CATL is a leader in lithium-ion batteries development and manufacturing and a leading supplier of LFP batteries found in Tesla Model 3. This week, CATL has announced its third generation of cell-to-pack (CTP) technology, referred to as Kirin battery. The company’s chief scientist, Wu Kai, made this announcement during the 2022 China EV100 Forum held on March 26 in Beijing.

Wu Kai, Chief Scientist at CATL

According to several sources, with the same chemical system and battery pack size, the Kirin battery pack can deliver 13 per cent more power than the upcoming Tesla 4680 battery due to better packing. CATL will officially release the new battery in April this year. CTP, with six columns of twenty prismatic batteries or 120 prismatic cells, is more frequently seen with LFP batteries.

Comparison with Tesla Battery Technology

On an LFP battery, the energy density of the pack is a paltry 160 Wh/kg. While the energy density of the battery pack with NMC chemistry is impressive at 250 Wh/kg, the individual cells deliver only 300 Wh/kg, comparable to a Tesla’s 2170 cells. According to Tesla, the 4680 Dry-cells rated at a whopping 9000 mAh can provide an astonishing 380 Wh/kg with a potential to grow to 450 Wh/kg and beyond.

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Even at 250 Wh/kg, a Kirin battery pack with NMC should significantly reduce weight for long-range EVs.

The 4680 is expected to provide five times more energy storage with six times more power resulting in an increase from 82 kWh to 95 kWh in the newer Tesla’s, translating into an expected increase in road range of up to 16 per cent. The cylindrical shape of the cells would also provide better rigidity at a lower cost.

Structural battery pack

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Assuming the prismatic cells range from 3.2V to 3.7V, the Kirin battery pack would deliver between 384V to 444V. With the standard of 4.2V, the battery pack would offer 504V, which is lesser than the 800V architecture used by many upcoming EVs.

Increasing the pack voltage beyond 504V requires more cells which is possible with the battery pack as the structural platform concept facilitated by 4680 cells.

Other announcements

In addition to teasing the Kirin battery, Wu said CATL’s 620 miles (1,000-kilometer) range, heat-diffusion-free battery technology will be in mass production by 2023.

CTP is different from the 150 kWh ultra-high nickel technology revealed by NIO last year. During the Giga Berlin launch day, Elon Musk claimed that Tesla is looking into alternate battery chemistry such as Manganese (Mn), Silicon, and even Graphite, so it is less likely to opt for ultra-high nickel technology.

Closing Remarks

Competition in battery technology is wonderful to facilitate wider EV adoption, ease range anxiety, and improve recyclability. We can expect to find production cars with Kirin CTP technology very soon this year, given the potential weight reduction due to better packing. For now, with more energy density and structural battery pack architecture, we believe Tesla’s 4680 still retains the upper edge.