Many automakers are introducing new dedicated platforms when switching to fully electric propulsion. Since there are no combustion engine and all its related hardware (exhaust pipe, fuel tank and transmission), the chassis will need to be modified to accommodate the heavy battery pack and motors.
Geely introduced the Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) in September 2020 to be the basis of all new electric vehicles, with the sporty Zeekr 001 being the first product. Geely Holding, via Kent Bovellan, head of advanced vehicle architectures, recently held a group interview with Malaysian motoring media to share more details about this fascinating platform.
- Fully scalable
This is the core technology and basis of the SEA platform. Out of three main constructions of the front and rear structures, the chassis can have variable dimensions in length, width and height to offer up to 10 different products, including vans and pick-up trucks.
SEA’s flexible modular design allows Geely Auto to offer products ranging from B-segment sedans, hatchbacks, C-segment MPVs and SUVs, as well as sporty cars such as the Zeekr 001. Such a multi-usage platform is not new though, as Renault-Nissan Alliance introduced their Common Module Family (CMF) architecture in 2013 with an update to CMF-EV in 2020 and Volkswagen introduced the SEA-equivalent MEB (modular electric-drive toolkit) in 2019.
Different segments reach out to different customer groups and thus the ability of SEA to offer different battery capacity and motor outputs.
While illustrations of the SEA make it look like a “skateboard”, the SEA is a unibody-constructed vehicle, where the bodyshell is welded to the chassis to form a single structural element.
Automobile making requires tremendous amounts of resources and a rapid transition from combustion engine to fully electric further illustrates this. As such, in order to recoup investment as well as accelerate development time, Geely Holding has made the SEA platform open-sourced, a world’s first.
This allows other automakers or prospective new automakers, such as Baidu, to have a range of fully-homologated electric vehicles in the shortest time. Mr Bovellan said making SEA open-sourced was a decision made very much at the start of the program, as it is too expensive to do it on your own.
Automakers will have access to 3D data and Geely Holding can also provide the full range of services from exterior design to manufacturing.
Smart will be the first internationally-known automaker to develop their range of new electric vehicles using the SEA platform, starting with an SUV to be unveiled in September this year.
3. Global standards
Geely Holding’s SEA platform has been developed over the past three years at R&D centres in China, Sweden, the UK and Germany. When one mentions electric vehicle, the first car that comes to mind is a Tesla.
The chief engineer of the SEA platform, Mr Bovellan, said that Tesla shows few signs of weaknesses compared to SEA, which offers better interior space, refinement, build quality and cost of production.
Geely Holding’s SEA is of global standards thanks to meticulous engineering and design work. Construction of the vehicle is optimized, taking moving placement of the batteries for better legroom and shape of the roof for better headroom.
4. High performance
The Zeekr 001 is the first product to utilize the SEA platform, categorised under SEA1 and SEA-Sport that covers E- and F-segment vehicles such as the Tesla Model S and Audi E-Tron. Ride and handling performance are greater importance in this segment, where price is also higher.
The Zeekr 001 at its range-topping variant comes with front and rear motors set-up, as well as a large 100 kWh battery pack and suspended by fully variable air suspension. The two equally-sized motors deliver total outputs of 544 hp and 768 Nm registering a 0-100 km/h sprint time of just 3.8 seconds with a high speed of over 80 km/h registered for lane-change manoeuvre or the ‘elk test’.
High torsional rigidity is also seen on the Zeekr’s bodyshell, registering a figure of 30,000 Nm/degree. Such a figure is similar to the previous generation Porsche 911. Battery swapping which is gaining popularity in China is however not included in the development objectives. Mr Bovellan said integrated battery structure is key to achieve high torsional rigidity and battery swapping also limits the dimension of the vehicle.
5. Connectivity to allow fully autonomous driving
Thanks to the modular architecture of SEA, high levels of connectivity can be made into every new vehicle. The placement of all the environmental scanning and measuring devices already accounted for before production making planning and costing a lot more efficient.
Vehicles underpinned by SEA will have full autonomous driving capability by 2025, thanks to high levels of software and hardware integration. Over-the-air updates allow the vehicle equipped with the latest technology for efficient and smart driving.
Mass market vehicles entering the market quicker will also contribute to the reduction of transportation-based CO2 a lot quicker, thus, the Geely SEA platform could help many automakers expand faster and a lot cheaper.