E-mobility is booming in China – and Feintool is right in the middle of it
China is leading the mobility revolution. One in three cars in the Middle Kingdom is already electric. Feintool is helping to shape the change on Chinese roads and supplies the country’s up-and-coming manufacturers with a wide range of precision parts.
China is the largest car market in the world with over 27 million cars being sold each year, accounting for approximately one-third of global passenger car sales. Electric vehicles have long occupied a central position in the country’s huge fleet: “The market share was already 33 percent this May,” shared Xiangjun Bao, Managing Director of Feintool System Parts China. By comparison, electric cars account for only 12 percent of new sales in Europe so far.
While new brands are springing up like mushrooms in China, Western manufacturers are increasingly losing ground in the local market. The German auto industry, which has to date achieved a market share of over 20 percent in China, only manages around 5 percent in the electric vehicle segment. More than 80 percent of e-cars in China are produced in the country. By 2025, new energy vehicles (NEVs) are expected to account for half of the volume in the domestic market. And the country’s car export business is also growing rapidly, having tripled since 2020.
Long-term contract with premium brand NIO
The competition among local manufacturers is correspondingly fierce: “The market is extremely competitive and developing very dynamically. If you want to hold your own as a supplier here, you have to be efficient and flexible,” says Xiangjun Bao. With two plants in China and a broad portfolio of technologies for e-mobility, Feintool is well positioned to meet these high demands: “We can offer our customers a wide variety of manufacturing processes under one roof – that is a decisive competitive advantage.”
The “everything from a single source” argument also convinced NIO, a leading manufacturer of e-cars in the premium segment. In a combined process of fineblanking and double-sided grinding, Feintool manufactures parts for the electric drive system. The high-precision balance rings obviously meet the brand’s quality requirements as the initially agreed-upon collaboration, which was from 2022 to 2027, was recently extended to 2030. The plant in Taicang near Shanghai is expected to produce over two million parts per year. The prospects for follow-up orders are promising: “Our goal is to also soon support the customer in the area of e-sheet stamping and to supply parts for the core of e-motors,” says Xiangjun Bao.
Engineering as a success factor
In addition to battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) are also booming in China. Given Feintool’s several years of experience with hybrid transmissions, the company’s expertise in this segment is also in demand. For long-standing customer SLPT, the second Chinese plant in Tianjin near Beijing produces several parts for components that are ultimately supplied to the carmaker Chery. The brand is one of the fastest-growing car manufacturers in China and is considered the national industry leader in terms of exports.
The parts are used in a Dedicated Hybrid Transmission (DHT) – a type of transmission that is installed in around every second Chinese PHEV. Feintool manufactures the outer and inner clutch housings as well as several clutch discs. “For this contract, our engineering expertise was crucial,” says Xiangjun Bao. Upon Feintool’s recommendation, the customer opted for a highly efficient roll forming process instead of the more conventional cold rolling process. This change increased production from only five parts per minute to up to 20 parts per minute. “This allowed us to substantially reduce production costs for the customer,” says Bao.
Fuel cells are on the rise
Beyond BEVs and PHEVs, the Chinese auto industry has high hopes for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). In Europe and the U.S., this technology has not yet progressed beyond the experimental stage, and in recent years it seemed that most automakers had lost faith in this alternative to batteries. Not so in China: “FCEVs will rapidly gain in importance in the next few years,” believes Xiangjun Bao.
Various manufacturers are investing in the technology on a large scale – not only in the passenger car segment but also for larger vehicles such as buses and trucks. Feintool wants to help shape this trend. As a technology leader in fineblanking and forming, the company is well-suited to produce lightweight, high-performance bipolar plates – the heart of the fuel cell. Feintool is supported in this by laser specialist SITEC. In a new facility covering an area of 6,000 square meters, the plant in Taicang is currently building up capacity for two production lines. Up to ten million bipolar plates are expected to be produced there annually.
More efficiency for electric motors
Another ace up Feintool’s sleeve is the adhesive bonding technology known as Glulock, which the company acquired in 2022 through the takeover of Kienle + Spiess. This process allows loose rotor and stator laminations to be joined by adhesive dots during the stamping process. Currently, the Taicang plant is carrying out a development project for a renowned Chinese automaker. “We are exploring ways to enhance the efficiency of e-motors through this innovative joining technology,” explains Xiangjun Bao.
For the Managing Director of Feintool System Parts China, this project is an important step on the way to the core of e-motors. He believes, two factors are crucial for future success in the Chinese market: engineering know-how and flexibility in terms of drive technologies. For Xiangjun Bao, one thing is certain: “The car market of the future is a mix of BEVs, PHEVs, and FCEVs. No matter where the journey ultimately takes us – with our key technologies we can actively shape the new era of mobility.”