With former Ferrari engineers and Lotus designers working for the company, this Chinese firm is one to watch.
It’s a question the Chinese carmaker gets asked a lot. “Why Thunder Power?” According to Christopher Nicoll, Head of Sales and Marketing, the name translates and works very well in China. The company aims to enter the EV market in the next couple of years, (thunder power = electricity, get it?) starting with the Chinese market before moving to Europe. Barcelona is where the company will set up a factory, producing a modest amount of cars for the European market in around 2020, at which time it will be ripe for electric vehicles.
“We are discussing the possibility of creating a new name for our European cars,” admitted Nicoll, “but I don’t think a name is that important. It is the quality of the product that matters.” In this regard, Thunder Power should be taken seriously. Two years ago, the carmaker arrived in Frankfurt with its sedan concept, the TP-01. On return to the same event this year, the company arrived with the car very close to production ready as well as a new SUV concept. Thunder Power says that the TP-01 will have a 577-hp electric powertrain with a 404-mile range. These numbers are for the range-topping versions, which will be limited to 488 units. The 488 unit run is meant to signify the car's 488kW output.
Thunder Power also claims a 0-60 mph time of under four seconds, which probably won't be enough to impress Tesla diehards, but is more than enough for the majority of drivers. The TP-01 uses a 125kW battery housed within an all-new electric modular platform. The chassis, on display on the stand, was built by former Ferrari engineers, the same guys that worked on the Ferrari FF for example. In preparations to enter the EV market, the company recently made two big hires in Peter Tutzer, formerly of Bugatti and Lotus, and Franz Schulte who worked at Ford for over 30 years. The company’s R&D center is just outside Milan, Italy, while manufacturing will take place in Ganzhou, China.
The car will be available with two or all-wheel-drive, and torque vectoring from two or three electric motors. It can be adapted for a long wheelbase variant of the sedan, something that’s particularly popular with Chinese buyers. The SUV will also ride on the same platform. Thunder Power CEO, Shen Wei, informed us that a coupe will arrive after the sedan, followed by a SUV. The sedan on show came wrapped in camo, but if the SUV is any indication of the design language, then we should have some good looking EVs on the market by the end of the decade. Mihai Panaitescu is heading up the design at Thunder Power, having previously worked at Lotus and Toyota, and is doing a fine job.
Mihai told us that the SUV will lose the suicide doors once it makes it to production, but the overall design and upscale interior complete with a massive touchscreen will remain as is. There’s currently no plans to bring the cars to the US, but in Europe at least Tesla will have another serious competitor to deal with.