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Chinese electric vehicle maker develops new kind of delivery car

Juzhen Shuju's move incorporates e-commerce boom and aims for autonomous vehicles

The cost of the Chengshi 01’s battery has been kept to a minimum to make it easier for delivery drivers to buy. (Photo courtesy of Juzhen Shuju Technology)

BEIJING -- In China, where demand for home delivery services is growing rapidly and the working-age population is declining, the workloads of delivery drivers will only increase.

Delivery drivers usually use three-wheeled electric vehicles, which are cheap and zippy and have relatively high capacity.

But these vehicles have obvious flaws. They are larger than electric scooters, so they cannot be ridden on bicycle paths and sidewalks, out of consideration for the safety of cyclist and pedestrians, yet are too slow for road traffic.

Since most delivery drivers buy their own vehicles, delivery companies have no legal responsibility for accidents caused by their drivers. Furthermore, since vehicles of this type are not covered by insurance policies for business vehicles, drivers face a potential huge burden if they cause an accident.

Juzhen Shuju Technology, a maker of new energy vehicles (NEV), focused on these problems and developed a four-wheeled delivery NEV called Chengshi 01. It was released on Nov. 11, also known as Singles Day, at the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival 2020 held by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding.

Juzhen Shuju Technology CEO Gu Zulin explained that the vehicle's name means both the Chinese word "chengshi" (to achieve something) and the English word "chance." The company hopes to provide delivery drivers with new chances to earn income and help them achieve success.

The Chengshi 01 has a simple design reminiscent of a product from Japanese retailer Muji. The vehicle is compact enough to be zippy on the street, measuring 3.5 meters long, 1.5 wide and 1.7 tall. Yet its cargo compartment has a capacity of 2.6 cu. meters and a maximum load capacity of 600 kg. The vehicle also has a folding roof, allowing it to carry even such large items as refrigerators and air conditioners.

Juzhen Shuju Technology says it invited delivery drivers and heard their opinions as early as the design stage of the Chengshi 01.

Chengshi 01 is an NEV that takes a regular license plate. The cost of its battery has been kept to a minimum to make it easier for drivers to buy.

Electricity consumption has been reduced by making the chassis lighter. Mileage of 120 km per 10 kilowatt-hours has been realized -- three times farther than traditional three-wheeled electric vehicles.

Juzhen Shuju Technology has also developed its own battery management system, which allows the vehicle to travel up to 240 km on a single charge.

Chengshi 01 is also equipped with an intelligent transport system (ITS). By monitoring the vehicles' operations, local governments can track deliveries and ensure drivers' safety and the smooth flow of traffic.

Juzhen Shuju Technology has also come up with a new source of revenue for drivers: digital signage on the back of the Chengshi. Using the internet app Xiaoge Jiadao from Juzhen Shuju Technology, drivers can book advertisements as well as take orders for deliveries and shopping.

Juzhen Shuju Technology has teamed up with urban logistics platforms such as Didi Huoyun, a cargo shipping service provider under China's biggest ride-hailing company, DiDi Chuxing, so drivers can take home delivery orders with Xiaoge Jiadao. The drivers will not have to pay fees on income earned via Xiaoge Jiadao, according to Gu.

Juzhen Shuju Technology's ultimate goal is not to release delivery NEVs; it aims to mass-produce unmanned delivery vehicles that can operate on roads.

Gu set up an in-house lab called No. 0 that is tasked with the research and development of unmanned vehicles themselves, not an autonomous driving algorithm. He said it will take at least 24 months before a draft of a new vehicle design can be put into production, and that the company will need to communicate with nearly 1,000 suppliers in the meantime.

Complicating this, unmanned vehicles have totally different internal structures, and therefore suppliers and manufacturing processes, from manned vehicles.

The name "Lab No. 0" indicates the company's business goal of "developing unmanned cars with 'zero' passengers and switching from the production line of existing manned cars to that of unmanned cars in 'zero' months." To design unmanned vehicles, the company will provide training for assembly line workers so it can smoothly switch production lines while making the best use of its existing suppliers.

Juzhen Shuju Technology will aim to switch the production line of the Chengshi 01 to its unmanned vehicle Chengshi 00 in a month's time, if it can successfully develop sensors and chips that meet automotive standards.

"We will be able to start mass-producing our unmanned car, Chengshi 00, more than a year earlier than other companies and grab a market share," Gu said.

36Kr, a Chinese tech news portal founded in Beijing in 2010, has more than 150 million readers worldwide. Nikkei announced a partnership with 36Kr on May 22, 2019.

For the Japanese version of this story, click here.

For the Chinese version, click here.

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