AIWAYS U5 electric SUV long-distance drive reaches Europe

Ultra-long-distance run from China to Germany in AIWAYS U5 SUV arrives in Finland for final part of the route

Chinese electric-car maker AIWAYS has issued an update about its U5 electric SUV's 8,843-mile journey from Xi'an to the Frankfurt Motor Show to mark the car's launch on the European market.

The drive began in the western Chinese city of Xian on 17 July and has now covered nearly 5,700 miles. After first passing through the Gobi Desert in China, the pair of cars on the drive then traversed the Kazakh Steppe, before moving into Russia and now Finland.

Over two-thirds of the route so far has been on unpaved or broken roads and temperatures have hit 35 degrees Celsius. Conventional charging points have been few and far between at times, but the team has been able to top up with electricity from hotels and service stations en route.

Alexander Klose, executive vice-president, overseas operations at AIWAYS, commented: "This unprecedented drive is providing our engineers with a unique opportunity to fine-tune the U5 SUV before AIWAYS sales commence in Europe in 2020. The engineering team has already crossed continents and tackled some very harsh driving conditions.

"The next couple of weeks will prove the car’s suitability for European drivers. While much of the development for the U5 is already complete, this epic, long-distance engineering drive allows us to put the car’s testing into practice.”

The company's chief technical officer, Winter Wang, added: "The final stage of the drive takes us through Europe and many of the world’s most developed markets for electric vehicle use and ownership. While the driving conditions may not be as physically challenging as some that we have encountered so far, the final few thousand kilometres of the drive will act as a litmus test for the car before European sales start next year.”

Engineers on the drive have been in daily contact with company headquarters in Shanghai, sharing data and diagnostic information so that the software in each car can be tested and improved in real-time. They have carried out frequent updates to the on-board software throughout the drive to ensure maximum compatibility with different charging standards and voltages in different regions.

Aiways U5

Having entered Russia at the border town of Troitsk, the U5 convoy passed through the Russian cities of Moscow and St Petersburg before entering Europe through Finland. The northernmost leg of the drive takes the prototypes above the Gulf of Bothnia, with scheduled stops in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, before entering Germany.

Once in western Europe, the cars will also visit Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Zurich, before a final drive over the Alps and back into Germany. The journey will end in front of the Frankfurt exhibition halls during the first week of September, shortly before the Frankfurt Motor Show opens its doors to the public.

The U5 was one of two models from AIWAYS displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in March: the other was a methanol-electric supercar co-developed with engineer Roland Gumpert, the man behind the Gumpert Apollo.

The supercar is dubbed the 'Nathalie' and uses methanol to generate electricity, in similar fashion to a hydrogen fuel-cell car like the Toyota Mirai. It'll have four separate electric motors and a pair of twin-speed gearboxes.

AIWAYS is claiming a power output of nearly 800bhp for the car, giving a 0-60mph time of under 2.5 seconds a top speed of more than 190mph. It should also be capable of travelling nearly 750 miles between refuelling.

Production of the Nathalie will be limited to 500 units, and although no exact price has been confirmed, it definitely won't be cheap.

AIWAYS U5

The U5, meanwhile, is being pitched as a more affordable alternative to the Audi e-tron, Mercedes EQC and Tesla Model X. It boasts a claimed range of around 285 miles and a power output of 185bhp. It'll also come with an 'artificially intelligent' battery back, which AIWAYS says will be capable of extending the car's range by over 60 miles.

AIWAYS is emphasising the U5's safety credentials; it achieved a five-star rating in Chinese crash tests and is intended to be one of the safest mid-size SUVs on the European market when it goes on sale. It also comes with modern active safety systems such as traffic-jam assist, automatic parking, driver fatigue monitoring and lane-keeping assistance. Inside, there'll be a 'tri-fold' digital instrument housing and 12.3-inch infotainment screen.

Although the U5 will go on sale in left-hand-drive European markets in April 2020, there are currently no plans to produce a right-hand-drive version for the UK.