On November 10th, the fourth models of ZHIDOU will come to us, by taking this opportunity, I visited in its Lanzhou electric vehicle manufacturing plant, although it is not where D3 is manufactured (ZHIDOU D3 is manufactured in Ji’nan), but we can still see something there, from here we can explore the production of ZHIDOU and the essence in it. On the other hand, I would like to take this opportunity to learn about the differences between pure electric vehicles and traditional gasoline vehicles regarding the manufacturing process.

  1. What I know about ZHIDOU and its status quo.As the editor of the science and technology / new energy channel, “ZHIDOU” has gained our attention since its establishment of the brand. After all, the “MINI” body styling and lower price in the mini car market are still very competitive.

At the same time, thanks to the golden holders, the potential of ZHIDOU is also promising.

The company started its sales in 2014 and reached 25, 300 in 2015. It was the brand that enjoys the highest sales volume in China. The skyrocketing volume has dropped slightly this year, but the whole sales remained in the domestic top 10 among pure electric vehicles.

In order to ensure full production capacity, ZHIDOU set up their production bases in Ningbo, Lanzhou and Ji’nan. Among them, the Lanzhou factory that we are going to visit is the first plant that is officially put into operation, ZHIDOU D1, D2 and D2S are produced here.

Last year, in order to improve the quality and capacity of its products, ZHIDOU upgraded the factory again. This visit was also the first time of its opening to the media after its upgrade.

II. What is so different with a plant that manufactures electric vehicles?

A car factory can be simple and can be complicated. Stamping, welding, painting and assembly, the 4 major process workshops, and finally the car quality inspection, all these guarantee that a new car completion. Is the production process of an electric car the same?

From the manufacture, the manufacturing process of the electric car also consist of electric welding, stamping, painting and assembly 4 processes, but because the electric high voltage wire harness, battery, lightweight materials are used, so there will be scenes that are different from the traditional fuel vehicles in the assembly shop.

Let’s start with the stamping and welding shop.

ZHIDOU has a production line in the stamping workshop of Lanzhou factory, including 5 punching machines. The maximum tonnage of stamping is 1600 tons (t). At the same time, through the optimization of the mechanical equipment, the noise of the workshop is reduced to less than 80 db. I also found a forging press from Tianjin No.2 Forging Press Factory in the stamping workshop. This 200t forging press is mainly prepared for the micro adjustment of the stamping die.

In fact, as a factory built in 2005, the stamping workshop of ZHIDOU is still qualified. After all, the annual output of the entire plant is only more than 40 thousand, an automated stamping line can fully meet its production requirements.

After stamping, it enters the welding workshop. The welding shop is the most automated workshop in the factory at present. I saw automatic welding robots from KUKA, ABB and so on in the field, according to the manufacturer’s data, the current number of robots of this workshop remained at around 15.

These 15 robots can basically meet the capacity of the Lanzhou factory. However, although a lot of welding robot, but there are still a lot of work done by the workers, such as some special structures which are light and high strength parts or frame or single parts of the electric vehicle, only BIW welding will require automatic robot.

After the welding workshop, the parts that we saw are already in shape and become the white body as we often say. White body needs to go through the next process which is painting, we often refer this to antirust and paint treatment. There is no difference between the coating process of ZHIDOU and the mainstream manufacturers, and it is also a chemical treatment of phosphating, oxidation and passivation. The cathodic electrophoresis technology in mainstream primer spraying (this technology can prevent the electrophoresis layer from being damaged, and prevent the paint from blistering) in addition, during communication we know that ZHIDOU paint is from Germany BASF, this paint can achieve a good balance between quality and hue.

The final process is the assembly shop. As we mentioned earlier, compared with the traditional gasoline car, the biggest difference of the electric car factory is in this workshop.

As we know, there are a lot of high voltage lines of the electric cars, and a variety of controllers and body control module, most importantly, there is a battery, so the vehicle manufacturing consistency, reliability and security have strict standards, the assembling workshop of an electric vehicle must meet these requirements and standards.

For example, battery and motor final assembly line. First of all, these stations will have obvious warning signs, and secondly, all auxiliary equipment must be insulated to ensure safety.

For example, temporary storage locations of batteries, insulation board placed on the ground, and the operation workers should wear insulating suit.

Because some electrical appliances are too heavy, the assembly workshop also uses the AGV trolley according to the different packing line. AGV car can move along the track according to the set software program, it can send the part on the sub-assembly line to the total assembly line, which has greatly improved the production efficiency.

Of course, for the tire sub-assembly line, interior sub-assembly line, front and rear axle sub-assembly line and other lines, they are similar to the traditional car assembly lines, we won’t go to further details.

After the final assembly line, one it passes the inspection line, this means a new ZHIDOU is off line. However, the inspection line of electric vehicles is obviously more complex. In addition to the testing of conventional lighting, instrumentation, speakers, inspection is also required for the circuit controller, battery group, BMS testing; and rain test is also the key of electric vehicles.

After all the standard tests, a real ZHIDOU car can be officially offline.

This is a the whole process of a mini electric vehicle from the parts to the whole vehicle, we can see that the sparrow may be small, from the production process, 4 major processes are no different with that of a fuel car, and in the assembly workshop it will require more, the final quality inspection standard is more, this is to ensure the safety and quality of electric vehicles.

Finally, something else: in the factory of ZHIDOU, I visited a special workshop, or, more appropriately, an experimental room. This is the triple-testing workshop.

Here, ZHIDOU will test every cell for each electric car, only those qualified can enter the production line. Motor and electric control system need to go through sampling test.

From here, you can also see that ZHIDOU is very detail-minded in the core areas of electric vehicles, after all, for a good product, quality comes first.

Editor’s comment: Lanzhou ZHIDOU Factory is very important and a “long history” production base, which assumes more than half of the domestic production tasks, this visit is the first visit after its upgrade last year. Both the production efficiency and automation degree are improved significantly, but due to the fact that the factory was built earlier, upgrade was restricted to some extent, but with the Ningbo and Ji’nan factory coming into production, we have reasons to believe that the production process and quality of ZHIDOU products will improve further.