Discover the Rising Stars №007｜Interview with Ankoglass’ Founder Robert Kao
Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center has introduced a new column, Discover the Rising Stars, to shed light on the backgrounds of entrepreneurs and company innovations. Through interviews, live streams, and other media approaches, we will deliver valuable news stories from multiple perspectives and dimensions, to offer you the real voices of entrepreneurs and to witness the power of technological innovations.
Carmakers of this day and age are particularly interested in making cars lightweight, good-looking, safe, environmentally friendly, and energy-conserving. They increasingly turn to polycarbonate, a material high in strength and low in weight. In the seventh issue of Discover the Rising Stars, we talked with the 2021 CACSC & BMW Group “Internet of Vehicles” Global Finals’ winner, Founder of Ankoglass, Robert Kao. He introduced the innovation and application of lightweight and safe polycarbonate (referred to as PC glass from hereinafter) in the automobile industry after years of research, development, and manufacturing.
The Importance of R&D for PC Glass
Carmakers are all looking towards technological means to make vehicles lighter because lightweight helps fuel-powered vehicles be more energy-efficient, and extends the cruise range of new energy vehicles, which positions PC glass in various applications. PC materials have been in development for more than two decades in other countries. It is light in weight and low in cost, with anti-explosion, heat insulation and noise reduction qualities. PC materials are also environmentally friendly because they are energy-saving and durable. Additionally, it has good ductility. Research has shown that every 1% weight decrease results in 0.5 to 1% energy saved. Using PC glass to replace the traditional glass will see the average weight of vehicles drop 25kg. The benefit of PC glass is not limited to weight reduction. These materials also make the cars have a higher anti-impact rate. However, because PC glass has poor UV resistance and chemical resistance and is easily scratched, it is necessary to add a coating on the surface of the PC glass to ensure the excellent weather resistance and scratch-resistance of the car window. The cost of equipment in the early stage of the traditional moulding and flow coating process is very high; flow coating will harden the glass, but it often leads to uneven surfaces, which results in a low yield rate for mass vehicle production.
“Sometimes the glass in your bathroom explodes, or window glass on public buildings cracks and falls from above. Even in car accidents, secondary death and injuries can be caused by broken glass. We should be able to avoid these things from happening. In our life, there are many safety risks like these. We should have a safe, anti-explosion material that can protect our lives more securely. Through our research, we found hardened, compound PC material is the perfect solution to our problem. We want to expand the use of lightweight, safe, anti-explosion materials in more and more areas.” Robert Kao said this was also the reason for him choosing to research PC materials.
“We invested many years and resources in the research and development of relevant equipment, techniques, materials, and other areas. Finally, we developed car-grade PC transparent materials with advanced techniques and unique equipment. Our product is E-Mark certified for European plastic glass materials for cars. We are the first plastic for cars manufacturer in China to be certified.” Robert Kao explained.
Impressive Business Earned Pre-A Round Funding
In 2020, Robert Kao’s team spun off Kunshan Eson Precision Engineering Co., Ltd. of Hon Hai Group, a listed company in Taiwan, as an independent company. With the support of Kunshan Eson Company, the team established Jiangsu Ankoglass Group Co., Limited. Ankoglass is focused on research and development of lightweight, safe, and anti-explosion transparent PC materials and other innovative products. Robert Kao explained further, “Members of the team are very experienced in the industry, one of which is NIO’s cofounder Zheng Xiancong; he is also the general manager of GAC Fiat Chrysler. We also signed a strategic partnership with Tongji University’s School of Materials. We had substantial support around us. Kaige Venture Capital gave us angel investment. The Pre-A round funding is led by Kaige Venture Capital’s Mr. Li Renxiang with his strategic resources team to help us form an overall development plan.”
Wide Application of PC Glass
As more and more cars are installed with a bigger and bigger panoramic sunroof or solar roof, PC glass is also increasingly more cost-efficient. PC glass larger than one meter is priced lower than traditional glass but performs better. Using PC glass and photovoltaic film to create the panoramic sunroof can help the car to weigh less but run for longer. Solar roofs can convert solar power to electric power, with a 17% to 23% conversion rate, providing a better solution for new energy vehicles to recharge.
“Light transmittance rate for glass is 90%, our PC glass is around 95% to 98%. If solar photovoltaic can reach 93% to 95% light transmittance rate, then the conversion rate for solar power can further increase. Solar power is the real clean energy. If the ceilings of the car can generate one to two degrees of energy, that can support the car to run more than a dozen kilometers. This is a very challenging product. It needs many resources: from soft to hard investment, from experiment to application, we have some achievements, but there are still more to be done.” Robert Kao explained.
Joining the CACSC to Get Access to More Industry Resources
“We are in the automobile industry, so we naturally gravitated towards the CACSC, organized by Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center and the BMW Group. Our company received a lot of attention by joining the competition. Our team is also planning to move to Alibaba Cloud Innovation Center and BMW Group Start-Up Garage and explore opportunities to partner up development and research. The Garage’s information and resources will help us develop fast for our products to break into the high end of the automobile market quickly. In the future, the Garage can also help us integrate new products such as 5G, connected vehicles, and marketing services; the entire management system will depend on some of Alibaba Cloud services. This is why moving to the Garage will be of great help to us.” Robert Kao raved.
“Entrepreneurship is a path for life. Perseverance is the key. We didn’t have a lot of what we have now back in the beginning. I always believe that your dedication to your work will attract talents and funds. The more dedicated you are, the more talents and funds are coming your way. You are like a magnet.” Robert Kao concluded.
In the future, Ankoglass will undoubtedly create more “Internet of Vehicles” products that will create value for the society.