NIO is one of the most recognized Chinese manufacturers in its market. A true bestseller that among its competition has always had good press as a high-end premium brand. Now, the firm is announcing its intention to start manufacturing its own in-house developed high-voltage battery packs, with the goal of improve profitability and boost competitiveness to take on rivals like Tesla. Currently, its only supplier of batteries in the also Chinese CATL, which implies a dependency on third parties that could make it difficult to meet the demand for electric cars forecast for the coming years.
Most electric vehicles on the market are equipped with electrical systems that work at 400 volts. Electrical systems that raise the voltage, with architectures that reach the 800 volts they are beginning to be implemented in some models thanks to the fact that they manage to increase the charging power. This is achieved by raising the working voltage of the battery and motors. The so-called “ultra-fast recharge”, which reaches 150kw, still maintains the 400 V architecture, increasing the current intensity (375 A). To reach the 350kw it is necessary to increase the voltage up to 800 V, to avoid having to work with excessive amperages that imply very large cable diameters and the generation of a lot of heat.
Today only the Porsche Taycan, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 have an 800-volt electrical system. Starting in 2024, NIO will join this select group. As company president William Li announced at a press conference last Thursday, production of its first 800-volt battery packs would begin in the second half of 2024. The company has more than 400 employees currently working on research and development of battery technologies.
NIO has seen how the cost of batteries has increased in the second quarter after the extension in April of the contract with its only battery supplier, CATL, which for now remains the leading company in the supply of batteries for the sector of the automotive world. According to Li, his intention is to combine his own production batteries with those of third parties, that is, a plan similar to that outlined by other companies and that, for example, Tesla has already materialized in the Shanghai factory.
NIO plans to use self-produced battery packs in electric cars offered by its new brand, which will be at a lower price point than those of the parent company. This does not mean that they will be cheap electric cars, since they will compete, starting in the second half of 2024, with brands like Tesla. The new models will be in a price range in China between models priced at around 200,000 to 300,000 yuan (between 28,000 and 43,000 euros).
According to NIO figures, in the second quarter of 2022 vehicle deliveries will be among the 23,000 and 25,000 units, somewhat lower than those of the first quarter that closed with 25,768. The overall drop is similar to that suffered by other manufacturers as a result of a two-month COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai.