wars in China. Tesla sparked a price war in October when the automaker slashed prices on models produced at its mega-factory in Shanghai. In January, Tesla added fuel to the fire with another discount that made its locally-made cars about 14% cheaper than in 2022.

Rivals including XPeng, Nio, Volkswagen AG, Mercedes-Benz Group and Ford Motor all followed suit, wreaking havoc on China’s already struggling auto market.

Last month, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers called for an end to the price war, saying it was not a long-term solution to low demand and excess inventory.

“The focus on the ability to offer attractive products at affordable prices becomes even more important,” Gu said 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 yet shared pricing for the G6, so it’s not clear what kind of pricing the automaker is aiming for with SEPA 2.0. XPeng CEO He Xiaopeng said on Sunday that a carmaker must reach 3 million units annually and globally if it is to survive beyond ten years.

XPeng shipped 18,230 EVs in the first quarter of the year, down nearly 50% year-over-year. The company hopes its new P7i sports sedan, new G6 and a yet-to-be-disclosed seven-seat multi-purpose vehicle will boost sales this year.

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SEPA2.0

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 individual underbody parts of vehicles.

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

The architecture also features ‘Cell Integrated Body’ technology, which integrates the battery pack into the body to provide more interior space, increase battery safety and improve 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 the development of smart EV technology over the next three years,” said Xiaopeng. “It will make rapid technological advances available to our customers as standard, with faster software upgrades, stunning cost savings and an improved product experience.”

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

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

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