A 600-mile range EV is tantalizingly close
CATL, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of electric vehicle batteries, has announced that its next-generation battery has a range of 621 miles and will be on the market early next year.
The battery will be installed in two models from the Chinese brand Zeekr, which is not yet available in the USA.
The ability to go 621 miles, or 1,000 kilometers, on a single charge is much more than the models that now lead the US market in terms of battery range: the Lucid Air at 520 miles and the Tesla Model S at 405 miles.
It’s not hard to imagine a near future where range anxiety is no longer a factor. For me, 621 miles is almost enough to cover the longest distance I’ve ever ridden, from my home in Columbus, Ohio, to the city I grew up in in Iowa.
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“If you can get a car with a 500, 600 mile range, boy, that leaves a lot of room for comfort,” said Matt Degen, an editor and auto critic for Kelley Blue Book.
“Personally, I like the idea of waking up with a full tank every morning when you’ve had an overnight charge,” he said.
He said it’s too early to know how well the new CATL battery will perform, but there’s no doubt that electric vehicle ranges are skyrocketing. He pointed to the announcement last month that Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep and Chrysler, had bought a plant in Massachusetts to manufacture solid-state batteries, a technology that could result in large increases in range and a reduction in charge times.
As battery technology improves, ranges should increase across the price spectrum. For example, the 2024 Chevrolet Equinox EV, a compact SUV, will go on sale in about a year with a price tag of about $30,000 and a range of about 300 miles.
Zeekr isn’t the only one to announce a model with a 600+ mile range. Steve Man, a senior auto analyst for BloombergNEF, listed two others, both from Chinese brands:
The GAC Aion LX Plus, a compact SUV that went on sale in China in January, has a range of 625 miles. And automaker Nio said an upcoming version of its ET7 sedan sold in China will have a range of about 620 miles.
You may notice a theme here, as China can convincingly argue that it is now the innovation hub for electric vehicles and has a head start to lead the near-future auto market.
The Zeekr brand was launched by Geely Automobile Holdings of China last year. Geely owns several well-known automobile brands, such as Volvo and Lotus, as well as some brands that are mainly sold in China, such as Geely Auto.
Zeekr hasn’t revealed pricing for the models with the new battery, but its existing Zeekr 001, a compact SUV, will sell for around $57,000. The new battery will be sold in an updated version of the 001 and in a new model, the 009 minivan.
CATL and Zeekr jointly announced their plans to use the new battery on August 27.
“We are committed to enabling automakers to build global high-end auto brands with leading EV battery technologies and solutions, thereby fueling the global e-mobility transition,” said Robin Zeng, Founder and Chairman of CATL, in an explanation.
China-based CATL, trading for Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. is a key player in the global EV transition, along with other battery manufacturing superpowers such as South Korea’s LG and Japan’s Panasonic. Founded in 2011, CATL has grown rapidly along with the Chinese EV market, aided by a close relationship with the Chinese government. His customers include BMW, Tesla and Volkswagen.
CATL does not yet have a plant in the United States, but the company has attempted to build one. Reuters reported in May that CATL was screening sites in Kentucky and South Carolina for a factory that would make batteries for Ford and BMW electric vehicles.
Zeekr executives have indicated they want to be a global brand, but it’s not clear when the vehicles will hit the US market.
“North America is in our plan for the next step,” Zeekr CEO An Conghui said in an April 2021 interview with Bloomberg. “That will happen after 2022. We will announce our plans for North America in the future.”
Now, more than a year later, I haven’t seen an update and Geely hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
What I’m seeing is a lot of excitement about the potential for a big new competitor in the EV market.
“Never heard of the Zeekr brand?” asks a headline from a January 3 CleanTechnica story. “Don’t worry; you will soon.”
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