China’s Phoenix EV battery promises an eight-minute charge for a 600-mile drive

Business & Technology

Many of China’s upcoming new EV batteries are named after mythical beasts, and some of them have already entered the reality of mass production.

Illustration for The China Project by Alex Santafé

Chinese companies dominate the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) from the mining of the necessary minerals to final production. They are also in the lead when it comes to technical innovation.

The latest example: On June 6, Greater Bay Technology announced a new EV battery named Phoenix (凤凰) that promises to charge at eight times conventional speed, with the ability to fully charge in just 7.5 minutes, even in winter conditions. Greater Bay Technology says the Phoenix will have an energy density of 260 watt-hour per kilogram (Wh/kg), giving it a range of 621 miles (1,000 km) on a single charge.

The Phoenix should be in mass production sometime in 2024, and will be fitted in EVs towards the end of next year.

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Greater Bay Technology was only officially launched in 2020 by GAC Group (whose EV unit, GAC Aion, has emerged as one of China’s leading new EV companies), but the Phoenix battery is actually derived from almost a decade of development at the GAC Research and Development Center, which was founded in 2006. Since 2014, the Center has had a team working on ultra-fast charging systems led by Péi Fēng 裴锋, a PhD graduate from the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou.

The Phoenix is the latest in a series of new Chinese batteries named after mythical beasts. Some are still mostly mythical and are not actually being mass produced yet, like the Dragon Armor (龙鳞甲) battery by Svolt, a spin-off of the Chinese automobile manufacturer Great Wall Motors. Svolt says the Dragon Armor is safer and lighter than conventional batteries, and is “chemistry-agnostic,” meaning that it can be used with any type of cell.

One mythical beast that has now fully entered the realm of mass production, however, is the Qílín (麒麟) battery by CATL, named after the legendary Chinese hooved beast. Two new models from Zeekr, a premium brand under auto giant Geely, feature the Qilin battery.

Deliveries of the Qilin-equipped Zeekr 001 WE sedan commenced in May. On June 1, CATL Chairman Robin Zeng (曾毓群 Zēng Yùqún) and Zeekr CEO Ān Cōnghuì 安聪慧 attended a launch ceremony and were pictured seated inside an 001 WE model, which has a battery range of 641 miles (1,032 km) and is priced at just under 300,000 yuan ($42,100).

The battery uses cell-to-pack (CTP) technology, which means that the cells are directly integrated into the battery pack instead of the modules. The Qilin has a record-high volume utilization rate (the percentage of battery energy utilized for driving) of over 72% and a vehicle range of at least 621 miles. With an energy density of 255 Wh/kg, the Qilin can do a hot start in five minutes, and charge up to 80% battery capacity in 28 minutes.

CATL commenced mass production of the Qilin in March 2023, only nine months after the battery was first announced.


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