China Is Working On A Million-Mile Battery For Electric Vehicles

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Written by Dana Sanchez
China Is Working On A Million-Mile Battery For Electric Vehicles. Image: Cars around the world / Giphy / Thijs Geritz

The world’s second-largest battery producer announced in 2020 that it plans to roll out a “million-mile” battery in 2021 for electric vehicles. If it’s true, it’s an advance that could help undo the planned obsolescence so integral to auto-making tradition dating back 100 years.

China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) makes batteries for Tesla and Volkswagen. Ranked No. 2 after Korea’s LG Chem, CATL says it has developed a power pack that lasts more than a million miles — good news for car manufacturers trying to entice drivers to their electric vehicles.

That many miles would allow you to circle the globe 10 times in a car powered by a CATL battery.

The Chinese company says it’s ready to produce a battery that lasts 16 years and 1.24 million miles, Chairman Zeng Yuqun said in an interview at company headquarters in Ningde, southeastern China. By comparison, warranties currently used on batteries in electric cars cover about 150,000 miles or eight years, according to Bloomberg.

Tesla is a key relationship for CATL, Seeking Alpha reported. The two companies agreed in February to produce batteries for electric vehicles manufactured at Giga Shanghai, Tesla’s second battery megafactory. Tesla produces 250,000 Model 3s a year with the help of CATL’s cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate batteries and local procurement. The Model 3 is the lowest priced premium mid-sized electric vehicle sedan in China at $36,800.

With sales momentum lost due to low gas prices and the coronavirus outbreak, gas guzzlers have become more competitive, Bloomberg reported. A longer lifespan means the battery could be reused in a second vehicle, lowering the expense of owning an electric vehicle — a plus for the industry.

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The million-mile battery will cost about 10 pecent more than the batteries now inside EVs, Zeng said.

Concerns about the lasting power of batteries has held back potential buyers from owning electric vehicles.

Planned obsolescence in cars can be traced back to 1924 when Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the president of General Motors, decided that his company needed annual design changes for manufactured vehicles to encourage consumers to replace their cars every year. Sloan described it as “dynamic obsolescence.” Critics called it planned obsolescence. The strategy worked well for GM. It quickly became the dominant force in the industry. The rest of the auto industry grudgingly followed suit, according to a blog in Carro.sg, an auto marketplace in Singapore. Smaller automakers who couldn’t shoulder the expense of annual redesigns went the way of the dinosaur.

“Planned obsolescence is important,” according to the Carro blog. “Without it, there would be little incentive and effort to improve and innovate. Planned obsolescence in the automotive industry revolves around styling and constant improvements, and hence we are given the option of continuously better cars. Planned obsolescence is a necessary evil.”