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Tesla's Battery Supplier CATL Unveils its New ‘Qilin' Battery That Can Deliver 600+ Miles of Range to EVs

Tesla's Battery Supplier CATL Unveils its New ‘Qilin' Battery That Can Deliver 600+ Miles of Range to EVs

Author: Eric Walz   

China's battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd. (CATL), which is the world's biggest supplier of batteries to the auto industry, unveiled its latest battery design named the "Qilin". The energy-dense cell-to-pack battery can allow an electric vehicle to travel 1,000 km (621 miles) "in a breeze", the company says.

The Qilin battery, which is named after a legendary creature in Chinese mythology, is the third generation (CTP 3.0) of CATL's cell-to-pack (CTP) battery technology. The battery achieves the world's highest volume utilization efficiency of 72% and an energy density of up to 255 Wh/kg, which CATL says can easily deliver ranges of over 600 miles. The Qilin can be a game changer for the auto industry and lead to the widespread global adoption of electric vehicles.

For comparison, the Tesla Model 3 using lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery chemistry has a cell to pack ratio of 49% with an energy density of 173 Wh/L. 

CATL supplies electric automaker Tesla with batteries for the vehicles it builds at its Shanghai factory.

The Qilin CTP batteries can deliver 13% more power than the 4680 battery cells used by Tesla, which helps to improve range, fast-charging, safety, service life, efficiency and cold weather performance.

Cell to pack batteries are not built like typical EV batteries using a group of individual modules connected together that house the cells. Instead, the entire battery pack is essentially all one structure. This design increases space utilization and reduces the electronics and cooling systems requirements for connected individual models together.

CATL's first CTP battery launched in 2019 achieved a volume utilization efficiency of just over 50%. The improvements of the Qilin battery was a result of breakthroughs in the core manufacturing process, materials and battery structure design, according to CATL.

For one, CATL rearranged the combination of functional parts. Inside the Qilin battery, the internal crossbeam, liquid-cooling plate and thermal pad have been integrated into what CATL calls a "multifunctional elastic interlayer", which helps to accommodate the changes inside the cell, improving the battery reliability throughout its entire life cycle. 

The integrated energy unit, which is composed of the cell and the multi-functional elastic interlayer, also creates a more stable load bearing structure that enhances the shock and vibration resistance of the CTP battery. 

The Qilin also features a unique water-cooled design. CATL's engineers placed the liquid cooling functional parts between adjacent cells instead of at the bottom like a standard EV battery pack. 

CATL says this design increases the heat transfer area by four times and helps keep the battery cooler. It also enables the cells to cool down more quickly to prevent any abnormal thermal runaway conduction among cells, which can lead to a fire. In addition, the improved cooling system can support higher charging rates.

The internal design of the Qilin battery allows for the smart arrangement of various components including structural protection, high-voltage connection and a protective vent for thermal runaway, further increasing the battery capacity by 6%, according to CATL.

As demand for electric vehicle batteries increases, CATL reported a net profit increase last year of 185% compared to 2020. CATL's income for 2021 also more than doubled to 15.93 billion yuan ($2.47 billion), easily beating analyst estimates of 13.51 billion yuan ($2.1 billion). 

In 2021, CATL announced that its lithium-ion battery sales were 133.4 GWh, up 184.8% year-on-year. The company's power battery system sales were 116.7 GWh, up 162.5% year-on-year. 120 GWh is enough to power around 1.2 million electric vehicles.

The Qilin batteries are expected to be mass produced and launched in 2023. 

In Dec, 2021, CATL started phase 1 production at its new EV battery factory in China. Once completed, the plant will be the world's largest EV battery factory, with an annual production of 120 GWh. The plant will be more than three times the size of Tesla's gigafactory in Nevada.

CATL is investing 17 billion yuan (US$2.6 billion) in the plant and said it will create about 10,000 jobs once fully operational.

CATL is also working to make EV battery production carbon neutral.

In March, CATL subsidiary Sichuan Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL-SC), received the internationally recognized specification for carbon neutrality ("PAS 2060" certification) for its new electric vehicle battery plant in Sichuan, China. The recent PAS 2060 certification makes the plant the world's first zero-carbon battery factory.

The recent certification marks a significant milestone for CATL towards its carbon neutrality goals and is an example of how EV battery production can become carbon neutral in the future.

Reuters reported last month that CATL is in the final stages of vetting sites in the U.S. to build a battery factory, according to people with knowledge of the plans. The plant would be CATL's first battery production facility in North America.

CATL is in talks to supply both Ford Motor Co and BMW with batteries, so the potential factory sites include South Carolina, where BMW's U.S. assembly is located, or in Kentucky, where Ford operates two assembly plants, according to the people familiar with the plans.

CATL also supplies batteries to Honda, Volkswagen, Volvo and Mercedes Benz. 

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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