Xpeng Motors launched its long-awaited Tesla Model S competitor in June, with a headlining NEDC range of 706 km (439 mi) and what it says is the first SAE Level 3-ready smart electric vehicle. The self-described leading Chinese electric vehicle and technology company debuted its P7 high-performance, fast-charging intelligent EV sports sedan, its second production model after the G3 SUV it launched in December 2018. [For comparison, the Model S is NEDC rated for 713 km (443 mi) in Australia and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at 402 mi (647km).]
“Today is a milestone in the five-year history of Xpeng Motors,” said He Xiaopeng, Chairman & CEO. “The P7’s launch solidifies Xpeng Motors’ leading position in China’s smart EV market. Our ability to launch the P7 in the challenging conditions of the COVID-19 crisis is a testament to the strength of our young company.”
In another testament to its strength, Xpeng ranked number one among Chinese automakers, with 335 smart and connected car technology patents filed during 2019, according to data released jointly by the China Automotive Technology Research Center and China Society of Automotive Engineers in January 2020. Invention patent applications accounted for a little more than 76% of Xpeng’s published patent applications, also the highest percentage among Chinese automakers.
The company says the P7 incorporates many breakthroughs and firsts. The car’s long range and quiet high-speed operation are aided by a minimalist body for lower air resistance, with a market-leading Cd of 0.236. The car boasts 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) acceleration in 4.3 s in top performance spec. Its high-performance 3-in-1 electric drive system is said to be compact, light, efficient, and reliable, with world-class motor energy density of 2.0 kW/kg and an efficiency up to 97.5%.
Xpeng is transparent in highlighting world-class suppliers it worked with to bring the P7 to market.
CATL provides a high-density slim-profile prismatic battery pack just 110 mm (4.3 in) thick with 80.9-kW·h capacity and 170-W·h/kg energy density. The pack can be fast charged from a 30% to 80% charge in as quick as 28 min, with 120 km (75 mi) of range added in as little as 10 min.
The EV is the world’s first with Infineon’s 950 IGBT (insulated-gate bipolar transistor) module, delivering up to 580 A to the motors for a continuous 40 s.
Xpeng says the P7 has the strongest autonomous driving architecture among production vehicles in China. The car operates both the XPILOT3.0 and XPILOT2.0 automated driving systems concurrently to provide redundancy and high levels of functional safety. It is the first production model in the world powered by Nvidia’s Drive AGX Xavier system-on-a-chip, delivering 30 TOPS (trillions of operations per second) performance while consuming only 30 W of power.
In fact, the P7 leverages Nvidia from end to end, starting with its AI (artificial intelligence) infrastructure for development of Xpeng’s own self-driving deep neural networks. Inside the vehicle, the open Nvidia Drive OS enables the EV maker to run its proprietary autonomous driving software and deliver continual over-the-air (OTA) updates critical for future autonomous driving capability advancements. The company is also using Nvidia Xavier’s deep-learning accelerators for AI inference used in Level 3 operation.
The XPILOT3.0 automated driving system has 12 ultrasonic sensors, five high-precision millimeter-wave radars, and 14 cameras for the “industry’s only” 360-degree multi-perception integrated system “for China’s challenging roads.”
The company claims another industry first with new-generation forward-looking millimeter-wave radar sensors, with detection distance over 200 m (660 ft) and offering market-leading accuracy and angle of view, effectively penetrating rain, fog, and haze to perceive surroundings in reduced visibility conditions. Four more high-performance millimeter-wave radars are positioned at each corner of the car.
The P7’s lane-level positioning is aided by AutoNavi’s high-definition high-precision maps. The GPS/RTK/IMU hardware allows accuracy to the centimeter level, or less than 0.3% thanks to real-time positioning with simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology.
The sensor and positioning features are said to particularly enhance the stability and safety of the car’s autonomous driving function on overpasses, in tunnels, and in bad weather conditions.
The company claims a “German luxury sports style” jointly developed chassis, with an optimized suspension and layout aided in part by a Bosch/Brembo braking system, new-gen Bosch iBooster braking with nearly 100% energy recovery, and a 35-m (115-ft) 100 to 0 km/h braking distance. Coupled with iBooster precision, the P7 has a suite of advanced ADAS functions including navigation-guided pilot (NGP) for highways, traffic light recognition assistance, and another first—memory parking for car parks.
Inside, the view outward was a focus with a panoramic glass roof, frameless doors, and a low-profile console. The intelligent cockpit is designed to interact with driver and passengers through voice commands for infotainment that includes a 600-W Dynaudio surround-sound audio environment.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 high-performance chip runs the car’s Xmart OS 2.0, a claimed world’s first intelligent full-scenario voice interactive system that integrates an app store and Alipay mini-program dual ecosystem. The P7’s SEPA (Smart Electric Platform Architecture) is designed for whole-car OTA upgrade capability for in-car apps as well as other ECU-controlled functions.
“Our philosophy of end-to-end closed-loop R&D is what sets us apart among China’s intelligent EV manufacturers,” said He. “Regular OTA upgrades will ensure that the P7 continues to grow and improve as we do.”
The P7 is also the first Chinese automotive company to use the Real-Time Innovations (RTI) Connext DDS connectivity framework to send and receive data in real time. The aim is to mitigate risk and deliver the low latency, high reliability, scalability, and security essential for distributed systems. The plug-and-play architecture, advanced DDS Security, and support from ECU to backend allows Connext DDS users to develop and reuse software across the entire network stack while future-proofing their IP from market and technology changes.
During P7 development, Xpeng relied on new features in RTI’s Recording Service, claimed to be the first off-the-shelf solution for reliable and non-intrusive recording, analysis, and replay of real-time data, messages, and events at high data rates and high fidelity. With the feature, users can temporarily store the recording log in RAM and flush it to storage as needed, allowing longer use of SSDs while in the field. This offers an easier and more efficient fix for system debugging.
The P7 will be produced at Xpeng’s factory in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province. The Zhaoqing Xpeng Motors Intelligent Industrial Park was built over 15 months and received its official production license from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in May.
Spanning a planned area of 3000 acres (2 million m²), the factory is run by a 600-member team, 74% of which are engineers, with 78% joined from other leading OEMs. Other stats of note are vehicle production facilities area of 1500 acres (1 million m²), built to Industry 4.0 standards; with five workshops for stamping, welding, painting, battery pack, and final assembly; and 264 intelligent industrial robots.
The car will be supported by Xpeng’s growing China sales network of 113 outlets across 57 cities and a service network of 73 stores in 52 cities. The company has built a charging network for the car, with 164 “Supercharging” stations already contracted across 35 cities, with third-party charging of more than 200,000 units across China.
The P7 is available for order in China in 3 versions and 8 configurations, and customer deliveries commenced at the end of June starting at RMB 229,900 to 349,900 ($32,462 to 49,404) after subsidies. Specifically, the 4WD High Performance version (with 4.3-s 0-100 km/h acceleration, 562 km NEDC) is RMB 339,900- 349,900; the RWD Super-Long Range (670-706 km NEDC) is RMB 254,900-276,900; and the RWD Long Range (586 km NEDC) is RMB 229,900-259,900.
The NEDC driving ranges include new higher numbers for three versions of the P7 confirmed by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology just after the launch. The improvements are due to two main updates. The X-Pedal driving mode software, originally only available for the rear-wheel-drive super-long range standard version, is now available on all versions. The X-Pedal mode offers close to 100% energy recuperation for the regenerative braking system, with about 30% of the driving range coming from energy recuperation. Also, the battery management system software was optimized for the rear-wheel-drive long-range version to deliver better power distribution and performance.