Source: Shutterstock

Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC), a partly state-owned defense contractor, has been cooperating with Tangeng Advanced Vehicles Co. (TAV), Taiwan’s biggest maker of rail fright wagons, to develop electric vehicles, starting with electric buses. The partnership is in line with the Taiwanese government’s goal to produce homegrown electric buses by 2030.

Following its cooperation announcement in June, the partnership has today revealed more details of its EV project. According to AIDC, its first e-bus will be announced in November 2021, targeting the Japanese and U.S. markets.

From fighter jets to electric vehicles

AIDC was founded in 1969 under the supervision of Taiwan’s Air Force, and has gradually evolved into a commercial entity. The company has been at the centre of Taiwan’s quest of defense autonomy, and it has partnered with Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, to establish an F-16 fighter jet maintenance center in Taiwan, serving the needs in the Asia-Pacific region.

The defense contractor’s experiences in aircraft manufacturing is precisely what made its EV product unique: it will be made of aluminium composite material (ACM), a first in the Taiwanese industry. According to AIDC, the adoption of ACM in its first e-bus, compared to steel models, can lead to a weight reduction by 25%, leading to lower power consumption. AIDC indicates that its first e-bus can consequently run 1.2 km per kilowatt. 

In fact, AIDC leverages its expertise in aerospace to establish Taiwan Advanced Composite Center (TACC) in 2010, specialized in the R&D, design, manufacturing and assembly of composite materials such as fiber-reinforced polymer. Boeing and Airbus are among TACC’s customers, as the aerospace industry increasingly replaces the aluminium alloys in aircraft structures with fiber-reinforced composites, owing to their higher tensile strength. In the future, fiber-reinforced composites will play an increasing role in AIDC’s electric vehicles as well. 

Besides its expertise in composite materials, AIDC also aspires to bring its avionics know-how into EV production, since the two share similar requirements in terms of high-voltage applications and strict thermal requirements. One of the focuses of AIDC’s cooperation with TAV is vehicle control unit (VCU). VCUs have become central as powertrains undergo electrification and more processing power are needed for interconnected functions.

Taiwan’s first low-floor e-bus made of aluminium composites 

TAV, meanwhile, has also introduced the know-how to make low-floor buses into the partnership. Industry experts indicated that the knowledge has been largely confined foreign companies that are unwilling to transfer it to Taiwanese partners. Thanks to its 20-year cooperation with Volvo in producing trucks and buses, TAV successfully obtained the key chassis-related license from Volvo, enabling it to integrate it into the EV project. 

In addition, following Foxconn’s MIH Alliance, TAV has also formed an EV alliance named Commercial Taiwan Partnership with AIDC and several Taiwanese electronics manufacturers.