China's Newest EV Startup Li Auto Delivers 20,000 Vehicles in 10 Months

China's Newest EV Startup Li Auto Delivers 20,000 Vehicles in 10 Months

Author: Eric Walz   

China's latest new energy vehicle producer Lixiang Automotive Inc. (Li Auto) has reported brisk sales for its first vehicle, the Li ONE SUV. Li Auto is among a new crop of new energy and electric vehicle startups including Xpeng Motors and NIO Inc., that are emerging as rivals to U.S. automaker Tesla in China.

Li Auto announced on Oct 18 that it had delivered more than 20,000 Li ONE SUVs over the past ten months, the fastest among all local new energy vehicle startups, China's automotive news outlet Gasgoo reports. The Li ONE is the company's first vehicle.

The Li One SUV is classified as a "New Energy Vehicle" (NEV) in China. NEVs include fully-electric or hybrid powertrain models.

According to data from the China Automotive Technology & Research Center, the Li ONE ranked first in the new energy SUV segment based on the number of new insurance registrations in September. 

The Li ONE had 3,830 insurance registrations last month, surpassing the NIO ES6 and Tesla Model X, while total insurance registrations for the first nine months of 2020 reached 18,722 units. NIO delivered 3,210 of its ES6 SUVs in September.

While most of China's automotive startups are building fully-electric vehicles, Li Auto's ONE SUV allows drivers to charge the battery pack with electricity or gas. Li Auto calls the design "EREV (extended range EV) technology" and it is apparently attracting interest from Chinese consumers.

Although the Li ONE is powered by its electric motors when cruising, the energy source for the electric motors comes from both its battery pack and range extension system that includes a dedicated, 1.2 liter turbo-charged internal combustion gas engine and a 100 kW electric generator. A component called a speed reducer used to connect the two power sources together. 

The electric propulsion portion of the Li ONE consists of a 140-kilowatt rear-drive electric motor powered by a 40.5-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The SUV also includes a 11.9 gallon fuel tank for the dedicated gas engine. This small combustion engine is used to generate electricity to charge the vehicle's battery, but it also helps to extend overall range.

With this setup, the Li ONE delivers a NEDC range of 800 kilometers (497 miles), acceleration from zero to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds, according to Li Auto.

Li AUTO cites limited access to EV charging infrastructure in China as one reason for designing its SUV with an smaller internal combustion engine rather than building a fully-electric vehicle like most of China's startup automakers are doing. 

Like Tesla's vehicles, the Li ONE supports over-the-air (OTA) software updates. The company takes feedback from owners, which it tries to address in each update. In the past ten months, Li Auto has released 9 separate OTA updates which continuously improve the user experience. The latest software update will be pushed to Li ONE vehicles beginning tomorrow.

The latest updates include a total of 20 new features, such as a "car-cleaning mode", which can avoid frequent locking or unlocking when cleaning the car, and improvement in charging reservations, which can allow users to choose charging time and mode.

In July, Li Auto raised over $1.4 billion in its U.S. initial public offering (IPO). Its shares are listed on the Nasdaq under the symbol "LI." Like its Chinese rivals Xpeng Motors and NIO that are both publicly traded companies in the U.S., Li Auto is hoping to take advantage of the strong interest in electric vehicles from investors, which pushed Tesla's stock to record highs this past summer. 

Rival EV startup NIO debuted on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol "NIO" on September 12, 2018. While Xpeng Motors went public over the summer and trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "XPEV."

Li Auto is headquartered in Beijing, with manufacturing facilities in Changzhou. The company has 35 retail centers in 30 cities with another five retail centers to be added in October, according to Gasgoo.

The new energy vehicle startup will continue to develop new SUV models, including a full-size premium electric SUV that will arrive in 2022. Li Auto also plans to expand its product portfolio with mid-size and compact SUV models in order to attract new customers. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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