Chinese electric vehicle startups Li Auto Inc. and Hozon New Energy Automobile Co. emerged as the first customers of a new long-range battery that Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. unveiled Thursday and plans to start mass producing in 2023.
The “Qilin” battery has a range of more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) on one charge, energy density of up to 255 watt-hour per kilogram, and is safer and more durable than existing cells, according to CATL, as the world’s biggest maker of EV batteries is known. It is also 13 percent more powerful than one planned by Tesla Inc., a major customer of CATL.
The battery -- named after a Chinese mythical creature -- has the longest range offered by any mainstream manufacturer yet. It comes as CATL faces greater pressure to innovate and maintain its dominance, with rivals at home and abroad -- from BYD Co. and China Aviation Lithium Battery Co. to LG Energy Solution Ltd. and Panasonic Holdings Corp. -- developing their own products.
Li Auto’s founder and chairman, Li Xiang, used China’s microblogging platform Weibo to draw attention to a potential battery supply deal, sharing details of CATL’s Qilin and commenting: “See you next year.”
CATL responded: “Qilin has Li Auto.”
Beijing-based Li Auto, which trades in New York and Hong Kong, is due to launch its first pure EV model in 2023, following two models that use gasoline to power electric motors, including its latest -- the L9 luxury SUV -- that was unveiled this week, with deliveries to start in August.
Hozon also used Weibo to publicly link itself to the new battery.
CATL will also supply batteries to South Korea’s Kia Corp., though the type of cell is unknown. A CATL spokesman confirmed all three supplier deals Friday, without providing details.
A Kia spokesman declined to comment on CATL, saying only that the company is cooperating with various suppliers to “diversify and stabilize battery supply.”