China’s Leapmotor unveils new manufacturing platform, wants others to use it

China's Leapmotor unveils new manufacturing platform, wants others to use it
Robotic arms assemble cars in the production line for Leapmotor’s electric vehicles at a factory in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, China, Apr 26, 2023. (File photo: China Daily via REUTERS)

SHANGHAI: Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker Zhejiang Leapmotor Technology unveiled on Monday (Jul 31) a new platform it developed in-house for making vehicles which its CEO said it wants to license to other automakers.

The “Four Leaf Clover” architecture features an integrated computing platform capable of controlling all intelligent functions including an EV’s autonomous driving and smart cockpit functions, Leapmotor’s CEO Zhu Jiangming told reporters in Shanghai.

The company hopes to sell the platform to other automakers via tech licensing agreements, he said.

“We hope Leapmotor will not only be an EV brand but also a licensor of core technologies,” Zhu said.

Companies in the automotive sector use the terms platform and architecture to describe the basic engineering and design that determines a vehicle’s size, weight and key elements of performance.

A senior Leapmotor engineer told the event the firm had achieved cost savings with the architecture by reducing the use of controls and wire harnesses, and Zhu said this would cut the bill of materials cost per car by 500 yuan (US$70).

The company is already planning to launch the platform’s next generation in 2025, which would include improvements in computing capabilities and smart cockpits, Zhu said.

Zhu, a veteran electronics engineer who co-founded surveillance giant Dahua, launched Leapmotor in 2015 with the backing of investors including state-owned Shanghai Electric Group and Hongshan, formerly known as Sequoia Capital China.

The company and its fellow Chinese EV start-ups have been struggling with losses and sales slumps since US rival Tesla started a price war at the beginning of the year.

Leapmotor, which employs more than 2,000 engineers, sold 44,500 units in the first half, 14 per cent fewer than a year ago.

But some young EV manufacturers, thanks to their heavy R&D investment, have been at the forefront of EV technology innovation that appeal to the preferences of tech-savvy Chinese consumers who like having more intelligent features in cars.

Leapmotor spent 11 per cent of its total revenue on R&D in 2022.

Volkswagen and Xpeng announced last week a partnership to jointly develop EVs on Xpeng’s G9 “Edward” platform, in a fillip for the Chinese start-up that analysts said could boost its sales and profitability.

Source: Reuters/px