Unlike Elon Musk, CATL says 'long range still a trend,' teases a 600-mile battery and a new 4680-beating cell
The world's largest battery maker CATL, a major Tesla supplier, teased its upcoming Kirin cell packaging upgrade that it says will house 13% higher capacity than Tesla's 4680 cell bet, all the while it will use the same technology and footprint. According to Wu Kai, chief scientist at CATL, the team was able to achieve this via "continuous technology iteration," rather than some giant chemistry leap, he remarked before attendees at the EV 100 conference. He also mentioned that the Kirin cell-to-pack tech is now class-leading in terms of weight and volumetric energy density. Tesla recently announced it has made the millionth 4680 battery cell, but that is only enough for about 1,200 Model Ys or so.
Not only that, but CATL also teased its upcoming high-nickel battery technology that will allow electric vehicles to break the 1000km (~626 miles) range on a charge. The otherwise conservative management of CATL, which prefers to improve by iteration and focus on production volume for its numerous clients, rather than chase pipe dreams, was somewhat shamed into developing the long-range battery tech by NIO. For its ET7 and ET5 performance electric sedans, NIO is offering versions with a 150kW battery pack that were tested to hit that 626-mile range. It probed its exclusive supplier CATL to develop the 150kW packs, but the battery giant wanted to focus on mass production more than R&D, and declined.
NIO then went to a smaller, nimbler battery supplier, and with its input they managed to develop the 150kW "semi-solid state" battery, forcing CATL to spring into action and say they will be working on a high-nickel battery for extended range EVs, too. Well, that same battery will be ready to go into electric cars as soon as next year, CATL said at the EV 100 forum, and its chief scientist explained the sudden change of heart with the following revelation:
We have analyzed the range distribution of passenger cars in the last three years and found that consumers' quest for long range is still a trend.
This statement is to the contrary to Elon Musk's recent claims that a Tesla with a 600-mile range doesn't make sense. "There are essentially zero trips above 400 miles where the driver doesn’t need to stop for restroom, food, coffee, etc. anyway," he said as an argument why the 400-mile range is the current sweet spot for Tesla. He may still be proven right, as it remains to be seen what the market uptake of electric vehicles with 600+ mile range from NIO, GAC, and others, will ultimately be.