Xpeng, one of Tesla’s most aggressive competitors in China, plans to fit its P7 all-electric saloon car with a cheaper battery to pass the cost-savings to its price-sensitive customers and help it get ahead in the country’s cutthroat vehicle market.
A fast-charging lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery pack will be available as an option on the P7 model starting in May as an alternative to the lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) version in use, according to two sources with knowledge of the plan.
The LFP batteries, which can go as far as 480km (298 miles) on a single charge, or one third less than the 703km range on the NMC pack, will cost about 20,000 yuan (US$3,000) less. Some of the savings in the cost of the battery pack will be passed on to customers to reduce the P7’s sticker price, the sources said, declining to elaborate.
“Xpeng is preparing to expand its customer base as competition heats up this year in the premium segment” for electric vehicles, said Gao Shen, an independent analyst on the manufacturing industry in Shanghai, who has not been briefed on the Chinese start-up’s plans. “It remains to be seen whether the new version could be sold at a price below 200,000 yuan.”
The plan by Xpeng, the first carmaker to fit a lidar to a production model this year, underscores how far assemblers of electric cars – known as new-energy vehicles (NEVs) in China – are willing to go to outcompete each other in the world’s largest automobile market.
Dozens of new NEV models are on the drawing boards this year, while new entrants like China’s dominant internet search engine Baidu are preparing to enter the fray to replace petrol-guzzling vehicles on the nation’s roads.
Xpeng found that most of its customers use their electric vehicles in urban areas, requiring only between 200km and 300km (120-190 miles) in driving range every week, or an average daily usage of about 30km, the sources said.
That led the carmaker to conclude that there may be new customers with 200,000 yuan budget who may prefer cheaper prices for shorter driving range, the sources said.
The price elasticity among Chinese customers was also amply shown last autumn, when the SAIC-GM-Wuling Hongguang MINI EV, a diminutive electric minicar with a range of 170km on a charge, outsold Tesla with a US$5,000 price tag, about one ninth of the cost of a Shanghai-made Model 3.
Xpeng’s P7 starts from 229,900 yuan. A company spokesperson confirmed that the Guangzhou-based carmaker will launch new models with different batteries, declining to comment on pricing.
The lower-price option cuts a contrast with the higher end of the spectrum, where Tesla’s three Chinese challengers Xpeng, NIO and Li Auto are launching models with longer driving range than Tesla’s bestselling Model 3, and the newly launched Model Y.
The Californian carmaker was the runaway leader China’s premium NEV market last year when it delivered nearly 140,000 Model 3s. January sales of Model 3s jumped 461.4 per cent to 13,843 units, while deliveries of the Model Y were 1,641 units after a full month of its debut, according to data provided by the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA).
The Chinese challengers are catching up with Tesla in their home market. Xpeng’s deliveries jumped 577 per cent in the first two months of 2021 to 8,238 vehicles. Xpeng, established in 2014 by He Xiaopeng, is expected to launch its third production model some time in 2021.