CATL strives to be NIO's 600-mile range semi-solid state battery supplier with a new 'ultrahigh nickel' tech
The red-hot Chinese battery industry has companies jostling for influence and automaker contracts worthy of an HBO series. A new investigative report lifts the veil over the movers and shakers there when it comes to innovation. CATL, it turns out, which counts most major electric car makers among its clients, and is the largest EV battery company, may have traded R&D investments for mass production excellence. When NIO approached its exclusive battery supplier and wanted it to produce the 150 kWh semi-solid state battery pack that the ET5 and ET7 sedans will use to hit their promised 600+ mile range, CATL reportedly scoffed at the idea. Since such a battery has never been done before on a mass scale, CATL felt it will have to invest too much in R&D as well as new production tools and chemistries for the project to be as commercially viable as its other contracts.
NIO was forced to take part in a smaller, nimbler competitor - WeLion New Energy Technology - which took the matter to heart, and co-developed the first "semi-solid state" 150 kWh battery pack. NIO needs the new chemistry in order to fulfil the promised 1000km (~626 mile) all-weather range on a charge with its new models that are to be released next year. The semi-solid state battery offsets the cold weather problems that LFP packs of the type Tesla intends to equip all of its standard-range EVs with have. After seeing that NIO has successfully developed the groundbreaking 150 kWh pack with another company, CATL reportedly came back to the negotiation table, and is now developing one for NIO, too.
CATL's semi-solid battery, however, will be using a different, "ultrahigh nickel" technology that may usher in a brand new longer range EV battery era. CATL's management is now even "committed to keeping pace with NIO on high-performance battery development, which is also written into the KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) of the executives," claims the report, citing the fact that they have all become millionaires since CATL's IPO as the main reason for the reduced pace of innovation within China's largest battery manufacturer.