China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL), the world’s largest battery manufacturer, announced over the weekend that it had developed a new skateboard chassis, equipped with a structural battery pack that can deliver 621 miles (1,000 kilometres) of range. CATL is a battery supplier for Tesla and many other reputed OEMs.
Its new platform is called the CATL Integrated Intelligent Chassis (CIIC), and the focus here is something that has reverberated across the EV industry: minimise the number of components, make manufacturing less complex, and rationalise costs. The CIIC combines batteries, electric motors, and other critical components into a single platform, reported CarNewsChina. This integration is said to lower costs, weight, and consumption while maximising interior space.
This skateboard chassis will likely underpin an EV from Hozon Auto, which owns the Neta brand. It's expected to launch in the third quarter of 2024 in China. It could also underpin non-Chinese EVs. In December 2022, CATL announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnamese manufacturer VinFast to "expand collaboration in areas including CIIC." The timeline for the EV that will emerge out of this partnership is unknown.
Impressively, CATL managed to achieve an efficiency of 10.5 kilowatt-hours/100 kilometres, or roughly 5.92 miles/kWh. For context, that’s significantly better than the efficiency of the Tesla Model 3 Long Range. According to the EPA, the 2022 Model 3 has an efficiency of 26 kWh/100 miles, or 3.8 miles/kWh. Although the CIIC's efficiency is lower than the Mercedes EQXX, which last year covered nearly 750 miles on a single charge on a drive from Germany to the UK, and delivered an efficiency of 8.3 kWh/100 km (62 miles).
Figures from the China Light Duty Test Cycle (CLTC) tend to be overly optimistic. They can be 35 percent higher than EPA numbers. By that calculation, the range would be just above 400 miles, which is still impressive, and only a handful of EVs in the U.S. today—like the Tesla Model S and the Lucid Air Grand Touring—can reach that figure. Also impressive is the claimed charging time of five minutes to add 186 miles (300 km) of range.
China's EV influence is spilling to other parts of the globe. Chinese carmakers are helping other Asian and South American countries boost their EV adoption rates, one study showed. So even though we may or may not see technologies like the CIIC here in the U.S., it's important to keep an eye out on the world's largest EV market. Monitoring the EV space on the other side of the globe could potentially help U.S. carmakers stay competitive, foster growth, and potentially solve some of the daunting manufacturing challenges that have led to several delays.