Chinese local governments funding the development of motorcycle technology.
From back street assemblers to state of the art technology, China has it all
Written by David McMullan the ‘Englishman in China’
A recent visit to an exhaust chroming company led me to consider the diversity of technology seen in the Chinese motorcycle manufacture industry. On a sunny Chongqing Saturday I took a Paraguayan motorcycle technician to a recommended chroming company, it turned out to be a bit shocking for the poor lad as he witnessed a smiling (but unmasked) worker dipping an exhaust in to an oil drum of molten chrome with a huge pair of tongs. Such ‘primitive’ operations are common in the Chinese industry but this shouldn’t detract from the fact that progressive and innovative technology is also carrying the industry forward.
Provincial governments have recognised that the Chinese motorcycle industry is changing directions in its effort to improve on quality and technical standards and moves are being made in China’s 3 largest motorcycle manufacturing provinces/ areas (Chongqing, Guangdong, Zhejiang) to supply funding to aid the upgrading of motorcycle manufacturing facilities and the education of the next generation of research and development experts. A year ago Qianjiang (producer of the Keeway brand and owner of Benelli) announced that the local government of Zhejiang Province would implement, according to their spokesperson “industrial technology innovation comprehensive pilot work in order to accelerate the setup of "enterprise-oriented, enterprise-leading" industrial technology innovation systems, closely integrate production, study, research and application, make breakthroughs in key technical bottlenecks as well as cultivate and support emerging motorcycle technologies.” The company later received in excess of 2 million dollars as a ‘support fund’ designed to improve the R&D of industrial production line robots.
In Chongqing, Lifan’s EFI development unit the ‘Chongqing Lifan Electronic Fuel Injection Company’ recently announced that their newly developed electronic fuel injection system has been successfully applied in various models and its self-developed ECU (electronic control unit) products have set a world record for the world’s smallest and most highly integrated ECU.
Lifan’s media office reported “The ECU defines engine data and the data volume is huge. In the past, we needed to record the data manually and then input the recorded data into the ECU program, which made it easy to make mistakes, also the software tools that were used to solve such problems were monopolized by overseas electronic injection system builders.” He continued, “Our team has developed a very useful software tool: the ECU calibration analysis system. The advantage of the system is that it can automatically record data and store the data in the computer and that data definition can be done by just operating the computer, which thus avoids human error and improves efficiency.”
Also in Chongqing, last month 2 government funded bodies the ‘Department of Science Technology’ and the ‘Department of Science Technology (CSGC) conducted a site acceptance test on the “097 Plan” programme of CSGC -- the “Application Research on the Key Technologies of the New-type Four-valve Water-cooled Electronic Fuel Injection Small and Medium Displacement High-performance Engine”. This programme was led by the CSGC and included the participation of motorcycle industry giant and founder Jialing. Once the CSGC officially set up the programme they obtained governmental financial support of RMB 9 million. The main goal of this programme is to develop world-class small and medium displacement, four-valve, water-cooled, electronic fuel injection and high performance engines using Chinese technology.
For the Chinese motorcycle companies, developing their ‘Smart Industry’ (integrating IT applications with industrialisation) is a major development orientation. China’s premier online motorcycle media i-motor reports “the Chongqing Municipal Government has joined with the local motorcycle industry to create an intelligent programme for industrial transformation and to stimulate the potential power for industrial transformation and upgrading, forming new paths for the integration of IT application with industrialisation featuring intension, interaction, interconnection and innovation in the developing regions.”
Commenting on the effect of this programme Huang Chengcai, general manager of Chongqing Baisha Ltd. has seen the improvement of working efficiency. “In June this year, we started to implement the MES system (system for information-based management of enterprises’ production process), and now I can learn and understand the whole production process of the company on the telephone terminal. It is clear that developed independently in Chongqing, the MES system has now been successfully implemented and applied in over 50 manufacturing enterprises including Chongqing Sokon Industrial Group Co., Ltd., Shineray Chongqing Motorcycle Co., Ltd, South Air International Co., Ltd, and Chongqing Loncin General Purpose Engine Co., Ltd. It has be seen from the feedback of the enterprises that the application of this system improves the average production efficiency of enterprises by 25%, improves the product quality pass rate by 30%, decreases average energy consumption by 10%, and reduces the product cost by 20%, thus achieving an economic benefit of over RMB 100 million overall.”
Big steps in technology require a big step-up in technical nous. Professor YangJian of Chongqing University of Technology predicts “with the automotive progression from China we see an increased interest and financial dedication from the government. As opposed to having tech staff capable of reproducing foreign tech we now (Chongqing technical universities) require a certain attitude which includes the ambition to research and take the automotive industry forwards. It is my prediction that the government’s faith will be justified and that in the future our automotive technical think-tanks will not only be the equal of their European counterparts but will surpass and be leaders in the world industry, although it must be said that none of this would have been possible without the knowledgeable technical injection from the companies that currently and previously have cooperated with Chinese motorcycle companies.”
Mike Cai of ChinaMotor magazine commented “it would seem that the motorcycle industry is taking a lead from its electric counterpart in terms of ground breaking product development. In their industry Tianjin Slane has produced an alternative to the DC brushless motor standard on E-bikes. The problem with a brushless motor is that it produces reverse magnetic resistance when the vehicle is accelerating affecting the speed and mileage of the vehicle, this shows that the Chinese can innovate and are no longer condemned to ‘cloning’; we are also becoming less reliant on foreign technology advisers. It’s fair to say that over the next 5 years you will see the Chinese industry leading the way in certain new technologies.