CATL starts production of Qilin battery packs

CATL Qilin battery CATL Qilin battery (Photo: CATL)

Chinese battery manufacturer CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd) has started production of its new Qilin (pronounced ‘kirin’) battery packs. Headline feature of the third-generation cell-to-pack system is the volume utilisation rate of 72%, up from the 55% of the company’s first packs which debuted in 2019.

The packs also feature a new internal structure. This includes a water-cooling plate and thermal insulation pad in a multi-functional elastic sandwich. With incorporated micron bridge connecting units, the sheet can expand as conditions require, a function which is reported to build in reliability over the battery’s working lifetime.

The structure also incorporates a longitudinal beam which, oriented perpendicular to the vehicle, helps to resist the effects of vibration and impact.

The water-cooled sheet is located between the prismatic li-ion battery cells, preventing heat transfer and build up. This can reduce the chance of thermal runaway and also helps to support high-power fast charging. Using a high-power charger, it is reported that the 4C-rated Qilin pack can be recharged in about 15 minutes.

The Qilin battery packs separate power units from the packs (either lithium iron phosphate or nickel manganese cobalt), increasing overall space by 6%. Maximum energy density is up to 255 Wh/kg for the nickel manganese cobalt (ternary) packs, while volume energy density is said to exceed 290 Wh/L. Information from CATL states the Qilin battery can increase power by 13% over the widely-used 4680 system.

Zeekr 001 Zeekr 001 (Photo: Zeekr)

The first vehicles to feature the new Qilin battery packs will be the Zeekr 001 and 009. Zeekr is owned by China OEM Geely. In addition to its China-only brands, Geely also owns Volvo Cars, Polestar, Smart and Lotus. The company also produces black cabs under the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) brand.

With the improved technology and power density of the new battery packs, it is estimated that the 140 kW/h pack in the Zeekr 009 will deliver a maximum range in excess of 500 miles (more than 1,000 km).

In the case of Zeekr, the Qilin packs will first be offered as an optional premium battery upgrade. CATL already supplies batteries for a series of commercial vehicles, including LCVs, buses and trucks, plus smaller low-load machines. It is possible that with increasing volumes driving up availability and driving down price that the Qilin packs could eventually feature in battery-electric light commercials, helping to extend the working range of these vehicles. It is as yet unknown whether the packs could be used in off-highway applications or battery-electric trucks.

According to a report from Bloomberg, CATL has noted that the battery packs have sufficient energy density to potentially be used in electrically-powered aircraft.

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