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New long-life electric car battery with 1.5m-kilometre warranty could spell end of longevity concerns

Chinese battery giant CATL announces long-lasting EV battery

China’s gigantic battery making company, CATL (or, to give it its full title, the Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Limited) has announced a new type of battery which could spell the end of concerns about how long a vehicle battery might last.

CATL’s latest battery is warrantied for 1.5 million kilometres, and up to 15 years of operation. To put that in perspective, most electric cars currently on sale have warranties assuring customers that their batteries will not degrade past 70-80 per cent of their original energy capacity over eight years, or 160,000km.

These new ultra-long-life batteries have been developed for the Yutong Bus Company, and are destined for service – lots of service, it would seem – in that company’s buses and trucks. According to CATL, this new battery design shows no degradation at all over 1,000 power cycles. If you fully charged and discharged your car’s battery every day, that would give you almost three years of use with no reduction in performance. The design is the result of a collaboration between CATL and Yutong dating back to 2012. The two companies also revealed another battery pack with a 1m-kilometre service life, and a 10-year warranty.

It’s not the only way in which CATL has been making battery waves of late. Recently, the company showed off 900-volt charging technology which allows its lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery design to charge at super-fast speeds, adding 400km of range in as little as 10 minutes. CATL also said it expects to be able to reduce the cost of making LFP batteries – which are already simpler and cheaper than the more common lithium-ion design – by half by the middle of this year.


It’s also possible that CATL might be on the verge of solving one of the biggest dilemmas in battery design – weight.

A battery can only hold so much energy relative to its weight. This figure is called its energy density, and to illustrate how that works, compare the Opel Corsa-e with its 1.2-litre petrol counterpart. The petrol Corsa weighs 1,090kg and can travel for about 700km on a full tank of fuel – a little further if you’re being careful. The all-electric Corsa-e weighs 1,530kg – almosty half a tonne more – and can go for a maximum of 350km on the WLTP cycle with a full charge of its 50kWh battery.

Current conventional electric car battery designs have an energy density of about 260-watts per kilo. If CATL’s figures for its prototype “condensed” battery are to be believed, then it has managed to design a battery which can hold 500-watts per kilo.

In other words, an Opel Corsa-e fitted with a battery such as this would either weigh about 1,200kg for the same range (and would actually likely go further thanks to being lighter), or if you were prepared to put up with the same weight, could potentially travel 700km on a full charge (these are very much dinner-napkin sketches of the maths involved, but give you some idea of the potential on offer).

Indeed, it’s been estimated that CATL’s new technology could lead to ultra-long-range battery packs, with 100kWh of energy storage, that weigh just 200kg. For comparison, a current Mercedes EQS, with a 120kWh battery pack, can go for up to 770km on a charge, but its battery weighs about 650kg.

So, when will you be able buy a car with these new miracle batteries? Not quite yet. CATL Has previously said it plans to put an “automotive grade” version of the new tech into production soon, and the batteries will be expensive, so in the medium-term expect them to be reserved for high-performance models and sports cars.

There’s another wrinkle to this, though, and it’s in the sphere of aviation. CATL has actually designed these condensed batteries for aircraft, reckoning that the doubling of energy density could actually finally square the circle for electric aircraft. While prototype electric aircraft have flown already, up till now, the weight of the batteries needed for anything other than a short-hop range have meant any electric aircraft designed in the style of a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 would be too heavy to get off the ground. That may no longer be the case, and CATL says it is “co-operating with partners in the development of electric passenger aircrafts and practising aviation-level standards and testing in accordance with aviation-grade safety and quality requirements”.

“Meeting customers’ requirements is the core driving force that drives technological innovation for CATL,” says Wu Kai, chief scientist with CATL. “As electrification extends from the land to the sky, aircrafts will become cleaner and smarter. The launch of condensed batteries will usher in an era of universal electrification of sea, land and air transportation, open up more possibilities of the development of the industry, and promote the achieving of the global carbon neutrality goals at an earlier date.”

However, CATL, and the rest of the Chinese battery-making industry, may have to watch their step, as they seem to have been put on notice by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, whose general secretary Xi Jinping has been quoted as saying he is “both pleased and concerned” by China’s, and especially CATL’s, market dominance. Chinese industry insiders say these softly-softly remarks are very much an iron fist in a velvet glove, warning China’s battery makers they must act cautiously and not saturate the market.

Then again, CATL is not the only one playing this game. Mercedes-Benz is working on new-technology battery packs for cars, and it’s already demonstrated what it can do with the remarkable Vision EQXX concept car.

This low-slung and slipper saloon has already proven it can go for more than 1,000km (including lapping the Silverstone race track) on a full charge of its 100kWh battery, and that battery is half the size and two-thirds the weight of the equivalent battery from the in-production EQS saloon, weighing just 495kg.

Mercedes leaned on the expertise of its Formula One team, including High Performance Powertrains (HPP), based in Brackley in the UK, to create this ultra-efficient battery. “In effect, we fitted the energy of the EQS into the vehicle dimensions of a compact car,” says Adam Allsopp, advanced technology director of HPP.