CATL outs first fast charging LFP battery for cold weather but it's unclear if Tesla Model 3 or Model Y get it
The world's biggest EV battery maker CATL took to the stage today to announce the world's first 4C fast charging LFP battery driven by innovations in "materials, structure, and system," rather than some pie-in-the-sky chemistry breakthrough.
The battery, of the type and iron phosphate chemistry that CATL supplies to Tesla for its base Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, can add 400km (~250 miles) of range in just 10 minutes of taking them from 20%-80% on a fast charger. CATL reminds that fast charging has so far been reserved for higher-end EVs, while its new invention will bring the experience downmarket to cheaper electric cars that more people can afford.
Besides the first of its kind 4C charging rate for an LFP battery, meaning that theoretically it can be fully charged in 15 minutes, the new ShenXing battery is much better performing in cold weather. CATL said in the announcement keynote that even at subzero temperatures the LFP cells can be pumped up to 80% in 30 minutes without any issues.
This is a very significant achievement for an iron phosphate battery, and removes one of the last disadvantages of the chemistry before nickel batteries, as per Elon Musk:
LFP batteries charge more slowly in cold weather than NCA batteries and their range decreases somewhat more than NCA batteries in cold weather. Keep in mind that both NCA and LFP do worse in cold weather. It's just that LFP batteries get more of a cold weather effect than NCA batteries. When you're on a road trip and navigating to a Supercharger, your car will prewarm its batteries. That will alleviate the slower charging problem to some extent, but you'll be at the Supercharger six or seven minutes longer in winter with LFP batteries. That will be a problem if you plan to use your car in such a way as to need to do lots of cold weather supercharging. It won't matter at all if you're just going to charge your car overnight in your garage.
The energy density of the new LFP cells with high-conductivity electrolyte allows for up to 700km (438 miles) on a charge, CATL added. That is probably at the overly generous for the US driving conditions Chinese cycle, though. It typically falls about a third short of the EPA estimates, so a Model 3 or Model Y equipped with the ShenXing LFP pack would likely be good for a 300-mile range at the most.
As is its habit, CATL perfected an existing technology, rather than strive for a lab prototype that can't be produced at scale. When approached by NIO to develop a semi-solid state battery with 600+ miles of range, for instance, it reportedly declined because it had too many customers and orders lined up to afford wasting R&D resources on a niche product. NIO then turned to the startup WeLion and developed the battery, but it is currently so expensive to manufacture that NIO may only rent it for longer summer trips, somewhat justifying CATL's decision at the time.
There are still chemistry innovations in CATL's record breaking 4C LFP battery, though, such as the nano-crystallized cathode material, or the second generation fast ion ring that collectively add to the ultrahigh conductivity of the system. Moreover, CATL says that the "multi-gradient layered electrode design helps strike a perfect balance between fast charging and long range."
It remains to be heard if or when the Tesla Model 3 or Model Y that use CATL's LFP batteries will be upgraded to the ShenXing generation. CATL says that its new cells will enter mass production by the end of the year and there will be vehicles on the market with 4C fast charging LFP batteries in early 2024.
Mum's the word about Tesla as an eventual client, though, despite that the automaker warned it may partially lose the new EV tax credit next year on account of the share of Chinese batteries that go into its vehicles.