Leekr Technology: New Competitor in Chassis-by-Wire

Eyeing opportunities from the transition to electric vehicles, more veterans from international auto groups are leaving their posts and setting up shop themselves, hoping to disrupt existing solutions.

The persistent shortage of auto chips and rising battery costs have prompted automakers to monitor the supply chain with unprecedented concern. When referring to bills of materials, OEMs give priority to important items such as batteries and chips, and also do not neglect other components, for example, the chassis with a wire. According to CITIC Securities, the chassis accounts for 10% of the total costs in a typical car model. The X-by-wire strategy, which originated from the aircraft industry, is gradually being adopted in automobile design, especially on EV chassis. It includes braking, steering, acceleration and shifting systems.

The proliferation of electric vehicles requires more advanced structural designs. Braking system experts focus on developing products that can meet various requirements, such as faster response, abundance of safety, smaller size and weight, and energy regeneration. To meet market appetite, Chinese startups are coordinating with OEMs to improve driving experiences.

We interviewed Hui Zhifeng, founder and CEO of Leekr Technology (Chinese: 利 氪), an innovative automotive technology company that just raised CNY 200 million (USD 30 million) in Series A and A+ funding rounds.

Founded in 2021, the startup is run by a group of veterans from Bosch and ZF Group. It specializes in the development of wire-frame chassis and related components. Wire brakes or electro-hydraulic brakes (EHB) are considered the beginning of their production on the market. Their starting lineup includes DHB (a separate hydraulic brake booster), a vacuum independent electro-hydraulic brake-force booster (e-booster), and IHB (integrated hydraulic brake) which is a single-box electro-hydraulic solution that combines e-booster and ESC (electronic control). steadily). The two producers help Leekr acquire nine massive production projects from OEMs.

product.jpg.jpg

”The application of the wire-frame system brings many benefits to electric vehicles. With self-driving technology booming, practitioners are stressing the safety of cars more than ever. EHB provides cars with increased safety through independent chipsets and algorithms, increasing the robustness of the fully autonomous driving system. Based on the SAE rating for autonomous driving, the EHB is a standard component for autonomous vehicles L3 and above,” Hui told EqualOcean. Other than that, EHB also helps electric vehicles improve energy consumption. It acts as a regenerator in order to increase the range of a vehicle with a pure battery by 20%.

Compared to a conventional hydraulic braking system, the EHB’s biggest advantage is a shorter lock-up time (according to IHS Markit, “the time during which the braking system can build up to the required pressure”). “The response time of a DHB or IHB can be shortened to 150 milliseconds, which is 50% shorter than conventional braking systems,” he noted.

”Our DHB system separates the brake pedal and brake circuits, which means OEMs can customize the feel of the pedal to adapt to different driving modes. This corresponds to the desire of customers who want smarter products. What’s more, the DHB can be equipped with either brand ABS (Antilock Brake System) or ESC units. He sees this trait as a significant difference from mainstream technology.

To better illustrate this, present the current state of the market. German auto parts giants such as Bosch, Continental AG and ZF Group dominate the brake system market in China. And most OEMs choose Global Tier1 because the product has a proven track record of operating safely and reliably, since safety is the bottom line for the braking system. However, to take advantage of a strong market position, Global Tier1 usually bundles the e-booster with its ESCs and supplies the package to OEMs, who have no choice but to accept what is being offered to them.

Howe acknowledges the pain points in this solution. “If an affordable car producer wants to equip his cars with a renewable energy function through an e-booster, he will avoid thinking about Global Tier1 products because they are too expensive. But our solution allows us to meet the needs, and we can customize many functions for them,” he said. So choosing a Chinese supplier means a lot to most domestic OEMs. “

Leekr.png.png

Hui also explained to EqualOcean how Leekr collaborates with automakers. “OEMs are very interested in the ability of suppliers to deliver right now. Adding another supplier enhances OEMs’ ability to source enough components and ensures the integrity of the supply chain.”

Besides, Leekr founder also believes that China-based companies can cooperate deeply with OEMs. “China leads the world in NEV sales, which means that car brands here will be more forward-thinking and suppliers will need to work with them together. Suppliers based in other countries may not follow the timeline for local product development,” he added.

prospects

After giving his thoughts on the current market landscape, Hui shared his insight into the electronic boosting sector.

“We believe that Brake-by-Wire product development is moving in two directions, designing a field-based center braking system or a closed-wheel variant,” Hoy said. Four units of EMB (electromechanical brake) and planned to be installed on four wheels. This will improve braking efficiency and increase costs.

Leekr’s decision to bet on two producers indicates their confidence in the electronic brake market. According to IHS Markit, the demand for electrohydraulic brake system is expected to nearly double from 2021 to 2023. The electronic booster market will exceed US$7 billion in 2026. The market is far from saturated. The electrohydraulic brake system is expected to grow from 13% of the market share (of the total brake actuation system market) in 2021 to about 29% in five years.

The road to globalization

As a senior executive who has worked for a global company, Hui has ambitious goals. Leekr is set to develop more products with internal structures and hopes to sell them overseas. Although Leekr only started a year ago, the company has a clear roadmap to scale production, and two dedicated production lines for the chassis field console and Steer-by-Wire product are planned. It plans to use the proceeds raised from previous funding rounds to build a factory in Shanghai that can produce AED 300,000/IHB products annually. From the second half of this year, the company will operate its second and third production lines, bringing the total capacity to 0.9 to 1.2 million units annually.

minimum

More Chinese component makers are joining the group of companies to sell products globally, most of which are located in Shanghai and surrounding areas.

On the grounds of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, workers are busy assembling Tesla cars or loading them onto cargo ships. These cars are equipped with batteries made by CATL or BYD. Time will tell if Tesla Shanghai releases cars equipped with more “China-made” components like Leekr’s braking systems.

Leave a Comment