Yolanda Zhang of State Power Investment Corporation on China’s Electric Vehicle Transformation
To stave off the detrimental impacts of climate change, analysts project we will need a clean energy transformation at a scale that the world has never seen. This type of change will require massive levels of coordination between private enterprises to develop innovations and governments to ensure new technologies roll out efficiently. There is perhaps no place better suited for these types of private/public partnerships to exist than China, and no company better positioned to facilitate the rollout than China’s State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC).
SPIC, at its core, is an electric utility company, but, unlike traditional power companies, it also works within the logistics, finance, environmental protection, and information technology industries. To understand why this model is unique and how it is helping China work toward its national carbon-neutrality goals, we sat down with Yolanda Zhang, general manager at SPIC Yuetong Qiyuan New Technology Company. Ms. Zhang oversees operations for large-scale new energy logistics projects. She joined KraneShares Cultural Analyst Xiabing Su and Senior Investment Strategist Anthony Sassine to discuss SPIC's mission, their latest technological advancements, and the future of the electric vehicle ecosystem.
Key points from the discussion include:
- SPIC was the first company in the central state-owned electric power complex that proposed a plan for the implementation of China's 30/60 dual-carbon policy: To achieve peak carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.
- SPIC has set an overall mission to reduce costs and increase customer efficiency by replacing high-carbon emission infrastructure with more sustainable options, including electric trucks, charging stations, and other facilities, and promoting more energy efficient dispatching systems, including driverless, intelligently managed vehicles.
- SPIC's goal is to utilize electric vehicle (EV) technology to help clean up the environment and create greener cities as well as the future of passenger and commercial EV technology, from hydrogen fuel cells to battery swapping.
SPIC and Yuetong Qiyuan New Energy Technology Mission
Anthony began the discussion by asking Yolanda about the mission of SPIC Yuetong Qiyuan New Technology and to explain the origins of the partnership between SPIC and China’s government.
Yolanda Zhang stated that SPIC Yuetong Qiyuan New Technology Company’s "mission is to reduce costs and increase customer efficiency. We also hope that through our efforts, we can make the traffic greener and life better. This is the mission and vision of our company.” To achieve this mission as well as the proposed 30/60 dual-carbon policy, it is essential to expand new energy source capacity as well as increase the application of new energy power consumption.
Yolanda’s company, which is a subsidiary of SPIC, has excelled in the promotion and implementation of new energy vehicles and proved to be a valuable asset to SPIC, which specializes in power generation and new energy development. Yolanda herself is one of the first five people in China to be involved in battery swapping stations for commercial use, and her previous team made the world's first battery swap for heavy trucks. The combination of shared common interests and SPIC being China’s leading new energy development company is the reason the partnership between SPIC and the government came into existence.
EV Policy Support and Implementation
Next, Anthony asked Yolanda to comment on how policy support for electric vehicles (EVs) from China's government has progressed in recent years.
Yolanda explained how government support for electric vehicles had been around for much longer than one might think. She stated, "China's support policy for new energy vehicles was implemented as early as ten years ago." This early enactment of financial subsidies set the path for China to lead in EV developments and led to new alternative policy developments that have driven growth even further.
Yolanda noted that the growth in heavy electric trucks is an excellent representation of the accelerating effect of government policy on EV developments. "In the promotion and application of heavy electric trucks, there were no more than 1,000 units in the country in 2020. Last year (2021), the number increased to more than 10,000 units." Advocating for change concerning existing high-emission and high-pollution vehicles in operations such as steel mills and mines has been a significant driver in this transformation to electric vehicles within logistics. Over time, companies will be forced to utilize electric vehicles to "score higher in environmental protection."
New Green Energy Initiatives
Anthony followed with a question concerning new energies and green energy initiatives ongoing at SPIC.
Yolanda responded by talking about the massive changes that occurred surrounding commercial vehicles in the previous years. Prior to recent developments, “the efficiency of the original commercial vehicle was very low.” Logically, it has been a long-term goal of SPIC to increase efficiency by introducing the battery-swapping model as well as decrease consumer costs. This ongoing project for SPIC remains year after year.
SPIC targets and revamps “high-carbon emission scenes” with large logistics and transportation volumes. SPIC has successfully implemented this initiative at a large steel mill in China where they have swapped fuel vehicles for electric vehicles as well as built two battery swapping stations. This is just one example of many where SPIC has assisted in environmental protection by integrating electric vehicles into large-scale operations with high carbon emissions.
EV Charging & Swapping Technology
Anthony also asked a question revolving around the advantages of swapping stations versus fast charging and the possible transition from commercial to passenger vehicles as targets of their overhauling process.
Ms. Zhang stated that specific to any scenario, swapping stations could prove more efficient than fast charging. Yolanda believes that the future of energy supply for EVs will be a combination of charging and swapping, "The best solution will combine customer needs and application scenarios. Whatever can improve operating efficiency, reduce operational confusion, or mileage anxiety is the best." SPIC utilizes a variety of solutions from charging piles, swap stations, integrated charging, and swapping facilities, together with solar energy storage.
On the topic of passenger vehicles Yolonda remarked, "In China, the promotion of battery swapping for passenger cars is very successful. Several brands have been implementing the battery swap model, which has also attracted many users to purchase [EVs]." The future will include a variety of solutions for all forms of transportation, commercial and passenger.
Yolanda spoke in length providing insight on SPIC’s mission, policy support from the government, new green initiatives, and EV charging and swapping technologies. While positive change has occurred in recent years surrounding areas of concern in relation to fighting climate change, more must be done. Yolanda and SPIC are at the forefront of this change and are leading the way for China in hopes of solving the world’s most prominent issue.
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