DSM sub­sidiary’s novel tech boosts elec­tric ve­hi­cles

China Daily European Weekly - - Business - By ZHONG NAN zhong­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The au­to­mo­bile-body ma­te­ri­als sub­sidiary of Royal DSM, the Dutch life and ma­te­rial sciences com­pany, has found novel ways to en­hance the mileage and qual­ity of bat­tery­pow­ered ve­hi­cles in China.

By work­ing closely with Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­lated elec­tric ve­hi­cle in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions, DSM Engi­neer­ing Plas­tics, or DEP, has fig­ured that if e-ve­hi­cles are built us­ing light­weight yet sturdy ma­te­ri­als, they can travel a longer dis­tance.

Lighter e-cars also im­prove the en­durance of the bat­tery, says Zhang Zhenyu, com­mer­cial di­rec­tor of DEP for the Greater China re­gion.

Zhao Ying, a re­searcher at the Bei­jing-based In­sti­tute of In­dus­trial Eco­nom­ics, which is part of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, says: “Light­weight ve­hi­cles are a sig­nif­i­cant trend in new en­ergy ve­hi­cles. They can re­duce the use of the bat­tery. Ad­vanced ma­te­ri­als and tech­nol­ogy are key to light­weight ve­hi­cles and lower cost of pro­duc­tion.”

That is where DEP as­sumes sig­nif­i­cance. It spe­cial­izes in the man­u­fac­ture of plas­tics for elec­tron­ics, au­to­mo­tive and spe­cial­ized in­dus­tries.

“We are work­ing on light­weight ma­te­ri­als with man­u­fac­tur­ers in China and abroad, and try­ing to un­der­stand what they need now and what they might need in the future,” DEP’s Zhang says.

In this di­rec­tion, the com­pany has made progress. It has been able to make lighter en­gines, chas­sis and power as­sist sys­tems, as well as de­crease the fric­tion be­tween the chains. This has helped in­crease ef­fi­ciency and re­duce car­bon emis­sions.

DEP has gained an­other in­sight in China. “For tra­di­tional ve­hi­cles, we con­sider most the heat re­sis­tance of ma­te­ri­als. But now, we con­cen­trate more on the flame re­tar­dancy and in­su­la­tion per­for­mance for the bat­ter­ies and new re­quire­ments for emerg­ing ap­pli­ca­tions,” Zhang says.

Pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of par­ent DSM’s engi­neer­ing plas­tics pro­duc­tion line in Jiangyin, Jiangsu province, has sur­passed 10 mil­lion met­ric tons, he says.

En­cour­aged by the suc­cess so far, and to se­cure more re­sources, DEP is on the look­out for pos­si­ble tar­gets for merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions in the field, Zhang says.

The field of tra­di­tional en­gines has al­ways been DEP’s strong­hold. The shrink­ing vol­ume of tra­di­tional ve­hi­cles will force DEP to seek new growth points in the new en­ergy ve­hi­cle in­dus­try, he adds.

In engi­neer­ing plas­tics, DEP al­ready has a joint ven­ture with Zhe­jiang NHU Spe­cial Ma­te­ri­als Co. The ven­ture was es­tab­lished last year.

Un­der­lin­ing the fact that China is the world’s big­gest mar­ket for new en­ergy ve­hi­cles, Zhang says the coun­try’s re­new­able au­to­mo­tive sec­tor is grow­ing rapidly.

Ear­lier this year, the Min­istry of In­dus­try and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy said the coun­try is aim­ing to achieve an an­nual pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of 2 mil­lion new en­ergy ve­hi­cles by 2020.

A quar­ter of ve­hi­cles sold in China by 2025 will be pow­ered by al­ter­na­tive en­ergy.

“We have seen a dra­matic leap in China, which has a very am­bi­tious goal in new en­ergy cars. It’ll post a new chal­lenge for the ma­te­ri­als re­quired,” Zhang says.

“From charg­ing point to charg­ing gun, and now to high-volt­age con­nec­tor, the change in the cir­cuit sys­tem has posted new re­quire­ments for the ma­te­ri­als used,” he adds.

DEP will hire more pro­fes­sion­als for re­search and devel­op­ment of in­tel­li­gent light­weight ma­te­ri­als over the next five years, Zhang says.

DEP’s global net­work of R&D cen­ters spans In­dia, China, Ger­many, the Nether­lands and the United States.

“If our China de­part­ment pro­poses a project but lacks re­lated tal­ents, we can sup­port them from the Nether­lands or other labs in the world,” Zhang says.

He sees fresh chal­lenges aris­ing on the tech­nol­ogy front as well.

“Dig­i­tal­iza­tion is start­ing to take con­trol of many parts of cars, and we have seen many clients’ grow­ing in­ter­est in the dig­i­tal con­trol,” he says.

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